By Jim Rapoza  |  Posted 2005-10-31 Print this article Print

Its long been commonplace to find open-source portals that rival or better their commercial counterparts in features and capabilities. And for a few years now, open-source portals have featured intuitive and flexible browser-based administration interfaces.

Click here to read more reviews of open-source portals.
All of the above is true for the open-source Liferay Portal, but its browser-based administration and content creation interface goes much further, providing in-depth interactivity and capabilities that one usually finds only in desktop applications—providing this breadth of capabilities across all current-generation Web browsers.

In fact, Liferay should finally put to rest the vendor excuse that interactive Web interfaces must be Internet Explorer-only.

Although Liferay Portal 3.6.1, which was released in August, isnt as groundbreaking in its back-end capabilities, these features still proved to be quite strong in eWEEK Labs tests, providing extensive customization options and robust developer capabilities.

Like competing open-source portals, such as The Exo Platform SARLs Exo Platform and Magnolia Organization LLCs Magnolia, Liferay Portal is a fully Java-based server application and can run seamlessly on any J2EE (Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition) server and on any operating system.

Liferay Portal 3.6.1 is released under the MIT License, probably one of the least restrictive of any open-source licenses in existence. The main Liferay Web site, at www.liferay.com, includes good documentation and community forums. The Liferay developers also offer support services for companies wanting to purchase more extensive support.

In tests, we were quickly up and running with the Liferay portal, and we could access administration and layout options through its well-designed portlets. Liferay has good but standard options for creating users, groups and roles. The product can support additional authentication methods such as LDAP and Active Directory, but this requires some fairly advanced editing for configuration files and some good knowledge of LDAP queries and structures.

Overall, the browser-based interface for Liferay offered excellent functionality, whether we were controlling the layout of the portal or simply adding content to portlets and pages.

Probably the biggest new capability in Version 3.6.1 is support for drag-and-drop placement of portlets. Using everything from the Mozilla Foundations Mozilla and Firefox to IE and Safari, we were able to set up our portal page layout by simply moving the portlets to where we wanted them to be.

Another nice new feature in this release is the ability to apply new themes without restarting the server. We simply created the theme using standard JSP (JavaServer Pages), deployed it as a standard Java war file and then chose the theme from the administrative interface.

Next Page: Flexible layout options.

Jim Rapoza, Chief Technology Analyst, eWEEK.For nearly fifteen years, Jim Rapoza has evaluated products and technologies in almost every technology category for eWEEK. Mr RapozaÔÇÖs current technology focus is on all categories of emerging information technology though he continues to focus on core technology areas that include: content management systems, portal applications, Web publishing tools and security. Mr. Rapoza has coordinated several evaluations at enterprise organizations, including USA Today and The Prudential, to measure the capability of products and services under real-world conditions and against real-world criteria. Jim Rapoza's award-winning weekly column, Tech Directions, delves into all areas of technologies and the challenges of managing and deploying technology today.

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