Today is a great day for the entire Alfresco community because 4.2.a is out
! This is the first new release of Community Edition since the 4.0 Community Edition and it includes features brought forward from Alfresco in the cloud as well as new features that will be showing up in the next Enterprise release. So here are my top five favorite features that are worth calling out…
(1) New & Improved Google Docs Integration
First up is a new and improved Google Docs Integration. This is really slick. It allows you to create a document (or a spreadsheet or a presentation) in Google Docs in a single click, then save it back to Alfresco in a single click. It honestly could not be any easier. The first time you do it you are prompted to give Alfresco access to your Google Docs account, but this interaction will look very familiar to any end-user who has granted access to one of their social accounts (like Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn, for example).
(2) New Rich Media Gallery View
Many people use Alfresco to manage creative assets like images and videos. So it makes sense you would want to see those assets in a more lightbox-y kind of way. Now you can. The rich media gallery is a new view option end-users can choose when looking at a list of documents. Instead of a vertical list of small thumbnails and file metadata, it shows the contents of the folder as a set of adjacent thumbnails with the file name overlayed. This approach gives the most important thing–the image thumbnail–maximum real estate. The view includes a slider that an end-user can use to dynamically adjust the size of the thumbnails shown in the list. The rich media gallery view still supports drag-and-drop, multiple file selection and the ability to quickly get to the detailed properties page when needed. As a side note, this view was added using a new set of extensibility features that make it easy for other developers to add additional view options to the document library.
(3) New Dashlets for Searches, Discussions, Images & Workflows
We’ve added a few new dashlets that help you find and stay up-to-date on relevant content. The first is the saved search dashlet. A site manager can add this dashlet to the site dashboard and configure it with an Alfresco FTS query. When users open the site dashboard, the query runs and displays the results. For example, maybe you’d like to always display the latest “TPS Report” on the dashboard. You can do that with the Saved Search dashlet. The next example, Site Search dashlet, is similar, but this new dashlet is used to let users run ad hoc searches and display the results. It avoids the need to leave the dashboard to run a query. The third new dashlet addition is My Discussions. It helps you stay on top of discussion threads you are involved in across your sites. It is like a discussion-specific activity stream that lets you know when new topics and replies are created. It includes the ability to filter the activity based on date. For example, maybe you want to see all of the new discussion activity within the last 14 days. And finally there are a couple of dashlets that have been improved in this release. The first is My Tasks. We’ve always had a My Tasks dashlet–it shows you tasks that are waiting for you to work on. But prior to this release, once the tasks were completed, you couldn’t go back and review them. Now the My Tasks dashlet can show both Active Tasks and Completed Tasks. The Image Preview Dashlet, which is a dashlet that displays thumbnails of the images contained within a site, now has a nicer layout and includes the ability to specify which folders should be searched for images, rather than grabbing all of the images across the entire site. All of these new and enhanced dashlets are aimed at making it easier to get relevant content in front of the people who need it most.
(4) New Document Actions: Download as Zip & Quick Share
The 4.2.a release adds new options for downloading and sharing content. The first is Download as Zip. This gives end-users a quick way to grab more than one piece of content at-a-time. You simply select the content you want, then click Selected Items, Download. The content items get compressed into a single zip and are then downloaded to your machine. Quick Share is a new feature that comes to on-premise by way of our hosted cloud solution. It is really handy for sharing content with collaborators who may not otherwise have access to the site or folder. When you click “Share” on a piece of content, Alfresco generates a shortened link you can give to others via email, Facebook, Twitter, or Google+. When they click the link, they’ll see a preview of the content. You can share content with anyone with this single click without modifying the access control list for the site, folder, or document. Only those with Collaborator or higher can share a document using this feature and documents can be “unshared” at any time.
(5) Improvements Under the Hood
There are also several improvements end-users may not fully appreciate, but that the developer crowd will definitely applaud:
- Support for JDK 1.7 and Tomcat 7. In fact, the release notes say these are actually requirements.
- 4.2.a now ships with LibreOffice 3.5, which is used to transform office documents to PDF.
- If you install using the binary installer, you’ll get PostgreSQL 9.0.4. But many people use manual installations configured to run against MySQL. In release 4.2.a, you’ll want to upgrade to MySQL 5.5.
- Alfresco embeds the open source Activiti business process engine to handle advanced workflows. In 4.2.a we’ve upgraded to the latest Activiti release, which is 5.10.
Beyond that, there are a number of other developer-centric enhancements, bug fixes and performance improvements in this release. So take a look at the release notes and Kevin Roast’s blog post. I’ve also got screencasts of the features discussed here available on my blog, ecmarchitect.com. Once you’ve downloaded Alfresco 4.2.a Community Edition and tried out the new features, we’d love to hear from you – write a blog post or record a quick screencast with your feedback and then link to it here in the comments. Who knows, maybe I’ll ship you a shirt or even a DevCon pass (no promises, though)!