Implementing Document Management using the Alfresco Enterprise CMS

Alfresco CMS claims to be “The Open Source Alternative for Enterprise Content Management”. It offers Enterprise Content Management (ECM) – Document Management, Collaboration, Records Management, Knowledge Management, Web Content Management and Imaging using technologies such as Spring, Hibernate, Lucene, standards such as JSR-168, JSR-170, Web Services and Java Server Faces.
In the book “Alfresco Enterprise Content Management Implementation” from Packt, author Munwar Shariff looks at “How to Install, use, and customize this powerful, free, Open Source Java-based Enterprise CMS”. Below is Chapter 5 from the book. Visit the Packt site to get more information on this book.

In the book “Alfresco Enterprise Content Management Implementation” from Packt, author Munwar Shariff looks at “How to Install, use, and customize this powerful, free, Open Source Java-based Enterprise CMS”. Below is Chapter 5 from the book.

Implementing Document Management

This chapter “Implementing Document Management” introduces you to the basic features of creating and managing content in Alfresco. Using Alfresco, you can manage any type of documents such as HTML, text, XML, Microsoft Office documents, Adobe PDF, Flash, scanned images, media, and video files. You will also learn about the concepts of creating and using categories and smart spaces. This chapter also focuses on the most important aspect of adopting a new enterprise content management system, which is migrating the existing data and using it effectively.

By the end of this chapter you will have learned how to:

  • Create spaces and fill them with documents
  • Automatically control the document versioning
  • Lock, check-in, and check-out the documents
  • Categorize content to facilitate searching
  • Recover deleted content
  • Create and use space templates
  • Access documents in the Alfresco repository from your web browser, or a networked drive, FTP, or WebDAV
  • Migrate existing documents to Alfresco
  • Managing Spaces

    A space in Alfresco is nothing but a folder, which contains content as well as
    sub-spaces. Space users are the users invited to a space to perform specific actions such as editing content, adding content, discussing a particular document, etc. You need to have the administrator, contributor, collaborator, or coordinator role, on a space to create sub-spaces. Similarly you need to have the administrator, editor, collaborator, coordinator role, to edit space properties. For more information about user roles on a space, refer to Chapter 4.

    Space is a Smart Folder

    Space is a folder with additional features such as security, business rules, workflow, notifications, local search, and special views. These additional features that make a space a smart folder are explained below:

  • Space Security: You can define security at the space level. You can specify a user or a group of users who may perform certain actions on content in a space. For example, on the Marketing Communications space in Intranet, you can specify that only users of the marketing group can add the content and others can only see the content.
  • Space Business Rules: Business rules such as transforming content from Microsoft Word to Adobe PDF and sending notifications when content gets into a space can be defined at space level.
  • Space Workflow: You can define and manage content workflow on a space. Typically, you will create a space for the content to be reviewed, and a space for approved content. You will create various spaces for dealing with the different stages the work flows through, and Alfresco will manage the movement of the content between those spaces.
  • Space Events: Alfresco triggers events when content gets into a space, or when content goes out of a space, or when content is modified within a space. You can capture such events at space level and trigger certain actions such as sending email notifications to certain users.
  • Space Aspects: Aspects are additional properties and behavior, which could be added to the content, based on the space in which it resides. For example, you can define a business rule to add customer details to all the customer contract documents in your Intranet’s Sales space.
  • Space Search: Alfresco Search can be limited to a space. For example, if you create a space called Marketing, you can limit the search for documents within Marketing space, instead of searching the entire site.
  • Space Syndication: Space content can be syndicated by applying RSS feed scripts on a space. You can apply RSS feeds on your News space, so that other applications and websites can subscribe for news updates.
  • Space Content: Content in a space can be versioned, locked, checked-in and checked-out, and managed. You can specify certain documents in a space to be versioned and others not.
  • Space Network folder: A space can be mapped to a network drive on your local machine enabling you to work with the content locally. For example, using the CIFS interface a space can be mapped to the Windows network folder.
  • Space Dashboard View: Content in a space can be aggregated and presented using special dashboard views. For example, the Company Policies space can list all the latest policy documents that have been updated during the past one month or so. You can create different views for the Sales, Marketing, and Finance departmental spaces.
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    Why Space Hierarchy is Important

    Like regular folders, a space can have spaces (called sub-spaces) and sub-spaces can further have sub-spaces of their own. There is no limitation on the number of hierarchical levels. However, the space hierarchy is very important for all the reasons specified above in the previous section. Any business rule and security defined at a space is applicable to all the content and sub-spaces underlying that space.

    In the previous chapter, you created system users, groups, and spaces for various departments as per the example. Your space hierarchy should look like the one
    given below:

  • Company Home
  • Intranet
  • Executive and Board
  • Company Policies
  • Press and Media
  • Marketing Communications
  • Sales Department
  • Finance Department
  • Engineering Department
  • Space hierarchy enables you to define various business rules, dashboard views, properties, workflow, and security for the content belonging to each department. You can decentralize the content management by giving access to departments at individual space levels.

    The Intranet space in our example should contain sub-spaces as shown in the screenshot on the next page. If you have not already created spaces as per the example given in the previous chapter, you must do it now by logging in as the administrator. The examples used in the remaining chapters of this book refer to these spaces. Also,
    it is very important to set security (by inviting groups of users to these spaces) as explained in the previous chapter.

    Edit Space

    Using the web client, you can edit the spaces you have added previously. Note that
    you need to have edit permissions on the spaces to edit them as explained in the previous chapter.

    Edit Space Properties

    Every space listed will have clickable actions as shown in the following screenshot:

    These clickable actions will be dynamically generated for each space based on the current user’s permissions on that space. If you have copy permission on a space
    you will notice the copy icon as a clickable action for that space. On clicking the View Details action icon the detailed view of a space will be displayed as shown in the next screenshot:

    The detailed view page of a space allows you to select a dashboard view, to view and edit existing space properties, to categorize the space, to set business rules, and to run various actions as shown in the above screenshot.

    To edit space properties, click on the edit properties icon shown in the above screenshot. You can change the name of the space and other properties as needed.

    PAGE 2 OF 12

    Delete a Space and Its Contents

    From the list of space actions, you can click on the Delete action to delete the
    space. You need to be very careful while deleting a space as all the business rules, sub-spaces, and the entire content within the space will also be deleted.

    Move or Copy a Space Using the Clipboard

    From the list of space actions, you can click on the Cut action to move a space to the clipboard. Now you can navigate to any space hierarchy, given that you have the permission, and paste this particular space as required.

    Similarly, you can use the Copy action to copy the space to some other space hierarchy. This is useful if you have an existing space structure (such as a marketing project or engineering project) and you would like to replicate it along with the data.

    The copied or moved space will be identical in all aspects to the original (source) space. When you copy a space its properties, categorization, business rules, space users, entire content within the space, and all sub-spaces along with their content will also be copied.

    Create a Shortcut to a Space for Quick Access

    If you need to frequently access a space, you can create a shortcut (similar to a browser favorite) to that space to reach the space in one click. From the list of space actions, you can click on the Create Shortcut action to create a shortcut to the existing space. Shortcuts are listed in the left-hand side shelf.

    Choose a Default View for Your Space

    Out of the box, four different views (as shown in the screenshot on the next page) are supported to display the space information.

    Details View provides listings of sub-spaces and content in horizontal rows.

    Icon View provides title, description, timestamp, and action menus for each
    sub-space and content item present in the current space.

    Similarly, Browse View provides title, description, and a list of sub-spaces for
    each space.

    The Custom View is disabled and appears in grey. This is because you have
    not enabled a dashboard view for this space. In order to enable a dashboard
    view for a space, you need to select a dashboard view (refer to the icon in the
    earlier screenshot).

    Sample Marketing-Project Space Structure

    Let us say you are launching a new marketing project called ‘Switch to open source ECM’. You can create your own space structure within the marketing project space to manage content. For example, you can have a space called Drafts to keep all the draft marketing documents and so on. Go to the Company Home | Intranet | Marketing Communications space and create a new space called Switch to open source ECM and create various sub-spaces under that as shown in the screenshot below.

    The new marketing project space and the sub-spaces created are used in the remaining examples listed in this chapter to manage content.

    Managing Content

    Content could be of any type as mentioned at the start of this chapter. Using the Alfresco web client application, you can add and modify content and its properties. You can categorize content, lock content for safe editing, and you can maintain several versions of the content. You can delete content and you can recover the deleted content as well.

    This section uses the space you have already created as a part of your Intranet sample application. As a part of sample application, you will manage content in the Intranet | Marketing Communications space. As you have secured this space earlier, only the administrator (admin) and users belonging to the Marketing group (Peter Marketing and Harish Marketing) can add content in this space. You can log in as Peter Marketing to manage content in this space.

    Create Content

    The web client provides two different interfaces for adding content: one to create inline editable content such as HTML, Text, and XML and the other to add binary content such Microsoft office files and scanned images.

    You need to have the Administrator, Contributor, Collaborator, Coordinator role on a space to create content within that space. For more information about user roles on a space, refer to Chapter 4.

    PAGE 3 OF 12

    Creating Text Documents

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    • crouch

      How can you set rules so that only the administrator can upload new files?

    • Hi friend I could see only 3 out of 12 pages of content on the site . But, I would like to have the rest of pages (4 to 12 pages) content for taking a seminar could u please forward it to my mail address (chrissaga007@gmail.com) ASAP. I found that this is a very good and outstanding presentation I have ever seen.

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    • Hi friend I could see only 3 out of 12 pages of content on the site . But, I would like to have the rest of pages (4 to 12 pages) content for taking a seminar could u please forward it to my mail address (chrissaga007@gmail.com) ASAP. I found that this is a very good and outstanding presentation I have ever seen.

      Thanking you.
      Chris A.