Forum OpenACS Q&A: Getting Started with OpenACS for Dummies

Has anyone created such a doc? I'm in the midst of my first experience setting up a home server over dsl, installing openACS and customizing to the look, feel and services that I need. The docs are great for developers. I have enough experience (even completed the psets back in ACS 2 time - yikes what changes!) that I'll be able to slag through them and figure out how to get everything customized but it's been a slow go thus far - expect to see many more requests for clarification over the coming weeks.

My question is - has anyone started an 'OpenACS for Dummies' type of setup guide? The where do you go from here links after getting everything installed are great for creating new packages and developing for the system. There seems to be, however, (please correct me if I'm wrong) a large gap when it comes to customizing your index page in a few simple steps (including installing and mounting existing apps and linking them to index). Pehaps I just need to rtfm a bit more but, if openACS wants to lower the bar for entry to any joe blow that can install linux and follow instructions (and really, just about anyone can figure out how to install linux nowadays), an initial tutorial is needed. I'm sure there are lots of people out there that would love to install openACS and just use existing packages - they'll just get stuck at the congratulations page not wanting to sift through an 800 page developer guide to figure out the next steps.

As I go through the process, I'm going to develop a tutorial based on getting from 'congratulations' to a basic index pages with existing packages installed (and being served up reasonably securely on a dedicated cheapo server box behind a router over dsl) including screenshots. Before I go to the trouble, is there anything like this yet?

Posted by Jade Rubick on
There is a gap between the documentation for setup and the documentation that tells you how to create a package. This would be a valuable addition indeed!
Posted by Joel Aufrecht on
There is nothing like this - the post-install documentation (the Tutorial and anvanced tutorial) is oriented at developers. Let me try and set some vocubulary:
  • Installation: All of the steps up to getting the "Congratulations" page
  • Configuration:Changing the functions and appearance of an OpenACS Installation via the web interface
  • Customization:Changing the functions of an OpenACS installation by writing or modifying code. The line between customization and configuration is that configuration doesn't alter any of the files in the file tree. (One obvious problem with the default installation is that you can't change the text on the home page without Customizing - the effort to make the home page an Edit-This-Page page would fix this.)
I think a beginner's step-by-step document, with before and after screenshots, showing Configuration, would be wonderful and I'd be happy to help and to give it a home in the official docs.
Posted by Sean Harrison on

I'm at a similar place as Brad Ford -- I'm looking at the "Congratulations" screen and wondering what to do next. I think I can help with the Dummies® guide by being the dummy and asking questions.

The most reasonable first step would be to set the Congratulations page aside under a different name, so that it is accessible to me (and not to others, if there's a quick-and-dirty way to change the permissions), and then to begin customizing the site index. However, my first attempt to do that resulted in lengthy Tcl/SQL errors. I tried:

  1. copying all of the "index.[ext]" and "index-[db].xql" files to "firstpage[rest-of-the-name]".
  2. copying all of the "index" named files to a new subdirectory called "firstpage".

I guess the questions are, (1) what is the simplest procedure for creating a new page/subfolder, and making it browsable? (2) why didn't what I did work, and what would be the correct way to do it so that it would work?

Posted by Jade Rubick on
First of all, I think you need to put your site under CVS if you haven't already.

Then, I recommend changing index.* to match your needs, rather than moving the file. You do need an index file. If you want, you can copy the index files to some other file name, but you should probably start working off of the index files, instead of moving them somewhere else.

There is a gap in the documentation here. But the index page does give you some ideas of where to go from startup. You can look at this page:

I'll need to get that page looking better, but it's somewhere to start.