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Not only does Liferay Portal’s Documents and Media enable you to publish files easily, but it also provides a terrific environment for collaborating on documents. There are many common collaboration scenarios. For example, you might have a spreadsheet that you and your peers need to populate, or a proposal that you and other stakeholders must produce. You might be asked to review and edit a document. All these cases involve multiple users modifying documents and require an environment that helps manage document changes. Liferay Portal’s Documents and Media provides these capabilities.

Liferay Portal’s document management apps support accessing apps on different kinds of devices and environments. Not only can you access documents from your site via your browser, but you can also access them from your native file browser and use Liferay Sync to access them from your tablet or mobile device. And Liferay Sync makes sure you’re you can access the latest document versions.

To demonstrate using these features, we’ll join the Lunar Resort Recreation Department members collaboration on an important document: the Lunar Resort’s upcoming activities newsletter. Resort representatives from each activity group must contribute content to entice resort guests to sign up for activities. Staff members involved include Chip Shot (golf instructor), Wilma Carwin (lunar rover race instructor), and Tenzing Nepal (lunar sherpa). Each of them use different devices and bring their own style and attitude to the collaboration. So perhaps you’ll be able to relate to their effort.

Before the group leads can start working on the newsletter, the department director (who’s associated with the organization’s content administrator Role) creates a folder called Newsletters in the organization’s document library. To follow along with the example, create the Newsletters folder in an organization’s document library on your site. This folder will hold all of the department’s newsletters.

Next, open your favorite document editor, enter the title “Upcoming Lunar Activities”, and save the document as upcoming-activities.docx. Upload the file to the document library and enable the leads to edit the file by associating them with Role that you grant permission to edit the file. To enable the activity leads to access the newsletter from the department’s private Organization Site, add a Documents and Media app to its home page. Then turn on the Show actions display option in the app’s configuration window. Make sure to assign the leads a role with permissions to access the folder. From the Documents and Media app on Recreation Department’s private home page, the leads can now access the Newsletters folder and the initial document. The newsletter’s next collaborator will be Tenzing Nepal, the resort’s veteran lunar sherpa.

Tenzing is as agile online as he is on a mountainside. He often edits his documents across several versions so they read just as he likes them. He prefers to check documents out from within the web interface and download them to his computer to work on them. Let’s follow Tenzing as he produces multiple versions of the newsletter.

Creating New File Versions

To prevent other users from accidentally overwriting changes you’re making to a document, the Document Library allows you to checkout the document. The user who checks out a file is the only user who can checkin changes to the file. Checking in a file produces a new file version.

Tenzing Nepal is the first resort instructor to edit the activities newsletter. You can imitate Tenzing’s actions or follow along as you create new versions of your own files. Inside the Documents and Media app, select the upcoming-activities.docx file’s Checkout action. Upon checkout, the file’s status is Draft. While the file is checked out, you’re the sole editor; all other users must wait until after you’ve checked in the file to edit it. While you have the file checked out, you can download it, replace the file entry’s file, move the file entry to another Document Library folder, check it in, or cancel checkout. Tenzing proceeds with the next step towards contributing to the file.

Unless you’re using Liferay Sync or a local drive mapped to the file’s WebDAV (explained in the next section) URL, you’ll typically follow the basic workflow below to edit a Document Library file from your machine:

  1. Checkout the file.
  2. Download the file and edit it locally.
  3. Edit the file locally.
  4. From the file’s Edit screen in Documents and Media, browse to and select the local file. Save and Checkin
  5. Check in the file.

Let’s continue as Tenzing, following the above worklow. (1) You’ve already checked out the file. (2) Download the file to your machine by clicking the Download action. (3) Then open the file in your favorite document editor, add information on the upcoming Lunar hikes, and saves your changes. You’re now ready to apply the changes to file in Documents and Media.

In the file entry’s screen in Documents and Media, click on the Edit action. Then click Browse, navigate to the copy of the upcoming-activities.docx file you edited on your desktop, and select it. Then click the Save and Check In button and the Describe Your Changes screen appears. This screen allows you to describe your changes and specify whether to apply a major or minor version increment (default). For example, if a file’s current version is 1.0, the file’s next minor version is 1.1 and next major version would be 2.0. To increment the file to a new Major Version, you must select the Changes Create a Major Version checkbox. Your changes will otherwise result in a new Minor Version.

Select the Changes Create a Major Version checkbox, describe your changes in the Change Log field, and click Save. The file’s major version number is incremented and its status is now Approved.

Since the file is checked in, any user can now check it out. Tenzing realizes there are some minor details he wants to add. As Tenzing, checkout the file once again. Download the file locally, make the changes (any changes you like), and save the local file. Then edit the file entry in Documents in Media, browse to and select your local file, and click Save and Check In. This time, leave the major version selection unchecked and click Save. The file is checked in and it’s minor version number is incremented.

dm-file-version-actions.png

Figure 1: No file is “written in stone”. Version history actions let you inspect, delete, and reinstate file versions.

In the file entry’s screen, the Version History table lists the versions of the file. The department director created version 1.0, Tenzing created major version 2.0, and Tenzing also created minor version 2.1. Each file version has an Actions icon (icon-actions.png). You can perform the following actions on each file version that’s been checked in and approved (if no workflow is associated with a folder, the file’s approved on checkin):

Download: Download the version of the file to your machine.

View: View the file entry screen for the version of the file.

Revert: Check in a new major version of the file based on that file version.

Delete Version: Remove the file version from the Document Library. All other file versions remain intact.

You’ve used the basic Document Library workflow to edit files locally and upload them to create new file versions of the newsletter. Next up is accessing documents from your desktop file manager. To demonstrate this, you’ll step into the shoes of lunar rover race instructor Wilma Carwin.

Wilma updates the newsletter in a different manner. She doesn’t care much for high tech. The only online device she uses is the workstation in the garage office. Wilma only uses it when she has to; otherwise she’d rather be behind the wheel of a rover doing donuts in the dirt and banking turns off the canyon walls. Fortunately for Wilma, the resort IT team mapped the rec department’s document library to a network drive on her workstation. This lets her edit documents without having to meddle with the Lunar Resort site. It’s worth explaining how they integrated her file manager with the document library.

Desktop Access to Documents and Media

You can access the Document Library from your computer’s file manager via WebDAV. WebDAV stands for Web-based Distributed Authoring and Versioning. It’s a set of methods based on HTTP that allows users to create, edit, move, or delete files stored on web servers. WebDAV is supported by most major operating systems and desktop environments, including Linux (both KDE and GNOME), Mac OS, and Windows.

At the Lunar Resort, Activity Department members use WebDAV to access their Document Library. WebDAV provides an alternative way to do this using a file manager instead of a web browser. To access the Document Library folder from your file browser, you need to use log in credentials for the Liferay Portal instance and the WebDAV URL of the folder you’d like to access.

Navigate to the Documents and Media app hosting the folder you’d like to access. Click on the folder’s Actions icon icon-actions.png and select Access from Desktop.

dm-access-from-desktop-action.png

Figure 2: Select Access from Desktop to get the folder’s WebDAV URL.

Copy the WebDAV URL. On Windows, map a network drive drive to the WebDAV URL. Enter your Liferay Portal credentials when you’re prompted for them. The document library folder appears in the network drive. From your file browser, you can now add, edit, move, or delete files in this folder.

On Mac OS X, select GoConnect to Server in Finder. Then enter the WebDAV URL of the folder you’d like to access in the Server Address field, click Connect and you should be prompted for your Liferay Portal credentials.

On Linux, you must slightly modify the WebDAV URL of your folder in your file manager. For KDE’s Dolphin, change the URL’s protocol so that it says webdav:// instead of http://. For GNOME’s Nautilus, change the URL’s protocol so that it says dav:// instead of http://. Then press Enter and you’re prompted for your Liferay Portal credentials.

Note that Liferay Portal increments the version numbers of files edited and uploaded via WebDAV so you don’t have to worry that using your file manager will bypass the functionality of Liferay Portal’s web interface.

Lunar rover race instructor Wilma Carwin doesn’t mind editing her Documents and Media files from her computer’s file manager, because it’s convenient and easiest for her. She opens the document upcoming-activites.docx and adds news about various types of rover racing lessons offered and the upcoming Lunar Grand Prix. She saves the file and closes it. The file in Documents and Media is now “Approved” and its minor version is incremented. Voila! She’s done her part collaborating on the newsletter.

Following Wilma Carwin’s demonstration, you’ve learned how to map your local file manager to a Document Library folder and collaborate on files from your desktop environment.

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