Open source CMSes prove well worth the price
We look at five free offerings boasting solid Web publishing features that challenge their commercial competitors
Another plus for Alfresco is its flexible licensing with the FLOSS (Free/Libre and Open Source Software-only) exception. This lets you embed the Alfresco JSR-170 content repository into other projects -- without having to license the entire Alfresco community package.
Installation went fast for both Windows and Linux, and you can run Alfresco with JBoss Portal 2.2 or Apache Tomcat. For most of my testing I used Windows Server 2003 and Tomcat. The main Alfresco work area continues to be well organized, with breadcrumbs to jump around quickly and summary areas that show available actions. Additionally, each user can create custom views to their documents and tasks. On top of this, Alfresco 2.1's portlet container enables users to access their spaces, tasks, documents, and Web Forms from JSR-168-compliant portals.
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You may not need to do a lot of development because there's a nice library of sample forms for entering content (articles, news flashes, and multimedia) and site components (navigation, recent items, RSS feeds, site maps, and mashups) that add functionality to pages. I also published Alfresco content to WordPress and TypePad blogs.
Administration, a traditional Alfresco strength, is now even better. Using wizards, I quickly built a library of custom SmartWebForms. These enabled content contributions to enter and submit material in the correct format. Editorial workflows (created the same way) kept reviewers informed, using e-mail notification, of pages they needed to approve. As before, Alfresco includes extensive rules that automate both routine and complex tasks. For example, in a few steps I created a rule to watch a space for newly approved documents and convert them into PDF files.
Other changes in Version 2.1 let me check for broken links, set a time when content is to be published, and expire content.
The previous version enhanced content deployment in some important ways. For example, I published a Web site to multiple servers. For even more efficiency, Alfresco's transactional deployment function pushed recent content updates (rather than publishing a whole folder or site section). Additionally, the software now tracks these individual changes and there's immediate rollback to prior versions of a site.
Effortless document capture
Underlying WCM is Alfresco Document Management, which I accessed from the common work area. Users can also interact with documents from other interfaces they may already know, including shared drives, portals, WebDAV, and FTP.