|This is a review of the book – Alfresco: Enterprise Content Management Implementation by Munwar Shariff. Click on the cover image to see the publisher page for the book. The book is published by PACKT Publishing – an active supporter of open-source projects.|
Disclaimers / Disclosures
- This review represents my independent opinion.
- No one has solicited this review. Specifically, I have not been paid by the author or Alfresco for this review.
- The publisher has provided me with a free copy of the book for writing this review.
This review does not attempt to provide information about the Alfresco platform outside the context of the book. The review focuses on what the book offers, what it does well, and where it could have done better. Content outline and information about the author is present on the publisher’s page for the book.
As far as I am aware this is the only book available today about the Alfresco open source content management platform. The book has full backing of Alfresco, the company, and apparently has been written on their request. As such the author seemed to have full access to the information about the platform at the time of writing this book. The book addresses version 1.4 but most of the information applies to 2.0 as well.
I would describe this book in one sentence as a handy reference with illustrated step-by-step examples for performing various tasks with Alfresco.
The book starts with an overview of content management, open source, and Alfresco. Then it describes how to obtain and install Alfresco. Before going further, it shares some best practices related to planning. In general, I look for words of wisdom and advice in books which come from experience of the authors and add value above raw information which might be available from other sources as well. Therefore, I see this chapter as a good addition to the reference material present in the rest of the book. Then the book dives into the guts of Alfresco features – both standard features and customization options. It also addresses the needs of system administrators for maintaining the deployment such as export, import, backup, upgrades, and general maintenance. Finally, the book closes with a chapter on a sample content management solution which is also a very common need – a forms-based imaging solution for digitizing paper documents and managing the electronic documents in Alfresco.
I had been using Alfresco for 6 months before I started reading this book. I had also tried out Alfresco WCM 2.0 using the evaluation guide available with the software download. Therefore, most of the core concepts were a breeze to read through. I found the following information to be most interesting and educational beyond what I already knew – information about customization (all sorts of features that can be customized), business rules and workflows, information about maintaining the deployment, and the sample solution. The pointers to the API and model references are also useful since that’s what I would need if I were to customize Alfresco beyond the simple explamples.
Given the scope of the book most of the material is probably at an appropriate level of detail. However, I felt that certain changes could have made this book more useful for a wider audience. The first thing that jumped out at me was that the book is written pretty much in a “how-to with Alfresco” format. While that is great, it almost assumes a fundamental knowledge of content management concepts. It would have been great to have a generic (non Alfresco-specific) introduction to related content management concepts at the beginning of each chapter. This would have made it a great book for people who are first-time content management users. The second area of potential improvement is with the flow of topics. There were times when I read a section and wished there was more information in that section. Then a few sections later I would find a detailed section on the same information. This issue could have been addressed with a different organization of sections. However, more generally, I felt that the book could use some more text to glue the sections together and to make the transitions smoother.
This book is definitely a must-have for anyone implementing a solution using Alfresco. It is a handy reference for performing various tasks on the Alfresco platform. If you are new to content management in general then you may need additional resources to make effective use of the information available in this book.