Monday, December 7, 2015

New features in WebCenter Content 12c

If you follow us on OTN forums, you might've seen this thread on new features in WebCenter 12c. I will continue to introduce new features with quick video walkthroughs.

In a nutshell, 12c boasts the following major improvements over version 11g:

  • More compact file structure. Oracle has rearranged files in installation directory making it easier to find stuff.
  • Imaging services are now built in. IPM/Imaging components are now pre-installed in Content Server and there's no need for separate weblogic managed server to run Imaging.
  • Trash Bin in Framework Folders. Framework Folders have now been updated to include Trash - a very handy feature!
  • Updates in Dynamic Converter. Dynamic Converter is now built into the Content Server and features improvements in template management.
  • URM is built in. WebCenter Records is no longer a separate product. All records management features are now included in Oracle Content Server.
  • Site Studio is still in. While Oracle Site Studio is bing phased out in favour of new WebCenter Sites, Site Studio component is still included with WebCenter 12c.
  • WebUI/ADF UI built in. ADF UI that has debuted in 11g as a standalone WebUI application has not been built in, for a much improved user experience. And if you enable Imaging, it also includes Image Annotations.
  • Video Manager is also built in. And if you enable it, you'll see video renditions in ADF UI.

And here's the first of the quick walkthroughs showing you the new, more compact file system of 12c:

Monday, October 26, 2015

Framework Folders - Deleted Folder Recovery

Skip hours of digging through database backups to restore that folder tree a user has accidentally deleted. And remember how these folders were needed to be restored... well, yesterday, because all items they have deleted by accident were uber-important?

The new Content Server 12c now includes the Trash feature added back to new Framework Folders. Clients have been missing that for a long time!

For those of you who are staying with 11g for the next little while, we have developed a solution that will tie you over (with comfort) until you're ready to upgrade.

Here's how it works: each time a folder delete service is exectured, the content of the folder (and all of it's sub-folders and files) is stored and checked in as an XML file.

Restore operation is then becomes very simple:

  • Locate recovery record for the folder you're looking to restore
  • Click 'Restore' ... and you're done
The folder structure is restored and the files are un-expired for you, bringing the folder into a staging area where you can review the content and move it back to the tree.

There you have it. You can now code your own Folder Recovery component or let me know if you need more information

WebCenter 12c is out!

After all the rumors, new WebCenter is finally out, in time for the Open World!

Jonathan Hult has done an awesome job putting together a goto list for getting started with fresh new WebCenter.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Did you see these most engaging WebCenter Content topics for 2015?

My team has recently spent time to fish out the most useful, most engaging discussion topics, blog posts and articles in WebCenter space. Smart Oracle guys, my fellow Oracle ACEs and dozens of keen users from the frontline trenches of Content Management around the world have worked hard to contribute these nuggets of wisdom... each one of them could slash hours, if not days of problem solving time from your busy schedule, making up room for more rewarding stuff.

Check them out, learn, enjoy:

Optimizing The Release of documents in OWC

Dynamic discussion on Indexing, Oracle Text Search and why documents are getting stuck in the 'Done' status instead of getting released.

You may also like to revisit Kyle's handy tip on Adjusting the Score on Oracle Text search results

Folders, Folders, Folders

Doing custom work with Framework Folders? These insight-rich threads could come in very handy...

What do you mean you don't read HDA?

This is an older post but it deserves another nod. And it's not just a tip or an article. Kyle is actually sharing an uber-useful Excel macro tool that makes confusing HDA files look neat and logical!

There you have it... and please let me know if I missed anything...

I'll see you over in the comments. Love to hear your thoughts.

Stay frosty

Monday, July 27, 2015

WebCenter Is Getting A Facelift

In my last post I've shown you that sky is the limit when it comes to developing Content Server UIs - when you apply the App Refacing principles, no budget is too small and no reasonable timeline is no longer too tight. So that's all sounds good but, people are saying, only a few folks can 'drive it home' just like that and start impressing business users with these cool and functional UIs. Most others need an example.

So here's an example you want to study. Learn from it. See how it makes user lives easier by doing tasks better, in a different way.

Now let me tell you, we will be looking at a commercial product, and yes, some of you would seriously consider buying it, simply because the damn thing is sooo good. So if that happens, I won't be receiving a check in the mail. I'm not even counting on a thank you note, as this is not my goal. The goal here is to give you a good example. Buy it or learn from it - it will help you drive home a few important paradigms and hopefully get these light bulbs flushing in your head as you read this interview.

Welcome James Kelleher, founder of Generis, creator of Cara, replacement UI for a number of Content Management systems. The product has been successful for over a decade, replacing the UI of Documentum, Alfresco and SharePoint and, their latest addition, Oracle WebCenter Content.

The interview

D: Welcome, James! So what was the original reason why Cara was created?

J: Because several customers were saying that Content Management platforms are usually very strong at the back end, but they never invest enough time and money doing a nice UI.

The second reason is that clients always wanted to set up quickly, but if they wanted to see different metadata fields or they wanted a business rule implemented - there was always some programming required to do that.

D: Oracle is not the only company who hears complaints about their user experience? Documentum has also released their D2 product to provide an upgrade in user experience...

J: Yes. That was the aim. And it's certainly an improvement. There're still some advantages in Cara and we have a lot of customers in the Documentum space who evaluated both products and selected CARA. There's number of reasons for that like performance, greater configuration capability and so on. 

Alfresco UI is not bad, but it's more in the direction of social Content Management.

Our UI is optimized for people who do a lot of Content Management... They work with 20...30.. 40 documents at a time if they're putting together a report.... They need to multi-task... They are looking for rich functionality... So that's we've focused on.

D: Could you tell us more about Cara Dimensions feature? It seems familiar but I don't remember seeing it in any other CMS so far.
J: Right. The idea here was to come up with something, that could allow people to find documents without having to run searches. With folders too you can only find a document if you know exactly which folder it's in. 

Now if you wanted to see documents from a few folders together - what you had to do in the past is to run some kind of a search where you'd say that you want this type of document with this type of metadata... and it's a lot of clicks to manipulate the results. 

So we said that the power of any Content Management System is in the metadata. So we could use metadata to build the tree. And you could just pick from a list of metadata and build a tree.

So you could see your MS Word documents according to their authors and so on.

This is basically a search but it is given to the user as a tree, because users are very familiar with trees and this is an easy way to work on a system.

D: So users can build their own custom tree view of the content.

J: Exactly. And it's personal to every user and settings are stored in the repository, so if I log in with my iPad, the system knows that this is James and it recalls my settings and my custom tree views.

D: What were the biggest technical challenges you had to overcome when building the product?

J: One of the key things for us was to have all our configurations managed inside the repository. So that when you install Cara and you want to open a metadata screen - the way it is stored, all of its pick lists, behavior - that all stored in the repository. So we had to find an efficient way of storing the XML and also recalling it and caching it at run time to make sure performance is good. 

The other aspect was to make sure that we've adapted all our functionality to native things in WebCenter. For example, there's this concept of a folio, which is equivalent to Virtual Document in Documentum. And we developed something on top of that, which we call a Cara Structure. When you create a Cara Structure, you essentially creating a folio in Oracle. 

The WebCenter folio is an XML file and we had to make sure it was really multi-user, so if two people are modifying it at the same time - they can both modify it without blocking it. This was another challenge for us but we found a way to do that. So I think these were the two biggest questions.

D: And I believe, this multi-tasking ability is not present in the WebCenter itself, so you've actually provided an improvement over standard functionality...

It seems that Cara users will never see WebCenter's own interface and all tasks they need to accomplish are done through Cara.

J: Exactly.

D: Now that you have a mature in-demand product on your hands - what are the top 3 reasons people buy it today?

J: The biggest reasons are that it's very fast and it's user friendly. It's not like a traditional web app. It's got full drag and drop and contextual right click different things, so it feels as fast and as usable as desktop application, but running on the web. So performance and ease of use is the first reason.

The second is quite honestly is the control panel with all configurations. So the cost and time to setup different check in and property screens in WebCenter Content (and in Documentum - it's the same) it's usually a lot more than doing it through Cara, so customer saves a lot of time. The second reason is really the speed and ease of making changes to the setup through configuration. It reduces the cost and the time to manage your system.

D: So basically, you're replacing the Profiles and the Rules engine in Content Server as well with Cara - it has its own engine for customizations? And most of the custom component work required to modify the Content Server UI now does not have to be done.

J: Right.


So there you have it. Gaps in user experience is an industry-wide issue. And there're many ways of addressing it... I'll see you over at the comments. Love to hear your thoughts.

Stay frosty

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The End of Oracle Content Server


It's almost every day lately that I'm hearing from reputable sources and clients alike that Content Server looks dated, it's hard to use, the users are complaining, it's UI sucks and on and on. And they provide examples. UI hasn’t changed much in years, simple things take many clicks and page loads to complete, it doesn't look good on iPhone...

So is it the time we start looking for another ECM tool? Is the Content Server approaching it's end of life?

Well, SQL Server UI hasn’t changed much in years also and it's not going away any time soon. The same is true for the majority of databases, ERP, CRM and ECM tools out there. And they're not going away any time soon either.

Yes, Content Server gives you the tools to put together a quick custom check-in or search form, and many times, these forms work reasonably well, but don't expect it to produce a fancy responsive user experience with business logic, that looks great on all devices. It's an admin tool, not a UI framework!

And the good thing about all this is - simplicity. Content Server is awesome for tracking revisions, conversions, access control and retention management. And if you need to alter user experience, you have a number of other options. Here're a few of the popular ones:
  • New Content Server WebUI application
  • SOAP and JSON web services and RIDC API
  • The tried and true iDoc Script

Let's look at each in more detail:

Content Server WebUI

New Content Server WebUI is a standalone ADF application that uses Content Server as it's 'database' and provides its own cool new interface. And it's also teaches you a lesson.

You may or may not end up using the WebUI, but do notice the new approach it takes. It lets the Content Server do what it's doing best, without creating un-needed complexity. We at ECM Solutions have been calling this App Refacing and so far it produces results just short of a miracle. (This free whitepaper lays out all the steps)

Do let me know what you think about App Refacing approach in the comments section,

And let me promise you one thing - if you do it right and you don't hear your business users screaming with joy a week into implementation - I owe you a case of beer.


Here's my older post that tells you how to integrate Oracle Content Server with almost anything ... in 30 min or less. This keeps things clean and simple and lets you use the tools and the UI frameworks you choose to produce the results you want.
iDoc Script

Some developers are starting to look down at iDoc script and there is no good reason to do so. If you need to put together a custom search or check-in screen without spending a lot of time - I can't think of a faster way of doing it.

Here's the simple basic check-in screen that took less than ten minutes to put together and test.

And here's the code. Just copy the lines below and save it as Sample Check-In.hcst, then click on the Web Location link on its Content Info page for the form to come up:

    <$include std_checkin_html_head_declarations$>

<h1>Sample Check-in Form</h1>

<form method="post" enctype="multipart/form-data" action="<$HttpCgiPath$>">
    <input type=hidden name="IdcService" value="CHECKIN_NEW">
    <input type=hidden name="dDocAuthor" value="<$UserName$>">
    <input type=hidden name="dRevLabel" value="1">

    Type: <select name="dDocType">
        <$loop DocTypes$>
            <option value="<$dDocType$>"><$dDescription$>
    </select><br />

    Title: <input type="text" name="dDocTitle"><br />
    Security Group:
        <$c=rsMakeFromList("SecurityGroupSet", "securityGroups")$>
        <select name="dSecurityGroup">
        <$loop SecurityGroupSet$>
    </select><br />

    File: <input type="file" name="primaryFile"><br />

    <input type=submit>
    <input type=reset >


iDoc gives you all the controls you need on the form with just a few lines of server side script. You're now free to use Bootstrap, Angular, Node.js or whatever the UI framework or library you prefer to use, and Bex's book is still a good resource to pick up iDoc.

So is the Content Server Dead?


Is it going away any time soon?

I don't think so.

Will your organization be using it in new different ways?

You bet. It's only the question of time.

The biggest challenges in poor Content Server user experience are not technical. The tools and technologies you need to create just the experience your users been longing for are there and they have been around for years. The challenge is for you, the designer, is to un-learn the old 'traditional' ways of doing things and start imagining the new possibilities of how your users' problems can be solved with today's mobile technologies and improved user experience.

It's going to be fun.

Now what would YOU do to give your users the tools and experience they expect from Oracle WebCenter? Lay it out in the comments, below…

All the best

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Dark Side of the IoT

The Internet of Things (IoT) promises us a bright future. But what are the benefits of this technology, and what are the risks? In this article we continue our exploration of the IoT and how it applies to our daily lives in  today's enterprises.

Friday, April 17, 2015

The future of the NGN

A few years back, the public service communications networks were developed on the "Next-Generation Network" (NGN) concept - an idea that one network transports all types of information and services - voice, data, and all sorts of media, like video and audio streams - by encapsulating these into packets, similar to those used on the Internet.

The NGN concept helped network operators transition from circuit-switched networks, like the ones used in phone lines - to data networks with packet switching.

Now that the number of connected devices is virtually exploding, Communications Industry is facing yet another major challenge...

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Year of the IoT

Judging by the number of connected devices, available to an average consumer, last year could be rightfully called the year of the Internet of Things.
What are the reasons why the IoT has been becoming more and more popular? Check out our recent article to find out

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Internet of Things

We live in the world, where different devices like refrigerators, vacuum cleaners and even door locks, and many other everyday things can be managed via the Internet. Although different internet gadgets become more and more popular all over the world, the term "Internet of Things" (IoT) is still not very widespread and many people still don’t understand what it means.

So what do we know about the IoT? Check out my article on Toad World to find out