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A User Group is a group of users. Were you hoping for a more complicated, or enterpris-ey, definition? Try this: A user group is a box. What’s inside the box? Users. Is that definition still lacking? A user group collects users that don’t fit together outside of the specific function that the user group was formed to fulfill. That’s really all it is. Of course, this is Liferay, so there’s a ton of flexibility built in to user groups, and they’re integrated with Roles, Sites, Site Templates, Permissions, and, of course Users. Because of that, there are a lot of different places where you can interact with user groups, and there’s more than one use case they can fulfill. In this article you’ll learn how to work with user groups to serve the most common use cases.

User groups allow portal administrators to create groups of users that traverse hierarchical boundaries. For example, consider The Lunar Resort. It’s hierarchically divided into the Physical Plant Department, the Recreation Department, and the Sales Department. The Lunar Resort’s department-driven structure is modeled using organizations. If there are functions needed in The Lunar Resort public or private sites that can’t be divided up according to the existing organizational hierarchy, you might need user groups. For example, it might make sense to create a user groups that includes the Human Resources representatives of each department. User Groups are most often used to achieve one of the following goals:

  • Collect permissions. With User Groups, you can assign roles and permissions to a group of users that don’t share an Organization. For example, in a University portal, a user group could be created to group all teachers independently of their organizations to make it easier to assign one or several roles at once to all the teachers. In The Lunar Resort, we’re going to use this approach to give members of several organizations the List Creator role.

  • Manage site membership. Using the previous example, all teachers could be members of the sites University Employees and Students and Teachers Collaboration Site by adding the Teachers user group as a member. In the Lunar Resort, you can add all the List Creators to the public facing site of The Lunar Resort.

  • Manage user personal pages. Provide predefined public or private pages to the users who belong to the user group. For example, the Teachers user group could be created to ensure the home page on all teachers’ personal sites has the same layout and applications. In The Lunar Resort, you’ll add a site template that adds an Event Coordination page to each List Creator.

At the Lunar Resort, certain employees need the ability to create simple form applications using Liferay’s Dynamic Data Lists. On the harsh lunar landscape, it’s important to have a proper idea how many guests are coming to the next Lunar Hike event. Many of the list creators will be users from the Recreation Department, since many of the activities that guests should know about are managed by that department. So why not just give all the users of the Recreation Department the proper permissions for managing the Dynamic Data Display portlets on the Activities Sign-Up page, and be done with it? Sometimes other departments will need to add an event (for example, the kitchen staff is preparing a Lunar Luau and needs a guest list). Also, you might not want all the users of the Recreation Department to be a List Creator. Remember that time Wilbert Donahue (he’s a Lunar Rover Race Instructor, part of the Recreation Department) was granted blogging permissions, and he used the opportunity to write all about his favorite band, ApeFLogger? You don’t want Wilbert to be a List Creator, right?

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Figure 1: The List Creators group is needed to manage the sign-up lists on the Activities Sign-Up page of The Lunar Resort.

Creating a User Group

User Groups are administered in the Control Panel, under UsersUser Groups. Start by creating a user group called List Creators. Later, you’ll also create a new site template for a user group site that user group members can access to coordinate event scheduling, and you’ll use the group to assign all its users to The Lunar Resort public site. First create the user group:

  1. Navigate to the Control Panel by opening the Product Menu (click icon-menu.png) and clicking Control Panel.

  2. Click on the Users Groups link and then click on the Add button.

    Name is the only required field, but you should enter a description as well.

    user-groups-add.png

    Figure 2: Provide a name and a description for your new User Group.

  3. Click Save and you will be redirected back to the User Groups page of the Control Panel.

Right now, the user group is just an empty box. The user group has no sites or roles to give it any functionality. No users are assigned to the user group, so it isn’t collecting users yet. That comes next.

Assigning Members to a User Group

To add existing users to a user group:

  1. Navigate to the User Groups page of the Control Panel and click Actions (icon-actions.png) → Assign Members next to the List Creators group.

    user-groups-actions.png

    Figure 3: To add users to the User Group, select Assign Members from its Action menu.

  2. Click the Add Users button to see a list of users that can be assigned to the group.

    user-groups-add-users.png

    Figure 4: When assigning members to a user group, click on the Available tab to see a list of users able to be added to the user group.

  3. From this list, select one or more users and click Add.

Once you have a user group with users in it, what are you going to do with it? The List Creators group is destined to get some specific permissions in the Lunar Resort, but you can use user groups for site membership management or personal page management. These scenarios are all covered in this article.

Next, add the users in the List Creators group to the Lunar Resort site.

User Groups and Site Membership

After a user group is created, you can add all its users at once as members of a site in one step from the Site Memberships UI. In this example you’ll see how the newly created List Creators user group can be added to The Lunar Resort site. This makes managing site membership easy. Just make sure you have the correct site selected in the Product Menu!

user-groups-site-selector.png

Figure 5: Select the site you want to manage using the site selector.

Associate the user group with a site:

  1. From the Product Menu, select the site you want to work in (The Lunar Resort) and open the site administration drop-down.

  2. Click UsersSite Memberships.

    user-groups-site-memberships.png

    Figure 6: Manage site memberships from the Product Menu.

  3. Click on the User Groups tab, click the Add button (icon-add.png) and select the List Creators user group.

    user-groups-add-to-site.png

    Figure 7: User groups let you assign many users to a site at once.

Now members of the List Creators user group are site members of The Lunar Resort site.

Managing site membership with user groups is easy. User groups can also have their own sites.

User Group Sites

Each Liferay user has a personal site, consisting of public (Profile) and private (Dashboard) pages. A user group site determines the base pages of the personal sites of all the user group members. If the user group site pages are added to a user’s Profile pages, then the user group site is a public site, accessible to anyone with the URL (http://www.[sitename].com/web/[username]). If the site pages are added to the user’s Dashboard pages, then the site is a private site. A mixed approach can also be used, where both private and public pages are added for the user group site. If a user belongs to multiple user groups, all the pages from those user group sites are made part of hiss personal site.

When you created the List Creators user group, did you notice the section of the New User Group form that allowed you to select a site template from two drop down menus, My Profile and My Dashboard? That’s where you add user group sites from a site template. You can add a user group site while adding the user group initially, or add one later if you decide you need to add one. You can also add pages to the user group site manually, if you don’t want to use a site template. But that’s done later, from the Actions menu of an already-created user group.

user-groups-add.png

Figure 8: You can create a user group site from a site template while adding the User Group initially, or you can revisit and edit this form if you decide to add a site later.

In The Lunar Resort, the List Creators must have access to the private Event Coordination page, with a Calendar application where events are scheduled that the user group members will create lists for, and a Message Boards portlet to discuss and resolve scheduling conflicts. Using site templates along with the Calendar and Message Boards applications, you can easily do this. First you need to create a site template for use in the user group site and deploy the applications to the site pages.

To create a new site template, navigate to SitesSite Templates. Add a site template called Event Coordination and save it. Rename the default Home page to Event Coordination. Now there’s a site template, but the page is currently empty. Go to the Event Coordination page, and add a Message Boards and a Calendar application. Read the documentation on site templates if you need further explanation.

Once you have a site template set up, use it to create the user group site.

  1. Navigate to the UsersUser Groups section of the Control Panel.

  2. To edit the List Creators user group, click the name of the group or the Actions button (icon-actions.png), then Edit, for the user group.

  3. Since the pages should be private pages for the users of the site, open the drop-down menu under My Dashboard and select the new site template you created, Event Coordination.

    user-groups-add-site-template.png

    Figure 9: Selecting a site template under My Dashboard creates a private site for a user group.

  4. Click Save.

Now, when one of the List Creators signs in to The Lunar Resort and clicks on their My Dashboard link, the Event Coordination page will be added to their private page set.

User group site pages function similarly to regular site template pages, with an important exception: user group site pages are not copied for each user. They’re shown dynamically along with any custom pages that the user may have on his/her personal site. For this reason, users are not allowed to make any modifications to the pages that are inherited from the user group. If needed, the user group administrator can define certain areas of a page as customizable, like with regular sites. This allows users to add and configure applications in the specified area of the page.

You can create a user group’s site manually, instead of basing it on a site template. To create a user group’s site manually, use the Actions menu mentioned above and choose Manage Pages. Add a new public or private page by selecting My Profile or My Dashboard, then click the Add Page button. Once the user group has at least one public or private page in place, you can go back to the Actions menu and click on the Go to the Profile Pages or Go to the Dashboard Pages link to open the user group’s site in a new browser window. In the new window, you can add more pages and portlets and configure site settings.

user-groups-manual-site.png

Figure 10: From a user group’s Actions menu, select Manage Pages to create a user group site manually.

In the example above, you based the List Creator user group’s site on a template. Leave the Enable propagation of changes from the site template box checked to automatically update users’ personal sites if the associated site template changes. If you uncheck this box but recheck it later, the template pages are copied to the users’ sites, overwriting any changes they may have made. You can allow users to make changes to the pages they receive from the user group by enabling the customization options on each page.

This flexibility lets you achieve almost any desired configuration for a user’s personal site without having to modify it directly. When a user is assigned to a user group, they’ll immediately have access to the user group’s site pages from their personal site.

Legacy User Group Sites Behavior

Since the inheritance of user group site pages is now dynamic, even if there are hundreds of thousands of users, even millions, there won’t be an exponential impact in performance. Previous versions of Liferay required user group pages be copied to each user’s personal site. If you really liked the old days, or if you’re upgrading from an older version of Liferay and need to keep the old behavior, enable it by adding the following line to your portal-ext.properties file:

user.groups.copy.layouts.to.user.personal.site=true

When this property is set to true, the template pages are copied to a user’s personal site once, and then may be modified by the user. This means that If changes are made to the template pages later, they will only affect users that are added to the user group after the change is made. Users with administrative privileges over their personal sites can modify the pages and their content if the Allow Site Administrators to Modify the Pages Associated with This Site Template box has been checked for the template. When a user is removed from a user group, the associated pages are removed from the user’s personal site. If a user is removed from a group and is subsequently added back, the group’s template pages are copied to the user’s site a second time. Note that if a user group’s site is based on a site template and an administrator modifies the user group’s site template after users have already been added to the group, those changes only take effect if the Enable propagation of changes from the site template box for the user group was checked.

Note that Prior to Liferay Portal 6.1, pages from different user groups could be combined on users’ personal sites by using a naming convention. Liferay Portal 6.1 simplifies the way user groups’ sites work by disallowing page combination. Set the property user.groups.copy.layouts.to.user.personal.site=true to preserve the page combination functionality.

Just like user groups simplify site membership, they can also be used to assign a role to all the users of a user group at once. Where you do it depends on the scope of the role.

Configuring User Group Permissions

The List Creators user group needs the ability to manage Dynamic Data List Display portlets on The Lunar Resort’s Activities Sign-Up public page. This will require the creation of a new Site Role called List Creator, and assignment of any necessary permissions so the List Creators can do their job. You can refer to the article on Roles for a more detailed discussion. After creating the new role, all that’s left to do is assign the role to the user group.

To create a new role, go to the Roles section of the Control Panel and click AddSite Role. Call it List Creator, give it a description, and save it. From the list of roles, open the Actions menu for your new role, and select Define Permissions. Select Site AdministrationApplicationsDynamic Data Lists Display. Select just the Configuration and View permissions and click Save. Go back to the list of roles by clicking Roles from the Product Menu or by clicking the back arrow (icon-back.png) at the top left of the Define Permissions window.

Now you have a user group, and a site role that’s ready to be used in The Lunar Resort site. The user group members are also members of The Lunar Resort site, so all that’s left is to associate the user group with the role.

  1. Go to The Lunar Resort’s Site Membership section.

  2. In the Site Memberships window, User Groups tab, open the configuration menu (icon-actions.png) for the List Creators user group and select Assign Site Roles.

    user-groups-site-role.png

    Figure 11: From a user group’s Actions menu, select Manage Pages to create a user group site manually.

  3. Choose the List Creator role from the list and click Add.

Now members of the List Creators user group are site members of The Lunar Resort site, and anyone in the user group has the List Creator role in the site. If you want to continue configuring the List Creators user group, read the articles on Creating Simple Applications. In those articles you’ll learn to create a data definition that the List Creators can use to build new Activities Sign-Up lists and templates with.

If you want to know more about User Groups, and how to edit them, keep reading here.

Editing User Groups

To edit the basic properties a user group, just click on its name or description (both are hyperlinks). Alternatively, click the Edit link from the Actions menu of the user group. Also in the Actions menu, you’ll see the full list of actions that can be performed on a user group. When editing a user group, you can view its site, if it exists, by clicking the Open Pages link under Public Pages or Private Pages (read above for details on user group sites).

As with the other resources in the portal, you can click the Actions button (icon-actions.png) next to a user group to perform various operations on that group.

user-groups-actions.png

Figure 12: The user group’s Actions menu has various configuration options.

Edit allows you to modify the name, description, or choose the site template for a user group site.

Permissions lets you define which roles have permissions to view, edit, delete, assign members to the user group, etc.

User Group Pages Permissions lets you define which roles have various permissions related to managing the user group’s site pages.

Manage Pages takes you to the page administration section of the user group’s site. You can add pages to the user group site, import or export pages, organize the page hierarchy, modify the look and feel of the pages, add a logo or access other options from the Manage Site interface.

Assign Members lets you search for and select users in the portal to be assigned to this user group as well as view the users currently belonging to the user group.

Delete removes the user group.

If your user group has site pages, the options Go to Profile Pages and Go to Dashboard Pages also appear in your user group’s Actions menu. Clicking one of these links opens the user group’s site in a new browser window. Any changes you make to the site are saved automatically. You can safely close the browser window when you’re done.

user-groups-actions-site-pages.png

User groups are useful for managing site membership and roles, and for assigning a specific task to a specific group of users. Or, if you like tongue twisters, this article covered the usual uses that use useful user groups. Let us know if there’s any functionality we missed, or if there’s something that’s not clear from this article, by clicking the Do you have any suggestions? link, or the Feedback link. Good jokes (okay, any jokes) can also be submitted.

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