Liferay Brings Desktop Capabilities to the Web

 
 
By Jim Rapoza  |  Posted 2005-10-31
 
 
 

Liferay Brings Desktop Capabilities to the Web


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 the full review of Liferay Portal 3.6.1.

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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.

Flexible layout options


A new portlet aggregator feature provides a lot of flexibility when it comes to building page layouts, letting us create portlet pages that looked pretty much any way we wanted them to and then save these looks as templates .

For users who want to use Liferay more as a content management platform, Version Portal 3.6.1 gains capabilities that make this much easier. A new Journal Content portlet makes it simple for any user to add content directly to the site.

On the developer side, Liferay provides a wide array of options beyond standard JSP. Like some other Java-based portals, Liferay Portal 3.6.1 supports JavaServer Faces, which is well-suited to portlet development. Liferay also supports The Apache Software Foundations Velocity engine, a template approach to development that helps separate Web design from Java development.

Liferay comes with a wide variety of prebuilt portlets. Some of these portlets are business-friendly tools for calendaring, blogging and content creation, while others are probably more suited to personal or nonbusiness portals.

Labs Director Jim Rapoza can be contacted at jim_rapoza@ziffdavis.com.

Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on image editing and Web publishing tools.

Next page: Evaluation Shortlist: Related Products.

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Evaluation Shortlist

The Exo Platform SARLs Exo Platform An open-source Java-based portal system that is less mature but still very similar to Liferay (www.exoplatform.com)

Magnolia Organization LLCs Magnolia This open-source Java-based content management system puts a high premium on usability, with a very good user interface (www.magnolia.info)

Microsoft Corp.s SharePoint Available as part of Windows Server 2003 as SharePoint Services or in a more robust form as SharePoint Portal Server, SharePoint lets businesses deploy portal capabilities with a high premium on collaboration and integration with Microsoft Office (www.microsoft.com/sharepoint)

Plone Foundations Plone An eWEEK Labs Analysts Choice winner, this open-source product is one of the best solutions, period, for company portals and intranets (www.plone.org)

Rocket Fuel