A Detailed Review on Alfresco - An Open Source Enterprise Content Management System

By Angsuman Chakraborty, Gaea News Network
Friday, November 21, 2008

Yesterday, we had comprehensively reviewed eZ publish- an open source enterprise content management system for you. We have another one today, Alfresco. Without going into much details about enterprise content management systems (which you can find out from eZ publish article), let’s go straight into our topic today.

What is Alfresco

Alfresco offers an enterprise content management platform built on open source software, which companies use for document management, Web content management, and collaboration. Alfresco isn’t the only open source ECM platform, but on the document management and collaboration front, it’s  perhaps the biggest.

One Look at The Key Features

  • A new improved management interface
  • Ability to add records and images to the content of a page
  • An improved search engine
  • AJAX interfaces that adhere to Web 2.0 standards
  • Publish new articles on the fly
  • Add code to an article (like a Google Ad)
  • The addition of mashups, site maps, RSS news feeds and more
  • Alfresco Enterprise Edition 3.0 includes Alfresco Share which is perhaps one of the best options in Alfresco.

Alfresco Enterprise 3.0

Alfresco Share

Alfresco supports Microsoft’s CIFS (Common Internet File System) protocol that allows you to mount the repository, or a sub-folder of the repository, as a Microsoft Windows Network File Share. Doing so makes it possible for users to unconsciously interact with the CMS by working in their natural ways. Content rules, that are triggered when files are moved in and out of folders, can execute functions like add metadata, start workflow, or send emails behind the scenes.

  • Document Library features including bulk content upload capability, thumbnails, flash document viewer, meta-data, tags, multi-select and RSS feed make it easier for people to use content management tools.
  • Search functionality allows user to look for people and experts, as easily as searching for content;
  • Create virtual teams for projects and communities, with both internal and external members;
  • Activity feeds provide users with updates on what is new or changing in a project – essentially providing the “who, what, when and where” for content that is added or edited, commented on as well as new team members and critical calendar dates;
  • Personalized dashboard uses a rich interactive interface enabling users to configure a customizable dashboard and sites based on what is most important to a role or project;
  • Create content using tool of choice – wikis, blogs, Microsoft Office;
  • Rapid application development environment that uses lightweight scripting and reusable components avoiding .Net and Java;
  • N-tier architecture delivers scalability without massive hardware or software investment and accommodates more users on existing hardware resources; and
  • Draft CMIS (Content Management Interoperability Services) specification implementation provides users with a platform for developing and testing applications.

Heterogeneous Architecture

Alfresco also supports WebDAV, JSR 170 level 2 compliant and has a Web Services interface. Support of these standards makes Alfresco very attractive in distributed, heterogeneous architectures which is where I think content management is going. It is a nice departure from the mainstream ECM vision of centralization. Alfresco now supports JBoss Portal 2.2.

I found Alfresco’s overall performance high and thus enterprises should have little reason to look elsewhere

Application Management

One interesting feature is the application of the concept of aspects. If you are a Java programmer, you probably have heard of Aspect Oriented Programming (AOP). The general idea is that an Aspect is a general set of attributes or capabilities that can be assigned to an object without relying on inheritance through the class hierarchy

In Alfresco, there are aspects like versionable or categorized. This concepts allow content types to be very simple and, if they desire, users can add attributes to a single instance of a content asset.

Using Alfresco


Installing Alfresco WCM adds two spaces to the repository – Web Projects and Web Forms, The following pictures are self explanatory I guess, if not, do write to me about a detailing.

Content Templates

Content templates can be shared across multiple web sites. The following figure illustrates how a content item for a content type is created and published for multiple channels.

Once the space for web site and the web forms (content templates) have been set up, we need to set up users with appropriate content development roles. For example, different users may play roles such as Content Publisher, Content Reviewer, and Content Manager in the content creation process. Further, a Web Developer role may perform the necessary setup needed prior to content creation.

Alfresco Sandbox

Alfresco supports the concepts of change set and sandbox described earlier. Each user gets a separate sandbox, which is an isolated view of the web site. Each user’s sandbox shows only that user’s changes on top of the existing approved content.

Alfresco Snapshot to Revert to Past

Another, very useful feature of Alfresco is snapshots. A snapshot captures the complete state of the web site at a given point in time – it can also be thought of as a version of the web site. Alfresco allows reverting back to an older snapshot with just one click

In Conclusion

Alfresco is a ready-to-run ECM with high usability and a 100 percent open source model. Compared to commercial content management and portal offerings, however, Alfresco lacks advanced workflow and the capability of publishing Web sites. Though the Share feature and wide acceptability of platforms keep Alfresco at the top. If you have any opinion about Alfresco, do share it with us.

[Sincere thanks: blog.contenthere.net & packtpub.com]

p.s. - Some of the screen-shots are of an earlier version of Alfresco.

October 11, 2010: 12:56 pm

I just want to say thanks for this interesting thread about A Detailed Review on Alfresco - An Open Source Enterprise Content Management System! Regards, Alexa Beratung

October 9, 2010: 4:50 am

I just want to say thanks for this interesting thread about A Detailed Review on Alfresco - An Open Source Enterprise Content Management System! Regards, Alexia Berater

September 17, 2010: 4:24 pm

I like your blog, for me one of my favourite websites. Keep on the good work, Sabrina

Ganesh Prasad
June 23, 2009: 5:34 am

This is a review of Alfresco as a Web Content Management product alone. Alfresco is much more. It is an Enterprise Content Management product and I was eager to learn about its Document Management features. Perhaps a later review could cover those aspects as well…?


December 1, 2008: 12:38 am

[...] our previous reviews on open source Enterprise Content Management Systems, such as eZpublish and Alfresco, then you will be interested to know that we have tried and tested Magnolia now and below is our [...]

November 23, 2008: 1:24 am

I reviewed Alfresco when I was doing a report on alternatives to Microsoft’s SharePoint. Very promising ECM platform.

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