Happy 5th Birthday, Alfresco Developer Guide!

Birthday Cake by Will ClaytonIt is hard to believe that the Alfresco Developer Guide was published five years ago this month (really, the tail end of October). My goal at the time was to help flatten the learning curve around the Alfresco platform and encourage people still using legacy ECM systems to make the leap. Based on the number of people who come up to me at meetups, conferences, and other events to tell me how much the book helped their projects, their teams, and even their careers, I’d say that goal was met and that makes me very happy.

The product and the company have definitely evolved a lot since 2008. The chapter on WCM is no longer relevant. The section on Single Sign-On is out-of-date. The book was written before Alfresco Share existed. And, at the time, jBPM was the only workflow engine in the product and Solr was not yet on the scene, nor was mobile. Both JCR and the native Web Services APIs have given way to CMIS as the preferred API. And Maven and AMPs are the recommended way to manage dependencies, run builds, and package extensions.

But the fundamentals of content modeling haven’t changed. Rules, actions, and behaviors are still great ways to automate content processing. Web Scripts are vital to any developer’s understanding of Alfresco, including those doing Share customizations. And, though the preferred workflow engine is Activiti rather than jBPM, the basics of how to design and deploy content-centric business processes in Alfresco haven’t changed that much.

So where do we go from here? The book was originally based on a set of tutorials I published here on ecmarchitect. Last year I created second editions of many of the tutorials to catch them up with major advancements in the platform. For example, the custom content types tutorial now includes Share configuration and CMIS. The custom actions tutorial now includes how to write Share UI actions. And the workflow tutorial now assumes Activiti and Alfresco Share rather than jBPM and Alfresco Explorer.

The source code that accompanied the book lives in Google Code, but I recently moved the source code that accompanies the tutorials to GitHub. I’m busy refactoring the tutorial source code to use Maven and AMPs. I’ve also started moving the actual tutorial text to markdown and am checking it in to GitHub so that the community can help me revise it and keep it up-to-date.

I learned a lot writing that first book. One of the lessons is to always work with co-authors. That made a big difference on CMIS and Apache Chemistry in Action. I hope that book helps as many people as the Alfresco Developer Guide did and I look forward to reflecting back on how CMIS has changed on that book’s fifth birthday in 2018.

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