I recently got a e-copy of a book “Alfresco 3 Cookbok“, with “over 70 recipes for implementing the most important functionalities of Alfresco”. The book is one of few good PacktPubs’ publishings about this open-source document and records management and collaboration platform. It was written by Snig Bhaumik, the Technical Director at InfoAxon Technologies Ltd in India. The recipes are supposed to help new Alfresco administrators and developers accomplish common tasks. The tasks described go from setting up Alfresco from ground up, basic and a bit advanced administrative management of the installation, and further into customizing and developing Alfresco. Since I’m developing a platform based on Alfresco 3 Comunity edition, I was looking forward to the book. It’s based on Alfresco 3.3. At the time I got it, the 3.4 version of Alfresco was long in production already, but that’s no problem. All of the 3.x versions are pretty similar as it is, and 3.3 and 3.4 only have minor differences. But for people starting with the new installation, I suggest using Alfresco 4.0. The Alfresco developers made quite a few changes and it would be really worth it.
The book is set up in 14 chapters. As usual, there’s an introductory chapter. What is Alfresco and what do you use it for? If you didn’t know that, and picked up the book by accident, you’ll find out more about it here. You also find the first recipes here. There are instructions on how to download and install Alfresco on Windows and Linux. The setup instructions are detailed and you can blindly follow without really knowing what you’re doing.
Then come chapters 2 and 3. These brought a little dissapointment for me. There were recipes for most basic of actions – how to create a user, how to upload documents to the repository, all of the really elemental features. I thought, “hey, you really have to be stupid to install and use a document management platform and then to have to read a book to put a document in it”. Chapters 4 and 5 were a bit more advanced, but it still wasn’t interesting to me. Again I thought to myself, “Yeah, right, now you’re telling me! Where were you when I was just starting with Alfresco two years ago?”. But then it hit me. If I had this book two years ago, I would be far further then I am now. Then I started reading more cautiously. Recipes were describing some really simple tasks, as well as some a bit more advanced.
After reading it, I think that the book is well written. There are good, simple to follow, step-by-step instructions on how to work your way through the Alfresco, from installation and installation, to customization and development. It mentions and somewhat explaines advanced Alfresco features. It gives an overview of options, features, posibilities of Alfresco. On the downside, to really understand some of those, you need to be experienced with alfresco – and in that case you likely won’t be going for this book. Also, it’s based on version 3.3, which is a bit old now and I think that new Alfresco users should really go for version 4 at this time, if possible.
If you’re just starting with Alfresco, especially if you’re comming into Alfresco 3.x environment, I highly recommend this (or any) book on Alfresco. You should take two-thee days to just sit with the book and work your way through. What you end up with is a knowledge and skillset to use Alfresco and basic understanding of its posibilities.