Open Source CMS Alfresco Releases 3.0 Preview

Alfresco has just announced the availability of the Alfresco Labs 3.0 Preview. If you’ve been regularly updating from HEAD there may not be a whole lot of stuff that’s new to you but if you haven’t, it might be a good time to see what the team in Maidenhead has been up to.

The first thing you’ll notice is that Alfresco has changed the name of their freely-available Community edition to “Labs”. Alfresco has always insisted that this edition is a developer build that really isn’t suitable for production use. The name change is an attempt to further drive that point home.

Surf’s Up

Alfresco Surf is essentially Alfresco’s name for the web script framework plus some pre-built components with a framework for defining and assembling pages. The web script framework (and therefore, Surf-based sites) can now be run separately from the Alfresco repository process. This has actually been possible since 2.9 Community but now Alfresco is starting to do something with it (See “Share the Love”). In fact, some of my Optaros teammates have been working hard for Alfresco (as a client) to develop some of the content-centric components that are part of Surf and one of the new clients, Share. So Surf is essentially a web application development framework built on REST, JavaScript, FreeMarker, and YUI that you could use to build your own web apps without ever touching an Alfresco repository if you really wanted to. Assuming you do want to pull content from the repository, Surf let’s you make remote calls from within Web Script controllers back to the Alfresco repository, or via AJAX using YUI components from the browser.

Share the Love

Alfresco is using Surf to build its new web client offerings. One such offering is called Share. If you’ve been following Alfresco’s progress you’ll probably recognize it by its code name, Slingshot. Share is a collaborative workspace that allows you to spawn “sites” that include things like a Document Library, Blog, Discussion Forum, Wiki, Team Calendar, and Activity Feeds. Activity Feeds are sort of like a Facebook News Feed, but instead of tracking who poked whom you are being alerted when someone updates a document, makes a new blog post, etc.. The Share client will be the core for Alfresco’s frontal assault on Microsoft Sharepoint.

Speaking of, Share implements the SharePoint protocol. What does that really mean? It means that if one of the things you liked about Microsoft SharePoint was how you could work with a SharePoint Shared Workspace from within Microsoft Office applications, you no longer have to settle for an all-Microsoft stack on the back-end. You can use an Alfresco server instead. That means your users can have the functionality they like when collaborating on Office apps, while the IT department gets to keep their options open from operating system to database to application server and doesn’t have to worry about scalability concerns inherent in SharePoint. Unlike prior Alfresco add-ons for Microsoft Office integration, this approach requires no additional installations on the client because Office already has the hooks for talking to SharePoint, and Alfresco Share implements the SharePoint protocol.

Jon Newton, Alfresco CTO, said in his blog post on the release, that we should expect another Labs update in September with an Enterprise release to follow some time in October.

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