The basics of Alfresco

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This Q&A on Alfresco was written by Frank Klok. Frank is an IT-expert with over twenty years of experience in IT. This article was written to help you understand the basics of Alfresco.

Q: What is Alfresco?
A: Alfresco is an enterprise content management system.
Q: On what operating systems does Alfresco run?
A: It is a Java-application so it runs on the Windows platform as well as Unix-like operating systems
Q: What are the main versions of Alfresco?
A: Basically, there are two versions of Alfresco, called the community edition and the enterprise edition. Besides these two versions of Alfresco, there is an app for Android and iOs called Alfresco mobile.
Q: What are the differences between the Community Edition and the Enterprise Edition?
A: The differences between the two versions are listed on the Alfresco site.
Q: Can I host Alfresco on-premise?
A: Yes, both the Community Edition as well as the Enterprise Edition can be hosted on-premise.
Q: Can I use Alfresco in the cloud?
A: Yes, the Enterprise Edition is also provided as software-as-a-service (SaaS)
Q: What about pricing/subscription for Alfresco Enterprise Edition?
A: Find out about the princing/subscription model on
Q: What is Alfresco One?
A: Alfresco One is a hybrid between hosting on-premise and using the software-as-a-service.Alfresco One allows syncing between an on-premise instance and an instance in the cloud. More information can be found on the Alfresco website.
Q: What is Alfresco Share?
A: Alfresco Share is one of the two primary web-based clients and provides a rich web-based collaboration environment for managing documents, wiki content, blogs and more.
Q: Where can I learn more about Alfresco Share?
A: A good starting point is found at the following deeplink in the Alfresco documentation. There is also a good presentation available on Slideshare.
Q: What is Alfresco Explorer?
A: Alfresco Explorer is the other primary web-based client. It provides a full web-based user interface providing document management, collaboration and administration capabilities. Historically, it was the first web-client that was provided with Alfresco and still provides some functionality that can't be found in Alfresco Share.
Q: Where can I find more information on Alfresco Explorer?
A: A good starting point is found in the Alfresco documentation.
Q: What does the architecture of Alfresco look like?
A: The architecture of Alfresco is described in the Alfresco documentation.
Q: What is the repository?
A: Basically, the repository provides an API which can be used by applications. Alfresco Share and Alfresco Explorer are applications that make use of this repository. A description of the repository architecture is also provided in the Alfresco documentation.
Q: So I could write my own interface based on the functions provided by the repository?
A: Yes, don't underestimate the time this takes though.
Q: Can I extend the functionality of Alfresco?
A: Of course you can, the plugins created for Alfresco are called dashlets. A great, short introduction is found at Slidehare.
Q: So, I write the dashlets in Javascript?
A: Yes.
Q: What are spaces in the context of Alfresco?
A: In Alfresco, a space is a container for storing and organizing content and other spaces so that you can quickly and easily locate or return to them again. You can compare them to folders in the Windows Explorer. Although, you'll be selling them short.
Q: What is a smart space?
A: A smart space is a space that has rules defined for how the content entering, leaving, or currently residing in a space is managed. For instance, I could add a rule to a space that moves all the documents from that smart space to another smart space when a certain date has passed. Or when it's 30 days ago that the document was added to the smart space.
Q: What are these rules you are talking about? All is see are content rules.
A: They're the same.
Q: I want to run Alfresco, where do I start?
A: If you want to run Alfresco on-premise, the community edition is a good place to start. The community edition and instructions on how to install can be downloaded from this location. This page also includes links to instructions on how to install Alfresco.
Q: I don't want to install the software locally, are there any other options?
A: Sure, you can run Alfresco in the cloud, you can sign up for alfresco at
Q: I want to try the Enterprise Edition on-premise, are there any options for me?
A: Alfresco provides a 30-day Enterprise trial at
Q: Where can I find more information on Alfresco?
A: There are tons of resources. First of all there is formal documentation on the platform. Then there is the community documentation on the platform. Furthermore there are two YouTube-channels that are very helpful: YouTube channel of Alfresco and YouTube channel of Jeff Pots.
Q: Why does everybody bring up Documentum when I talk about Alfresco?
A: That's probably because you can't go to any meeting without hearing that one of the founders of Documentum is also one of the founders of Alfresco. He is called John Newton.

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