Using Social Office
Liferay Portal is a full featured web portal, containing an industry-leading suite of built-in applications and tools. It’s highly customizable and businesses use it to run major web sites all over the world. We’ve optimized Liferay Portal for creating state-of-the art, robust web sites that serve millions of users every day.
Social Office adds functionality for a specific purpose: collaboration. We’ve designed it for work groups needing to collaborate on documents and data in the office. The additional tools and defaults were carefully chosen to provide users working within a group the ability to easily communicate, collaborate, and coordinate their tasks.
Social Office adds extra collaborative tools to Liferay and allows you to quickly set up sites designed to facilitate collaboration. Each site is designed to provide a single group or team with a virtual shared workspace. Members of your organization who belong to multiple groups or teams in your organization can belong to multiple Social Office sites on the portal. Social Office also provides each user with customized sets of public and private pages for their personal sites. These personal sites serve as virtual individual workspaces. The applications they include help users manage their tasks, keep informed about each other’s activities, and communicate with each other.
Whether you’re creating a public web site and need the full features of an unparalleled, industry-leading engine or you’re creating a small corporate Intranet, Liferay Portal is the ideal solution for you. You should consider installing the Social Office plugin if you’d like your site to facilitate communication between people within specific groups and accomplish tasks using shared virtual workspaces with minimal set up and administration.
The Social Office theme adds a convenient button to the top-right corners of Social Office pages. This button allows you to expand the portlets on the page to fit the size of your browser window. You can click the button again to return the portlets to their default size. In addition to the standard Social Office theme, there’s another theme for Social Office’s Welcome page.
Using the Social Office User role and personal sites
The Social Office plugin adds a special role to Liferay Portal: Social Office User. Assigning users to the Social Office User role provides them with personal sites pre-built with pages and applications designed to help them manage their work, share information, and communicate with each other. Assign yourself to the Social Office User role to see how it works. Once your user account has been granted the Social Office User role, a Dashboard link appears in the Dockbar. Now you can explore the extra features added to Liferay by Social Office.
If all your portal users will be using Social Office, you should add this role to your portal’s default user associations. Use the Go to menu of the Dockbar to navigate to the Control Panel. Under the Portal heading, click on Portal Settings. Then click on Users from the right-hand navigation menu. Finally, open the Default User Associations tab and add the role Social Office User. Now, newly created users will be assigned to the Social Office User role. If you’ve been using Liferay but have just installed Social Office, you can check the Apply to Existing Users box to grant the Social Office User role to previously created users. These users will receive the role the next time they log in to the portal.
The default personal pages provided by the Social Office user role include the private Dashboard page and the public Profile page. When a user who has been assigned to the Social Office User role logs in, several changes are made to his or her Dockbar. First, a Dashboard link appears to the right of the Go to menu. You can click this link from anywhere in the portal to go to your virtual private workspace. Second, a Notifications button is added to the right of the Dashboard link. The Notifications button displays how many unread notifications you have. You’ll be notified upon receiving a private message, an invitation to join a site, a social connection request, or an event reminder. Lastly, the right-most item of the Dockbar becomes a drop-down list containing a link to your public Profile page as well as a link your My Account page of the control panel and the Sign Out link.
Using the Dashboard and other private pages
The private page sets of Social Office users serve as personal workspaces. Each private page displays a navigation menu and the Sites portlet in the left column so that you can navigate back and forth between the private pages of your personal site, navigate to your public pages, or navigate to one of the other sites you belong to. The private pages provided by Social Office include:
- Contacts Center
- My Documents
Figure 1.10: The Dashboard navigation menu contains links to each private page of your personal site as well as a link to your public Profile page. Clicking the Social Office logo takes you to your Dashboard.
The Sites portlet is an improved version of the basic My Sites portlet. It allows you to star various sites to customize your sites list. You can select All Sites to display all the sites in the portal, My Sites to display all the sites you belong to, or My Favorites to display your custom list of starred sites. The option to star sites is very useful for large Social Office instances with web applications and content hosted across many different sites. There’s also a search bar which you can use to display sites related to your search query. If you have permission to add sites, you’ll see an Add Site button which opens a wizard to guide you through the site creation process. This wizard will create a new site based on the Default Social Office Site template. This site comes pre-built with pages and applications designed for team collaboration. The More Sites button opens a site directory dialog box which you can use to join, leave sites, or star sites. If you have the required permissions, you can also delete sites.
Figure 1.11: The Sites portlet lets you customize your sites list and create new Social Office sites with a simple wizard.
The Dashboard page provides several portlet applications designed to keep you up to date with various kinds of portal activity:
- Upcoming Tasks
- Microblogs Status Update
Using the power of Liferay’s Social API, the Activities portlet presents information about different categories of users’ recent activities. Use the tabs to display portal activities from different scopes: Connections shows a list of activities from users you have established a social connection with, Following shows activities from users you’re following, and My Sites shows all the activities from sites you belong to. You can also select Me to view just your own activities. The Upcoming Tasks portlet displays a list of tasks that have been created for you or that you’ve assigned to yourself. The Events portlet integrates with the calendar portlet belonging to your scope to show upcoming events for the next few days. There’s also a Microblogs Status Update portlet on your Dashboard which lets you broadcast a Facebook-like status to the scope of your choice: to everyone, to your connections, or to your followers.
Next, let’s take a look at the applications provided on the other private pages of Social Office users’ personal sites.
Figure 1.12: The default Dashboard applications are designed to inform you about recent portal activities and upcoming events, and to help you manage your personal tasks.
The Contacts Center is an important application for Social Office because it allows users to create LinkedIn-style connections and Twitter-style followers. This enables users to customize who they share information about social activities with and whose activity they’re interested in. The Contacts Center application displays a list of portal users. You can choose to display All, Connections, or Following and you can also search for specific users. Select a user from the left-hand area of the Contacts Center portlet to view details about him or her. For each user, you’ll have the following options:
- Add as Connection sends a connection request to the selected user.
- Follow/Unfollow subscribes and unsubscribes you to the selected user’s activities stream.
- Block/Unblock allows you to block and unblock users from viewing your activities stream. As of Social Office 2.0, blocking a user only prevents that user from following you or adding you as a connection. A blocked user can still send messages to and view the public profile information of the blocking user.
- Export vCard lets you export a user’s vCard and save it as a VCF file. vCard is a file format standard for electronic business cards.
- Go to Profile is a link to the selected user’s public profile page.
Figure 1.13: Contacts Centers allows users to follow each other Twitter-style and set up Linked-In style connections.
Social Office’s Microblogs application allows you to broadcast your thoughts as a Facebook-like status to a chosen audience. You can choose for your status to be viewable by All, Connections, or Followers. There are two special symbols that you can use in your microblog posts. The hashtag symbol (
#) turns the following word into a hashtag. When viewing a microblog post, hashtags appear as links. You can click on any hashtag to view a list of microblog posts that reference the same hashtag. Note that hashtags are distinct from portal tags–only portal tags are indexed and made available for search. The other special symbol you can use is the mentions symbol (
@). When you are writing a microblog post, typing the
@ symbol brings up a list of connections to select. Once you select a connection and publish your post, the connection’s username becomes a link to their Social Office profile page. This is the general behavior of clicking on a username throughout Social Office. The Timeline tab of the Microblogs portlet chronologically displays all the status posts that you have permission to see. The Mentions tab displays all the posts in which you’ve been mentioned.
Figure 1.14: Microblogs allow users to broadcast their thoughts to a chosen audience.
Note that there are two different portlets for accessing the microblogs system: the Microblogs portlet and the Microblogs Status Update portlet. When placed on private pages, both portlets allow you to update your mircoblogs status. The Microblogs portlet also allows you to view your Microblogs Timeline and Mentions tabs. On public pages, these portlets display microblogs but don’t allow you to publish new posts. You wouldn’t want to just anyone to publish microblogs under your name, would you?
Social Office’s private messaging system allows you to send email-like messages to other users within the portal. Its interface is similar to that of an email client. You can select messages to mark them as read or unread or mark them for deletion. Use the New Message button to compose a new message. Just like with email, you can enter a subject, a message body, and add attachments. Open the dropdown menu next to the To field to select a user or users to send your message to. You can select any number of users.
Figure 1.15: The Private Messaging Interface functions just like an email client for use within a Social Office instance.
Social Office provides a private document library to each Social Office user. Users can navigate to it by clicking the My Documents link in the Dashboard navigation menu. The Documents and Media portlet on the My Documents page is exactly the same as the standard Documents and Media portlet that ships with Liferay Portal. Please refer to chapter 4 of Liferay’s User Guide for information about document management: Document Management
Figure 1.16: The Documents and Media portlet on the My Documents page is exactly the same as the standard Documents and Media portlet that ships with Liferay Portal. To optimize the Social Office user experience, set up your users with Liferay Sync.
With their private document libraries, each of your Social Office users can maintain a personal online repository of documents and files. Your users can use all the features of Liferay 6.1‘s revamped document library, including document previews, document types, metadata sets, and version history. However, your users can simplify the way they access their document repositories by installing Liferay Sync. Liferay Sync allows users to view and edit documents offline using their regular desktop or mobile environments. Users’ documents are synced with your Liferay server at periodic intervals. You can read more about Liferay Sync in chapter 4 of Liferay’s User Guide here: Liferay Sync.
The Tasks system allows you and your team members to keep track of different tasks that you’re working on. Tasks related to specific projects can be tagged as such and you can use the Filter button at the top right corner of the portlet to filter tasks by tag or by site. Use the Add Task button at the top left to create new tasks. You can enter a description of the task, choose an assignee from your contacts (or assign to yourself), select a priority, and, optionally, enter a due date. It’s also helpful, especially when there are large numbers of tasks, to tag your tasks.
Figure 1.17: The Tasks portlet lets you create tasks and assign them to yourself or others. You can view tasks that have been assigned to you and tasks that you’ve created.
The Permissions button at the top left of the Tasks portlet lets you choose which roles grant permission to add new tasks or edit existing ones.
Using the Profile page and other public pages
You can access your public Profile page from the Dashboard by clicking on your name, which appears above the page navigation menu in the left column. Your public pages are laid out and styled the same way as the Dashboard and the rest of the private pages. Users’ default public sites contain three pages, accessible from the left-column navigation menu:
In addition to the navigation menu, the left column of each page of a Social Office user’s public site contains a My Contacts portlet. This portlet allows viewers of a user’s public site to see all the user’s contacts and lets them navigate to any of the contacts’ Profile pages.
Figure 1.18: Users’ Profile pages show relevant professional information, contacts, and status updates.
By default, the Profile page displays several pieces of information about a user: their profile and profile picture, their latest microblog status, their contacts, the sites they belong to, their tags, and their recent activities. The Profile portlet is designed to display relevant professional information about a user. A completed profile includes the following pieces of information:
- Email Address
- Social Network
- SMS (Chat information)
There’s also a button which allows you to export the user’s vCard. Once you’ve been granted a Social Office account, you need to access your own profile page and fill out your profile information. If you’re viewing your own Profile page, there’s an Edit Profile button which opens up your My Account page of the control panel in a dialog box. Currently, you need to access your My Account page of the control panel to update your profile picture.
If you’re viewing another user’s Profile page, the Edit Profile button is replaced with buttons for adding or removing the user as a connection, following or unfollowing a user, and blocking or unblocking a user. In addition to the Profile, Microblogs Status Update, and Activities portlets, the Profile page also contains Sites and Tags portlets to help with navigation. Note that when placed on a public page, the Microblogs Status Update portlet does not allow you to make updates–it just shows the latest status update. You have to make status updates from your private site.
The public Contacts and Microblogs applications have their own public pages. These function the same way as the ones in a user’s private site except that other users can only view, not edit them. However, the Timeline tab of the Microblogs portlet allows users to comment on entries.
Using Social Office sites for collaboration
Social Office not only provides custom pages and applications for users’ personal sites but also for general sites that can have many members. A portal administrator can use the Add Site button of the Sites portlet to add a new site to use for team collaboration. This button opens a wizard which guides you through the process of creating a site based on the Default Social Office Site template. Sites based on this template come pre-built with pages and applications designed for team collaboration, just like the default Social Office personal sites come with applications designed to facilitate user interaction. The default pages created by the wizard include the following:
When creating a site, you can select a membership type: Open, Restricted, or Private. Any portal user can join an open site. Portal users can request to join a restricted site but must be approved by a site administrator. Private sites are invisible to non-members; members must be invited by a site administrator. By default, all the pages of an open Social Office site are public but restricted and private Social Office site pages are private.
Figure 1.19: The Social Office site wizard lets you quickly and easily set up sites for team collaboration.
The Add Site wizard lets you choose which of default template pages you’d like to include in your site. Links to these pages are embedded in the left-most column of each page that belongs to the site.
Figure 1.20: You can choose a site template to use to create your new site and you can choose which template pages to include.
When visiting an open Social Office site, users can use the Join link at the top of the page to join the site. This link, along with the My Sites portlet on the Dashboard, makes it very easy for Social Office users to manage their site memberships. This, in turn, helps them keep abreast of the activities and content that they’re interested in. The Join link is replaced by a Request Membership link for restricted sites. When users have requested membership for a restricted site, the Request Membership link is replaced by a Membership Requested notification to inform users that their request is pending.
Figure 1.21: The Join link appears next to the Social Office logo at the top of the page for Social Office sites.
The Home page of the default Social Office site contains a number of useful portlets. The Activities and Recent Downloads portlets keep site members up to date about what’s happening on the site and you can use the Announcements and Events portlets to inform or remind site members about important information. The Bookmarks portlet allows users to create a collection of useful links on your site and you can configure the RSS portlet to display an RSS feed of your choice. The Welcome portlet allows you to set up a custom welcome message for your site. It’s just a WYSIWYG portlet with its title changed to Welcome.
The Calendar, Documents, Forums, Blog, and Wiki pages contain portlet applications that are automatically scoped for the site. This means that these applications will each use a single data set to serve requests from multiple members. So, while each Social Office member receives a personal Calendar application and Documents and Media library on his or her personal site, site members share Calendar applications and Documents and Media libraries for each site they belong to. For more information about these applications, please refer to Liferay’s user guide, Using Liferay Portal, available at http://www.liferay.com/documentation/liferay-portal/6.1/user-guide.
Figure 1.22: Social Office’s sites come with pre-built pages and applications that facilitate team-based collaboration.
In addition to the Blogs portlet, the Blogs page contains a Recent Blogs portlet. These two portlets are designed to work together. The Blogs portlet allows users with the appropriate permissions to publish new blog posts. By default, it also displays the full content of 5 recent posts. The Recent Blogs portlet, on the other hands, displays a list of recently published blog posts. The Recent Blogs portlet doesn’t show the full content of each post. Instead, clicking on a post’s title or on the Read More link in the Recent opens the full content of the post in the Blogs portlet.
Previous versions of Social Office provided a Related Assets portlet on the Blogs page. This portlet is no longer provided on the Blogs page by default but can easily be added: just click Add → More from the Dockbar, search for Related Assets, and click Add next to its name to add it to the page. Whenever the Blogs portlet displays the full content of a blog post, the Related Assets portlet lists any of the post’s related assets. Click on the name of any related asset to view the asset. If there are no related assets, the Related Assets portlet won’t appear at all.
The Members page contains a Members portlet and an Invitation portlet. By default, the Members portlet displays a list of all the members of the site. Using the Members portlet’s dropdown selector, users can filter site members who are also social connections and site members who they’re following. They can also select users in the Members portlet in order to send them connections requests, follow them, block them, send them private messages, or download their vCards. Please refer to the section on the Contacts portlet for more details. The Invitation portlet is only visible to site administrators. It allows administrators to send invitations to users to join the site.
Here’s an example of how it all comes together: Ryan, Jim, and Michael are all members of the Sales Site. Ryan schedules a meeting for the whole Sales team about a new product launch and puts it on the Calendar. When Jim and Michael log in, they both receive a notification of the meeting. Jim can’t make the meeting, but he’s been maintaining the Sales Wiki for new products, so he asks Michael to update it for him after the meeting.
Michael updates the Wiki with the new information after the meeting, and Ryan posts a summary of what happened in the meeting in the Sales Blog. When Jim logs in the next day, he’ll receive a notification of the new Blog post with the information he missed, as well as a notification about the updated Wiki. Additionally, he can easily access those pages to catch up on what he missed. This works because Social Office automatically keeps everyone up to date on the activities of the teams they work with every day.
Social Office EE Features
Social Office EE can only be installed on a Liferay EE instance; it’s not possible to install Social Office EE on Liferay CE. Social Office EE provides several useful features in addition to the ones provided by Social Office CE. These additional features include the following:
- A Social Office User management tool that provides an easier way to assign users to the Social Office User role
- Enhanced auditing tools for the Documents and Media library
- The ability to mount Sharepoint and Documentum repositories to the Documents and Media library.
- The ability for Liferay Sync users to sync with multiple Social Office sites
- Bug fixes and usability improvements since Social Office 2.0 CE GA2
- Access to Liferay Support
After installing Social Office EE to your Liferay EE instance, you’ll be directed to the following screen when you log in as an administrator:
Figure 1.23: The Social Office Configurations page of the Control Panel provides a quick and easy way to assign the Social Office User role to users, organizations, or user groups.
This page allows you to assign the Social Office User role to users, organizations, or user groups. If you aren’t immediately sure who should be assigned to the Social Office User role, you can come back to this page later. It’s called Social Office Configurations and it appears at the bottom of the Portal section of the Control Panel.
Other features provided by Social Office EE include auditing improvements to the Documents and Media library. Once you’ve installed Social Office EE, you’ll find the option to specify either a major or a minor revision each time you edit or check in a document. You’ll also be prompted to enter a change log message. Without Social Office EE, the version number will be automatically incremented when a file is edited but there’s no way to specify a major/minor revision or enter a change log message.
Figure 1.24: Social Office EE allows you to specify a major or minor revision and enter a change log message each time you edit or check in a document.
Additionally, Social Office EE allows comments to be added to specific versions of a document. Without Social Office EE, there’s just a general comments area for each document that’s not specific to any version.
Figure 1.25: Social Office EE allows you to comment on particular versions of files in the Documents and Media repository.
If you’ve been using Social Office CE and upgrade to EE, any comments that were added when you were using CE will appear in a section entitled Previous Comments.
Figure 1.26: Social Office EE allows you to specify a major or minor revision and enter a change log message each time you edit or check in a document.
Next, let’s look at Social Office’s upgrade process.