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Alfersco with another application

Question asked by ben256 on Aug 2, 2007
Latest reply on Aug 19, 2007 by rdanner
My questions might sound simple (stupid?) to people who know well Alfresco, but after several hours of search in documentation, forum and wiki I am still not sure:

I am considering using some functionalities of Alfresco with another web application. I have already this external application working on a MySql database and Tomcat server.
Basically, the goal of this application is to collect data (currently done with forms) and validate them through different steps, keeping also historical modifications. So the functionnalities of Alfresco I'm very interested in would be the managment of users, groups and roles to apply them to this application. (And also maybe workflow, versionning…)

I was first thinking of implementing my application (as a plugin or extension) in Alfresco to directly collect data in Alfresco repository, but after a first look in Alfresco functionalities and architecture, it seems that it's not possible to treat pure data in Alfresco, as the contents are only files (tell me if I'm wrong here), and data in the database of the repository are only the metadata of associated files. I mean, I could probably collect data with forms in Alfresco, but then, the data must be saved as "files". Right?
An idea might be to save every fields of the form as "properties" (Metadata) but how to access them afterwards without storing them by associating them to a file. Asked differently: could a Content be composed of just properties, and thus be just a link these properties?

And could an external application collect the data through request in the repository database? Does it make sense? (the collected data might be needed for other distant applications).

So if the answers to the previous questions is rather no, and I want to keep my external application, but I would like to use the user and groups functionalities of Alfresco on my application. Is that possible? (if yes, without being logged in Alfresco?) With wich API(s)? And could the application be considered as a space to manage the users roles in it? (and even several spaces would be needed as the users roles would be different depending on where they are in the application).

Sorry for being long but I wanted to be clear enough (I hope I am…)