Getting Started with the Alfresco Records Management Module


Alfresco 3 Records Management

Alfresco 3 Records Management

Comply with regulations and secure your organization’s records with Alfresco Records Management.

  • Successfully implement your records program using Alfresco Records Management, fully certified for DoD-5015.2 compliance
  • The first and only book to focus exclusively on Alfresco Records Management
  • Step-by-step instructions describe how to identify records, organize records, and manage records to comply with regulatory requirements
  • Learn in detail about the software internals to get a jump-start on performing customizations


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(For more resources on Alfresco, see here.)

The Alfresco stack

Alfresco software was designed for enterprise, and as such, supports a variety of different stack elements. Supported Alfresco stack elements include some of the most widely used operating systems, relational databases, and application servers.

The core infrastructure of Alfresco is built on Java. This core provides the flexibility for the server to run on a variety of operating systems, like Microsoft Windows, Linux, Mac OS, and Sun Solaris. The use of Hibernate allows Alfresco to map objects and data from Java into almost any relational database. The databases that the Enterprise version of Alfresco software is certified to work with include Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL, PostgresSQL, and DB2. Alfresco also runs on a variety of Application Servers that include Tomcat, JBoss, WebLogic, and WebSphere. Other relational databases and application servers may work as well, although they have not been explicitly tested and are also not supported.

Details of which Alfresco stack elements are supported can be found on the Alfresco website:

Depending on the target deployment environment, different elements of the Alfresco stack may be favored over others. The exact configuration details for setting up the various stack element options is not discussed in this book. You can find ample discussion and details on the Alfresco wiki on how to configure, set up, and change the different stack elements. The version-specific installation and setup guides provided by Alfresco also contain very detailed information.

The example description and screenshots given in this article are based on the Windows operating system. The details may differ for other operating systems, but you will find that the basic steps are very similar.

Additional information on the internals of Alfresco software can be found on the Alfresco wiki at

Alfresco software

As a first step to getting Alfresco Records Management up and running, we need to first acquire the software. Whether you plan to use either the Enterprise or the Community version of Alfresco, you should note that the Records Management module was not available until late 2009. The Records Management module was first certified with the 3.2 release of Alfresco Share. The first Enterprise version of Alfresco that supported Records Management was version 3.2R, which was released in February 2010.

Make sure the software versions are compatible

It is important to note that there was an early version of Records Management that was built for the Alfresco JSF-based Explorer client. That version was not certified for DoD 5015.2 compliance and is no longer supported by Alfresco. In fact, the Alfresco Explorer version of Records Management is not compatible with the Share version of Records Management, and trying to use the two implementations together can result in corrupt data.

It is also important to make sure that the version of the Records Management module that you use matches the version of the base Alfresco Share software. For example, trying to use the Enterprise version of Records Management on a Community install of Alfresco will lead to problems, even if the version numbers are the same. The 3.3 Enterprise version of Records Management, as another example, is also not fully compatible with the 3.2R Enterprise version of Alfresco software.

Downloading the Alfresco software

The easiest way to get Alfresco Records Management up and running is by doing a fresh install of the latest available Alfresco software.

Alfresco Community

The Community version of Alfresco is a great place to get started. Especially if you are just interested in evaluating if Alfresco software meets your needs, and with no license fees to worry about, there's really nothing to lose in going this route.

Since Alfresco Community software is constantly in the "in development" state and is not as rigorously tested, it tends to not be as stable as the Enterprise version. But, in terms of the Records Management module for the 3.2+ version releases of the software, the Community implementation is feature-complete. This means that the same Records Management features in the Enterprise version are also found in the Community version.

The caveat with using the Community version is that support is only available from the Alfresco community, should you run across a problem. The Enterprise release also includes support from the Alfresco support team and may have bug fixes or patches not yet available for the community release. Also of note is the fact that there are other repository features beyond those of Records Management features, especially in the area of scalability, which are available only with the Enterprise release.

Building from source code

It is possible to get the most recent version of the Alfresco Community software by getting a snapshot copy of the source code from the publicly accessible Alfresco Subversion source code repository. A version of the software can be built from a snapshot of the source code taken from there. But unless you are anxiously waiting for a new Alfresco feature or bug fix and need to get your hands immediately on a build with that new code included as part of it, for most people, building from source is probably not the route to go.

Building from source code can be time consuming and error prone. The final software version that you build can often be very buggy or unstable due to code that has been checked-in prematurely or changes that might be in the process of being merged into the Community release, but which weren't completely checked-in at the time you updated your snapshot of the code base.

If you do decide that you'd like to try to build Alfresco software from source code, details on how to get set up to do that can be found on the Alfresco wiki:

Download a Community version snapshot build

Builds of snapshots of the Alfresco Community source code are periodically taken and made available for download. Using a pre-built Community version of Alfresco software saves you much hassle and headaches from not having to do the build from scratch. While not thoroughly tested, the snapshot Community builds have been tested sufficiently so that they tend to be stable enough to see most of the functionality available for the release, although not everything may be working completely.

Links to the most recent Alfresco Community version builds can be found on the Alfresco wiki:

Alfresco Enterprise

The alternative to using Alfresco open source Community software is the Enterprise version of Alfresco. For most organizations, the fully certified Enterprise version of Alfresco software is the recommended choice. The Enterprise version of Alfresco software has been thoroughly tested and is fully supported.

Alfresco customers and partners have access to the most recent Enterprise software from the Alfresco Network site: Trial copies of Alfresco Enterprise software can be downloaded from the Alfresco site: Time-limited access to on-demand instances of Alfresco software are also available and are a great way to get a good understanding of how Alfresco software works.

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(For more resources on Alfresco, see here.)

Installing the base Alfresco software

Once you have access to Alfresco software, the easiest way to get started with Alfresco is to do a full installation of Alfresco on a Windows machine. With just a few steps, you can be up and running with this procedure. The full setup on Windows installs all components needed to run Alfresco in a self-contained way under a single directory with no dependencies on any other files outside of the installation directory.

Running the installer

One useful technique when performing full installs of Alfresco on Windows is to create a directory, like c:\Alfresco, and then install the new Alfresco software stack as a subdirectory in it. It is likely that we'll want to install other versions of Alfresco for testing and development purposes. All Alfresco installs can be kept side-by-side in this single directory. In that way, it is easy to find and then start and stop any of the installed versions of Alfresco, as needed.

It is also possible to install Alfresco as a service on Windows. In some situations, like for a Windows production system, this makes life easier and minimizes the number of DOS-based pop-up windows that you see when you start the Alfresco system. But for development and test scenarios, it is generally easier to not install Alfresco as a Windows service. The steps for installing Alfresco are as follows:

  1. The Alfresco Enterprise version 3.3 full installation file for Windows is Alfresco-Enterprise-3.3-Full-Setup.exe. Download this file and run it to begin installation of Alfresco. Other installation options exist, but this one provides the complete stack of required software for Alfresco to run, and is perhaps the easiest and quickest way to get Alfresco installed on a Windows machine.
  2. The first installation screen that you'll see is one that asks what you prefer as the language to be installed. The default language is English. After selecting the language, click on OK:

    Alfresco Records Management Module

  3. Respond Yes to the prompt to continue the installation of Alfresco:

    Alfresco Records Management Module

  4. Click on Next on the first screen of the Alfresco installation InstallJammer Wizard:

    Alfresco Records Management Module

  5. On the next screen, select the Custom install and then click on Next. The Alfresco installer does not include Records Management as part of the Typical install. You could still do a Typical install and then add the Records Management modules later, but it saves some time if you install the Records Management modules automatically as part of the wizard-driven installation:

    Alfresco Records Management Module

  6. On the screen showing the custom components to install, make sure that Records Management is selected. Other components like WCM or the IBM Quickr integration may not be needed and can be left unchecked. Note that when using Records Management on the Enterprise version, an additional license specific to the Records Management module from Alfresco needs to be obtained. Click on Next:

    Alfresco Records Management Module tutorial

  7. Next, select the location where this instance of Alfresco will be installed. In this example, we will be installing it in a directory called Ent33 under the Alfresco directory where we will keep all of our Alfresco full instance installations. Click on Next to start the installation of the files:

    Alfresco Records Management Module tutorial

  8. The installation wizard next summarizes the choices that we've made, prior to installing the files. Verify that this is correct, and then select Next:

    Alfresco Records Management Module tutorial

    The installation of the Alfresco files then begins:

    Alfresco Records Management Module tutorial

  9. The next screen prompts you to enter the password for the user admin, the administrator of the Alfresco system. In this case, we enter admin as the password, which is the default value most commonly used for the Alfresco admin user. In a production environment, a more secure password should be selected. Click on Next:

    Alfresco Records Management Module tutorial

  10. After doing that, if you had selected the OpenOffice option on the Custom install screen, it will start to install. OpenOffice may take a few minutes to install:

    Alfresco Records Management Module tutorial

  11. After that, a screen will ask if the Records Management module should be automatically installed at this part of the wizard installation. That's what we want, so we agree with this and click on Next:

    Alfresco Records Management Module tutorial

  12. After doing that, success! We should see the final screen of the installation wizard indicating that the installation was successfully completed. Click on Finish and the installation is over:

    Alfresco Records Management Module tutorial

Congratulations on the successful installation of Alfresco software!

Installing Alfresco Records Management modules manually

In the last section, we took the easy route and installed a fresh copy of the full Alfresco Windows setup. But what if we already have a base instance of Alfresco installed that we wanted to add Records Management to? In that case, we need to install the two Alfresco Records Management modules manually into the existing instance.

We need to download the two Records Management AMP files separately. In Alfresco 3.3, these files are named alfresco-dod5015-3.3.amp and alfrescodod5015-share-3.3.amp. The first of these files will be applied against the alfresco.war file, and the second will be applied against the share.war file. These two WAR files can be found in the tomcat\webapps directory.

The Alfresco and Share applications are distributed in the WAR (short for Web ARchive) file format.
A WAR file is a special kind of ZIP file that contains the Java classes, XML, HTML, property, and any other files needed to run a Web application. By dropping a single WAR file into the deployment folder of an application server like WebSphere, JBoss, or Tomcat, the web application contained in the WAR file can be installed. The application server will expand the folder structure and all files contained in the WAR the first time the application is started.
alfresco.war is the distribution WAR file that contains both the Alfresco Explorer client and also the services and other base components of the Alfresco repository.
share.war is the distribution WAR file for the Share application.

We need to make sure that the version of the base Alfresco install matches the version of the AMP files that we are about to apply. If not, it is necessary to run upgrade or patch files to bring the installation up to the right version.

Copy the file alfresco-dod5015-3.3.amp into the directory named amps at the top level of the Alfresco installation area. Copy the file alfresco-dod5015-share-3.3.amp into the directory named amps-share. If no directory named amps-share exists, create it parallel to the amps directory and add the Alfresco Share AMP file to it.

Then, in a Windows DOS Command window, navigate to the directory where the instance of Alfresco is installed and locate the Windows Batch file called apply_amps.bat. Before running the Batch file, note that running this will merge Records Management functionality into the alfresco.war and share.war files. On completion, the Batch file will delete the contents of the Alfresco and share folders where the previous versions of the WAR files existed. If you have made any customizations in either of these two folders, those customizations will be deleted.

To apply the Records Management AMP files, run the apply_amps.bat file from the command line, as shown below:

Microsoft Windows XP [Version 5.1.2600]

(C) Copyright 1985-2001 Microsoft Corp.

C:\Documents and Settings\Dick>cd \alfresco\ent33


This script will apply all the AMPs in C:\Alfresco\Ent33\amps to the
alfresco.war and share.war files in C:\Alfresco\Ent33\tomcat\webapps

Press control-c to stop this script . . .

Press any key to continue . . .

When instructed, follow the several messages where you will be prompted to press a key. After the AMPs are successfully applied to the alfresco.war and share.war files, you will see a message like the following where the time and date of the successful installs for the AMP files are indicated:

Module managment tool available commands:


install: Installs a AMP file(s) into an Alfresco WAR file,
updates if an older version is already installed.

usage: install <AMPFileLocation> <WARFileLocation> [options]

valid options:
-verbose : enable verbose output

-directory : indicates that the amp file location specified
is a directory.

All amp files found in the directory and its sub
directories are installed.
-force : forces installation of AMP regardless of currently
installed module version

-preview : previews installation of AMP without modifying WAR

-nobackup : indicates that no backup should be made of the WAR


list: Lists all the modules currently installed in an Alfresco WAR

usage: list <WARFileLocation>


Module 'org_alfresco_module_dod5015' installed in
- Title: DOD 5015 Records Management

- Version: 1.0

- Install Date: Mon Jul 26 21:12:41 PDT 2010

- Description: Alfresco DOD 5015 Record Management Extension

Module 'org.alfresco.module.vti' installed in

- Title: Vti

- Version: 1.2

- Install Date: Mon Jul 26 21:06:16 PDT 2010

- Description: Alfresco Vti Extension

Module management tool available commands:


install: Installs a AMP file(s) into an Alfresco WAR file,
updates if an older version is already installed.

usage: install <AMPFileLocation> <WARFileLocation> [options]

valid options:

-verbose : enable verbose output

-directory : indicates that the amp file location specified is a

All amp files found in the directory and its sub
directories are installed.

-force : forces installation of AMP regardless of currently
installed module version

-preview : previews installation of AMP without modifying WAR file

-nobackup : indicates that no backup should be made of the WAR


list: Lists all the modules currently installed in an Alfresco WAR

usage: list <WARFileLocation>


No modules are installed in this WAR file

No modules are installed in this WAR file.

About to clean out tomcat/webapps/alfresco directory and temporary

Press any key to continue . . .

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(For more resources on Alfresco, see here.)

Starting the Alfresco Repository and Share application

Both the Alfresco base software and the Records Management should now be installed. Let's start up the application server and start looking at Share. In this case, Tomcat is the application server that we are using.

In Windows, we bring up a DOS command Window to start Alfresco. To do that, navigate to the top of the Alfresco installation area and run the DOS batch file alf_start.bat, as shown in the code below. Alfresco will start up and display some configuration settings. In this case, we are using a MySQL database that came bundled with the Windows full setup:

Microsoft Windows XP [Version 5.1.2600]

(C) Copyright 1985-2001 Microsoft Corp.

C:\Documents and Settings\Dick>cd \alfresco\ent34


Starting MySQL...

Starting Tomcat...

Using CATALINA_BASE: "C:\Alfresco\Ent34\tomcat"

Using CATALINA_HOME: "C:\Alfresco\Ent34\tomcat"

Using CATALINA_TMPDIR: "C:\Alfresco\Ent34\tomcat\temp"

Using JRE_HOME: "C:\dev\Java6\jdk"

Using CLASSPATH: "C:\Alfresco\Ent33\tomcat\bin\bootstrap.jar"


Two additional windows are created on startup with this configuration—one is the Tomcat console window and the other is a window for MySQL. If you are running an operating system other than Windows, or if you are using a different database or application server, the behavior that you see on startup may differ. The Tomcat console is a useful place to look when testing and developing to catch or examine in more detail any errors that might be reported when we're running Alfresco.

If this is the first time that we've started the application server, after startup, we will see that there are two WAR files, one for the Alfresco Repository and the other for the Share application. Both should have been exploded or expanded to contain all the files that were bundled in the WAR files.

WAR files are basically ZIP files where the folders and files are stored in the same structure as they need to be located in when the application runs. The WAR files and their corresponding exploded directories can both be found under the tomcat\webapps directory. The folders alfresco and share along with the tomcat\shared folder contain all the necessary Alfresco Repository and Share application files.

Once the application server is fully started, you should see a message on the application server console that says something like:

INFO: Server startup in 100093 ms

Starting Alfresco Share

The server is now up and running and we are ready to connect to the Alfresco Share application using a web browser. Alfresco Share is a team collaboration application built using a modern web interface. Project or topic-specific sites can be created within Share, and Share users can get access to the different sites within Share by becoming a site member by either invitation or by request. Members of a Share site can share documents and use collaboration tools like blogs, wikis, and calendars for tracking events.

We'll need to bring up a browser from a client machine running on the same network. Alfresco Share is certified to work with various versions of web browsers that include Firefox, Microsoft Internet Explorer, and Safari. Share also works fairly well with Google Chrome, although Chrome is not officially supported.

For testing and development, it is often convenient to connect to the Share application on the same machine where the server is running. This doesn't model a typical production environment, but will be sufficient for our purposes. To connect to the Share application running on the local server using the default configuration, use this URL: http://localhost:8080/share. Entering this URL into the browser location field brings up the login screen for Alfresco Share.

Share is the second generation of client applications built by Alfresco. The first Alfresco client is still available and is bundled as part of the alfresco.war file and can be accessed at the URL http://localhost:8080/alfresco. It is sometimes referred to as the Alfresco Explorer client. The Explorer client was written using an older Java UI technology called JSF (Java Server Faces), and it focused almost exclusively on interacting with the Alfresco repository. You'll notice the difference in the "look" between the two application technologies just by bringing up and comparing the login screens of the two clients:

Alfresco Records Management Module tutorial

We can now log in as the administrator for the application as the user admin. When we installed the application, we selected the password admin. Entering the User Name and Password on the login screen will give us access to the dashboard of Share.

The system administrator for Alfresco is, by default, user admin. User admin has administrative privileges both in the Share application and also within the Alfresco JSF client. The User Name and Password login credentials for user admin are identical for accessing both clients. A user created to access Share will also, by default, be able to access the JSF client, and users created in the JSF client will have access to Share:

Share dashlets

The content that appears on the home dashboard page for Share is totally configurable. Dashlets are small applications that can independently interact with a service for preparing and presenting targeted information to the user. The dashlets that are available for display on the dashboard include the following:

My Profile: Picture and summary of the contact information from the user profile

Getting Started: Information and links to highlights of Alfresco Share for new or infrequent users

Alfresco Network: Text and links that describe how to get Enterprise Edition support from Alfresco and updates on news about Alfresco

My Calendar: A summary of upcoming events posted to the calendars of the sites that the user is a member of

My Tasks: A list of advanced workflow tasks assigned to the user

My Sites: A list of links to the Share sites that the user has either created or is a member of

My Site Activities: A summary of the recent actions that have occurred in the Share sites that the user is a member of

Documents I'm Editing: A list of documents that are currently checked out to the user from any of the Share site Document Libraries that the user belongs to

RSS Feed: A dashlet that can be configured to display any RSS feed. The default is the Alfresco site feed

CMIS Feed: Information and links about the CMIS (Content Management Interoperability Services) specification

Web View: A dashlet that can embed the display of the web page corresponding to any URL

My Workspaces: A list of Document Workspaces that you are a member of (SharePoint integration)

My Meeting Workspaces: A list of Meeting Workspaces that you are a member of (SharePoint integration)

Records Management: Provides links to install, access, and manage Records Management capabilities

Enabling the Records Management dashlet

Next, the Records Management dashlet needs to be added to the dashboard to enable the option for installing Records Management. To do that, click on the Customize Dashboard button towards the upper right.

On the screen to customize the dashlet, click on the Add Dashlets button. Then find the Records Management Console dashlet and drag it to one of the columns of your dashboard layout:

Alfresco Records Management Module tutorial

After doing that, we will see the Records Management dashlet displayed on the dashboard when we navigate back to the dashboard page. It will look something like this:

Alfresco Records Management Module tutorial

Adding the Records Management site

Within Share, we still need to install the Records Management site from which we can access the Records Management functionality. In version 3.x of Alfresco, only a single Records Management site is allowed. To install the site, click on the Create Records Management Site link on the dashlet.

You will see the message: Creating Records Management Site. Please Wait. After that, the Records Management site is installed and is available. The contents of the Records Management dashlet have been refreshed, and the dashlet will now appear as follows:

Alfresco Records Management Module tutorial

The Creating Records Management Site link that was displayed initially has been hidden and that link has been replaced with two new links: Records Management Site and Load Test Data.

If we refresh the dashboard page in the browser, we will also see that the My Sites dashlet on the dashboard updates to show that the Records Management site now exists and, by default, user admin is a member of it because that user created the site.

Designating the Records Management administrator

The Records Management site in Share now exists, but you will soon find that it isn't too useful just yet. At this point, no users, including the admin user, have sufficient privileges to create any data in the site.

In this article, we will work with just the admin user and designate user admin to also have administrator rights to the Records Management site. With those privileges, the admin user will be able to create elements of the File Plan, the hierarchical folder-like structure used for classifying and filing records, and have capabilities related to the configuration of the Records Management site.

Before going into the Share administration area, we need to work around one quirk of the Records Management installation. No Records Management groups have yet been created. The Records Manager groups and the assigned privileges for each group will happen automatically the first time someone tries to navigate to the Records Management site.

So, even though we don't have privileges to do anything in the Records Management site just yet, we bring up the Records Management site. We do that by clicking on the Records Management Site link on the dashlet. The Records Management groups will now be created.

To make a user admin a Records Management administrator, we next navigate to the Share administration area by clicking on the Admin Console link along the top of the Share dashboard. Click on the Groups Tool along the left navigation pane, and then click on the Browse button in the middle pane on the right:

We can then see a list of all the available groups in Alfresco Share. Click on the Records Management Administrator. We need to add the user admin to this group. To do that, in the listbox to the right of the group list, click on the upper-right-most icon of a person, search for admin, and finally add that user to the group.

After completing this step, the Records Management module is installed and the Records Management site has been created and is available. However, at this point, the user admin is the only active user for the site.


In this article we covered:

  • How to acquire and install Alfresco Records Management software
  • How to set up the Records Management site within Alfresco Share

Further resources on this subject:

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