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How to find useful information about Alfresco operations?

Question asked by jhsachs on Sep 23, 2013
Latest reply on Sep 25, 2013 by mforcer
I'm trying to evaluate Alfresco as a source control system for my company's technical documentation. I worked through the introductory tutorial, and I can now perform elementary operations like creating directories and uploading and downloading files. At this level, I've found Alfresco intuitive and easy to use.

I need some assistance getting to the next level, where I find that nothing is intuitive and the documentation is very little help.

"The next level" means being able to perform operations that are more advanced than the ones explained in the beginners' tutorial, but still basic enough to be indispensable for the type of use I'm contemplating.

As an example of the type of problem I need to solve, I'll describe my experience (so far) with versioning. Please understand that I'm not asking for a solution to this problem, although I'll be happy if someone can provide one. I'm asking for guidance on solving problems of this nature, because I'm going to bump into one every time I turn around for a while.

My first question about versioning was, "how do I upload a new version of a file?" To find out I searched the Web for "Alfresco versioning." The first match was an article on "Versioning Behaviour" at wiki.alfresco.com. I had to pick through a lot of unfamiliar terminology (ADM and AVM store, etc.), but the takeaway was: "Content must be specifically marked as being versionable before versions can be created."

OK. Next question: how do I mark content as being versionable?

The wiki was not helpful there: "For example, using the Alfresco Explorer (JSF client UI) you can select "View Details" on a space, and then add an inbound content rule for all items, which applies the Versionable aspect."

There were five unfamiliar concepts in that explanation, but "For example…" convinced me that I was in the wrong place. I didn't want to learn five new things to figure out whether or not this "example" applies to me. I wanted a straightforward explanation of how to mark a file as versionable in a plain vanilla out-of-the-cloud instance of Alfresco.

Back to the search engine. I found a page of Alfresco documentation titled "Adding versioning to content" which said that the first step was: "In the Content Items pane, click [an icon] (View Details) for the content item of interest."

I stared at the Alfresco page for a while, but found no such icon, nor anything labeled "View Details." I considered several possible explanations. The documentation page was headed "Alfresco Enterprise 3.4.13 Documentation"; is the cloud edition different, or is it a different version? (Who knows?) I was looking at the display that shows the contents of a folder; was that not the "Content Items pane"? (I thought it was, but I couldn't find an illustration of the pane, so I couldn't be certain.) Could the icon have been changed? (I clicked every possible icon but didn't find anything helpful.)

It took my boss, seeing the problem with fresh eyes, to point out that the "More" icon opened a menu with an "Upload New Version" item. So the answer is: I can't mark a document as being versionable because I don't have to. The documentation that otherwise must be for an old version of Alfresco, or for a different edition, or just wrong.

My next question was: having uploaded a second version of a document, how can I display the version history and chose a version to download?

I found another Alfresco page titled "Work with document versions" which told me that the first step is, "Click the Microsoft Office button and select Server, then View Version History."

The… Microsoft Office button? It took me a while to realize that the Microsoft Office button was something in Word, not something in Alfresco. (The documentation implied that, but I didn't pick up on it for a couple of reasons. First, looking for an old version of a document by opening the latest version is completely counterintuitive. Second, I've been using Microsoft Word intensively almost since it was introduced, and I never heard of the Microsoft Office button before.)

I searched the Web for "Microsoft Office button" instead of "Alfresco Microsoft Office button" and found a Microsoft FAQ that explained it in at two inconsistent ways. It's either the icon that opens the System menu, or the File item in what Microsoft used to call the menu bar.

I tried both alternatives, but found no "Server" item (or "Version History") in either place.

So, for the second time today, I'm stymied.

I'll state again, my primary interest is not solving the mystery I'm facing right now. It's learning how to find the information I need to answer such a mystery myself, when I encounter one, without spending hours rummaging through information that might be incomplete or unclear or might just be wrong!

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