Managing Content in Alfresco

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Alfresco Enterprise Content Management Implementation

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How to Install, use, and customize this powerful, free, Open Source Java-based Enterprise CMS

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by Munwar Shariff | June 2008 | Content Management Java

Content could be of any type. 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.

In this article by Munwar Shariff, we introduce 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.

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.

Creating Text Documents—HTML, Text, and XML

To create an HTML file in a space, follow the steps given below:

  • Ensure that you are in the Intranet | Marketing Communications | Switch to open source ECM | 02_Drafts space.
  • On the header, click Create | Create Content. The first pane of the Create Content wizard appears as shown in the screenshot on the next page. In this wizard, and in any Alfresco wizard, you can track your progress through the wizard from the list of steps at the left of the pane.
  • Managing Content in Alfresco

  • Provide the name of the HTML file, select HTML as Content Type, and click the Next button. The Enter Content pane of the wizard appears as shown in the next screenshot. Note that Enter Content is now highlighted in the list of steps at the left of the pane.
  • Managing Content in Alfresco

  • You can see that there is a comprehensive set of tools to help you format your HTML document. Enter some text, using some of the formatting features.
  • If you know HTML, you can also use an HTML editor by clicking on the HTML icon given. The HTML source editor is displayed. Once you have updated the HTML content, click on the update button to return to the Enter Content pane in the wizard, with the contents updated.
  • After the content is entered and edited in the Enter Content pane, click Finish. You will see the Modify Content Properties screen to update metadata associated with the content as shown in the screenshot below:
  • Managing Content in Alfresco

  • If you are satisfied with the properties, click the OK button to return to the 02_Drafts space, with your newly created file inserted.

You can launch the newly created HTML file by clicking on it. Your browser launches most of the common files such as HTML, text, and PDF. If the browser could not recognize the file, you will be prompted with the Windows dialog box containing the list of applications, from which you must choose an application. This is the normal behavior if you try to launch a file on any Internet page.

Uploading Binary Files—Word, PDF, Flash, Image, and Media

Using the web client, you can upload content from your hard drive. Choose a file from your hard disk that is not an HTML or text file. I chose Alfresco_CIGNEX.doc from my hard disk for the sample application. Ensure that you are in the Intranet | Marketing Communications | Switch to open source ECM | 02_Drafts space.

To upload a binary file in a space, follow the steps given below:

  • In the space header, click the Add Content link.
  • The Add Content dialog appears.
  • To specify the file that you want to upload, click Browse. In the File Upload dialog box, browse to the file that you want to upload. Click Open. Alfresco inserts the full path name of the selected file in the Location text box.
  • Click the Upload button to upload the file from your hard disk to the Alfresco repository. A message informs you that your upload was successful as shown in the following screenshot.
  • Click OK to confirm.
  • The Modify Content Properties dialog appears. Verify the pre-populated properties and add information in the text boxes. Click OK to save and return to the 02_Drafts space.

Managing Content in Alfresco

The file that you uploaded appears in the Content Items pane. Alfresco extracts the file size from the properties of the disk file, and includes the value in the size row. Now that you have two files, you can edit them as you like.

Edit Content

Using the web client you can edit the files that you have added previously. Note that you need to have edit permissions on the content to edit them

Inline Editing of HTML, Text, and XML

HTML files and plain text files can be created and edited inline. Each file type is edited in its own WYSIWYG editor. If you have edit access to a file, you will notice a small pencil (edit) icon as shown in the screenshot below. Clicking on the pencil icon will open the file in its editor.

Managing Content in Alfresco

Alfresco Enterprise Content Management Implementation How to Install, use, and customize this powerful, free, Open Source Java-based Enterprise CMS
Published: January 2007
eBook Price: $35.99
Book Price: $59.99
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Upload an Updated Binary File

If you have edit access to a binary file, you will notice the Update action icon in the more actions link as shown in the screenshot below. On clicking on the update icon, the update pane opens. Click on the Browse button to upload the updated version of the document from your hard disk.

Managing Content in Alfresco

Content will have clickable actions as shown in the screenshot on the next page. These clickable actions (icons) will be dynamically generated for a content based on the current user's permissions for that content. For example, if you have copy permission for the content, you will notice a copy icon as a clickable action for that content.

Managing Content in Alfresco

Delete Content

Click on the Delete action, from the list of content actions, to delete the content.

Move or Copy Content Using the Clipboard

From the list of content actions as shown in the previous screenshot, you can click on the Cut action to move the content to the clipboard. Now you can navigate to any space hierarchy and paste this particular content as required. Similarly, you can use the Copy action to copy the content to another space.

Create a Shortcut to Content for Quick Access

If you have to access particular content very frequently, you can create a shortcut (similar to a browser favorite) to that content to reach the content in one click. From the list of content actions as shown in the View Details page, you can click on the Create Shortcut action to create a short cut to the existing content. Shortcuts are listed in the left-hand side Shelf.

Managing Content Properties

Every content item in Alfresco will have properties associated with it. Refer to the screenshot on the tenth page to see the list of properties such as Title, Description, Author, Size, and Creation Date. These properties are associated with the actual content file Alfresco_CIGNEX.doc. The content properties are stored in the relational database and are searchable using advanced search options.

What is Content Metadata?

Content properties are also known as Content Metadata. Metadata is structured data, which describes the characteristics of content. It shares many similar characteristics with the cataloguing that takes place in libraries. The term Meta derives from the Greek word denoting a nature of a higher order or more fundamental kind. A metadata record consists of a number of pre-defined elements representing specific attributes of content, and each element can have one or more values.

Metadata is a systematic method for describing resources, and thereby improving access to them. If access to the content will be required, then it should be described using metadata, so as to maximize the ability to locate it. Metadata provides the essential link between the information creator and the information user.

While the primary aim of metadata is to improve resource discovery, metadata sets are also being developed for other reasons, including:

  • Administrative control
  • Security
  • Management information
  • Content rating
  • Rights management

Metadata Extractors

Typically, in most content management systems, once you upload the content file, you need to add the metadata (properties) such as title, description, and keywords to the content manually. Most of the content such as Microsoft Office documents, media files, and PDF documents contain properties within the file itself. Hence, it is a duplicated effort having to enter those values again in the content management system along with the document.

Alfresco provides built-in metadata extractors for popular document types to extract the standard metadata values from a document and populate the values automatically. This is very useful if you are uploading the documents through FTP, CIFS, or WebDAV interface, where you do not have to enter the properties manually, as Alfresco will transfer the document properties automatically.

Editing Metadata

To edit metadata, you need to click the edit metadata icon in the content details view. Refer to the edit metadata icon shown in the screenshot that shows the detailed view of the file Alfresco_CIGNEX.doc. You can update the metadata values such as Name and Description for your content items. However, certain metadata values such as Creator, Created Date, Modifier and Modified Date are read-only and you cannot change them. Certain properties such as Modifier and Modified Date will be updated by Alfresco automatically, whenever the content is updated.

Adding Additional Properties

Additional properties can be added to the content in two ways. One way is to extend the data model and define more properties in a content type.

The other way is to dynamically attach the properties and behavior through Aspects. Using aspects, you can add additional properties such as Effectivity, Dublin Core Metadata, and Thumbnailable to the content.

Summary

You can customize Alfresco features such as smart spaces, library services, and security to implement your enterprise document management requirements. Various interfaces such as web client, CIFS, FTP, and WebDAV can be used to manage content in the Alfresco repository. The content can be edited on your local desktop using your choice of favorite content editors. You can also use tools to migrate your existing content and to do bulk upload and retrieval of content.

Alfresco Enterprise Content Management Implementation How to Install, use, and customize this powerful, free, Open Source Java-based Enterprise CMS
Published: January 2007
eBook Price: $35.99
Book Price: $59.99
See more
Select your format and quantity:

About the Author :


Munwar Shariff

Munwar Shariff, as a co-founder and Chief Technology Officer at CIGNEX Datamatics, brings over 20 years of industry experience and proven technical leadership. He oversees the enterprise architecture solution team and provides strategic planning to achieve business goals by identifying and prioritizing technology-based services and solutions. Defining initiatives and setting timetables for the evaluation, development, and deployment of pioneering technologies are his areas of expertise.

He is an entrepreneur, open source technologist, and author of the following four technical books:

  • Plone Live
  • Implementing Alfresco
  • Alfresco3 WCM
  • Alfresco3 ECM

He contributes to the open source community by journaling submissions on open source CMS, and has been a featured speaker at AIIM USA, JBoss World, DAM Conference, Plone Conference, Linux World, Gilbane, CTC, Yahoo OSCMS, Saudi Government, and CA World.

Munwar has also served on board at the Plone Foundation and is currently a board member at CIGNEX Datamatics.

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