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Getting started with ocPortal

  
  
  

Looking for a powerful tool to help create your next-generation website? The ocPortal content management system (CMS) lets you build sites with advanced features like photo galleries, news, events, and social networking. It follows accessibility standards, handles search engine optimization, and provides you with solid security.

Out of the box ocPortal lets you create a site that provides:

  • Chat rooms
  • Support tickets
  • News
  • Blogs
  • Events
  • Memberships
  • Member clubs
  • Social networking
  • Shopping cart
  • Full design control
  • LDAP support
  • Private messaging
  • Full site search

In contrast to many CMS tools, ocPortal doesn't force you to cobble together a bunch of third-party solutions in order to have a feature-rich site. ocPortal even includes an easy setup wizard to walk you through the personalization and corporatization of your site. Once you've installed the foundation of the tool, you're just a few steps away from having a full-blown, dynamic, interactive site to help power your business.

ocPortal complies with the hightest W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines as well as meeting Section 508 standards (XHTML and CSS specs). The standards apply to every page on ocPortal, from AdminZone to user pages. It offers options to help users with special needs, most of which have to do with optimizing your site for screen readers.

To get ocPortal up and running, you need a server with certain software installed:

Installing ocPortal

To get ocPortal up and running, move the ocPortal downloaded files into your web server's document root (usually /var/www/html/) and extract both files. Point a browser to http://ADDRESS_OF_SERVER/install.php (where ADDRESS_OF_SERVER is either the IP address or domain of the server) and walk through the installation wizard – but look out for two "gotchas" with your FTP setup. First, you must allow for root connections during the install. To allow root FTP access, edit the file /etc/ftpusers and comment out the line root by placing a "#" at the beginning of that line. Remember to reset vsftpd to the default when installation is complete.

For Ubuntu, you also must give your server's root user a password. Many consider that doing this opens a security hole, but as long as you never log in as the root user (and make that root password very strong) you'll be OK. If you're using CentOS, your root user will already have a password. If you are using Ubuntu, open up a terminal window and issue the command sudo passwd. When prompted, enter a password and then confirm it. After you've completed the installation you can uncomment the root line in /etc/ftpusers.

Most of the installation wizard is simple, but when you get to step 4, you need to pay close attention to the configuration options. At the top of the screen (see figure below) you must fill out the details for FTP to let the quick installer place all the necessary files into the proper locations with the proper permissions. As I mentioned earlier, the FTP user must have access to the document root of the web server or this operation will fail.

ocPortal installation step 4

With the installation complete, log in as the admin user (you set a password for this user during installation), click on the Setup menu, and then click Setup Wizard to walk through 10 steps to get your site up. Here is a description of each step, starting at the first interactive step, Step 3:

Step 3: Configuration details about the site. This section is import to the site's SEO. Pay close attention to the details here or your SEO will suffer – or you'll have to go back, post-installation, and reconfigure.

Speaking of SEO, once the site it up, look in the Setup section, under Configuration -> Site Options, for SEO-specific features you should take advantage of, such as:

  • Auto-submit sitemap
  • Auto keyword extraction
  • Site information (such as name, scope, and main information)
  • Keywords
  • Google Analytics key

Step 4: Bundled add-ons. The heart and soul of ocPortal. Instead of having to search, post-install, for third-party add-ons, you can include them during the install. That means you should already know what functionality your site needs. Do you need LDAP authentication? Do you plan on sending out company newsletters? What about forums? You'll find much of what makes your site interactive here.

Step 5: Features and Structure. In this step you can add extra features to your site that won't be crucial to functionality, but that can help make it stand out for end users, such as a FAQ. You'll certainly want to add the links catalog to help pump up SEO. Structure refers to site sections. You can set up either a single public zone, isolated from the rest of the site, or give full access to the main site to guests.

Step 6: Front page. What do you want to use for the site front page? You can pick multiple entries from among: Award display, image fader, news/blogs, poll, random quote, recent catalog entries, recent downloads, recent galleries, RSS display, most popular downloads, and more. You can configure each of these to reside on the main section of the front page, the main section at 50 percent size (which can help the site be more readable on mobile devices as well as make room for other blocks), the right panel, or the left panel.

Step 7: Rules. Rules apply to members – what they can and cannot do, such as uploading files or editing content. Out of the box ocPortal provides three rulesets: Balanced, Liberal, and Corporate. The Liberal rules allow users much more freedom, whereas the Corporate rules lock users down fairly tightly. The Balanced rules land somewhere in the middle and work well for most community-friendly sites, but if you're setting up ocPortal for a professional company website, consider the tighter Corporate rules. If, on the other hand, your site is available only on your corporate intranet and you don't need to rule it with an iron fist, the Liberal ruleset is perfect.

In steps 8 and 9 you can select a color on which your site's overall theme will be based and specify whether to close the site to the public, which you can do until the site is exactly the way you want it. In step 10 you configure how ocPortal is to manage files; you need to configure the FTP hostname and the FTP directory.

That's it! You now have the foundation for your ocPortal site up and ready to starting building upon. From within its Admin Zone (http://yourserver.com/adminzone) you can start working on the checklist ocPortal provides to help you complete the site. The steps included in your checklist (Figure 2) will depend upon the features you installed during installation steps four and five.

Post-installation checklist
The ocPortal checklist helps you complete the creation of your site.

From the Menu Bar of the Admin Zone you can configure the style of the site (logo, themes), (re)arrange the structure of the site (install more add-ons, change the block layout, manage menus), further secure the site, add content, manage users, and much more. ocPortal has an entire menu entry in the AdminZone for security. You can blacklist IP addresses, set global privileges, fine-tune the permissions tree, configure SSL/TLS (HTTPS), manage usergroups, and create word filters.

Once you've finished your tasks within the Admin Zone, you can view the site from the address http://yourserver.com/index.php.

I have managed a number of websites for different individuals and businesses. Each had its own requirements and many were originally built with other tools. For each site, deploying ocPortal made site maintenance much easier. Instead of having to track down multiple third-party add-ons, I could rely on a clean intall of ocPortal to take care of nearly everything my clients needed.

ocPortal is a powerful open source CMS. If you're looking for an easy-to-manage framework upon which to get a dynamic, highly configurable site up and running, see how well ocPortal meets your needs.


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