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Really Newbie Questions (Sorry in Advance!)

Question asked by sirius on Dec 13, 2009
Latest reply on Dec 16, 2009 by mikeh
Hello there everybody.  I have quite a lot of questions to ask and I hope somebody has the patience to reply because I know how frustrating it can be to get back to basics.

First of all, I have tried to understand what the Alfresco website is trying to tell me, half the time I havent a clue what is being said, I admit it. I am not technically savvy, and by goodness have I tried to understand and get into some of it. I just cant, I really can't learn it and take it in.

I have tried for about 5 years to get a project on the go - trying to use Joomla, Wordpress, Atlasssian style document managers, Neucleus, blog extenders and such too, and my last attempt was MediaWiki. I failed every time. Often because of MySQL and required code knowledge.  It is definetly my inability to understand what Im doing thats the problem.

Finally though, I found Alfresco - and looking at what I did understand from the main website - I thought "this could be what I am looking for!".  No MySQL database, but a Java one instead……and with the "Bitnami Stack" I just clicked the intsall and up it ran first time without any technical requirements needed. Phew! So far so good!.

I have tried making spaces in both these areas and had success, and have imported a whole batch of files into the "share" side of things.  But, I cannot seem to map a shared drive or figure out what I need to do to get my project working. Thats where I am at. Remember, I am not technically competant and do not understand code or what to do with it.

But, what I think I should ask first is a more general question regarding the software that might "make or break" with how much I persevere with trying to get it to work. Like I say, I have read the site, but the programme is THAT big and does that many things, is full of that many acroymns and technical jargon I get lost in it all. I am used to "point and click" with minimal fuss under the hood of the engine.

So before I make a nuisanace of myself with specific aspects, can I lay out what I want to do for my project and have your thoughts on the likelyness of Alfresco to cope (or me to cope with Alfresco!) ?:

Lets imagine for a moment I am a scientist (Im not, but lets pretend)…..

……what I want to do is create a website, one that looks and operates like any other website (which I would have to design and lay out myself). I currently have, on my hard drive, a whole heap of webpages and articles, pictures, video's and such which are all related to a specific niche in Science. What I aim to do is create a website which acts as a "one stop shop" for that niche of science. I forsee it having a "windows explorer" style navigation panel that can browse categories and folders like a "shared drive", but operated via the "front end" of the "webpage" (rather than a clunky programme display).

What I would like to do, is have a fully searcheable document data set of all this content (including searching inside Word,PDF,HTML, Mht, formats etc) - and in the main area of the sites webpage, when they find material they want to read, it shows up perfectly in the middle of the webpage, where they can copy and paste relevent pieces of those documents if they wish, save the document to their machine, print it off, or whatever else. If there is relevant video to match the topic, I would like them to be able to play it if they choose.

At a later stage, I would like to make this a collaborative website. With trusted users, I would like to see them able to add material into the document manager dataset and have it placed into the correct category, awaiting approval from myself to be published properly for public view. I might like to add a Blog to the site to add my own notes and theories on the Science being discussed, and I would like to add some sort of area to the site, again with a searchable and tree-like structure where I offer my own personal answers to many common Science questions and myths. This would be so that people arguing on chat rooms and forums (for example) can easily find the specific topic being discussed and save them the time trying to respond to opponents or myth makers by being able to copy and modify a pre existing reply to match their circumstances.

All this happens over the general WWW, not via a company or closed network. It is to be open for all to view, or, maybe restricted in *some* areas for selective viewing. I might like to host the site myself (seeing as all my information is currently sat here on the hard drive) from Windows XP or Windows 7 if I upgrade.

+First of all, is Alfresco the right tool for this?. 

+Second, how well can a non technical person cope without having to do a course/degree in computer programming?

+Can I design a website inside Alfresco for this to be just as I envisage? A "Normal" front end attached to a background document manager, but opens the material directly in display or via a pop up. Or do I need to learn some kind of Dreamweaver to do this and some how join two things together?.

+ Is it possible to host my own website of this nature?

I not concerened with logging things in or out, or release information, version checking, or such. Its pretty simple (I hope) what I require. But I don't know where to start. Everything I try and read just drowns me in technicalities.

Is it possible for anybody to send a pre-made 'website and document manager' like a "template" and I can modify it?, or download it from somewhere. Or does Alfresco not work like that? (You know, a kind of equivalent of a pre-made website template like you can download from the net to make a website…….)

Apologies if I havent explained it very well. I really am very new to all this.