Oracle® Application Server Portal User's Guide
10g Release 2 (10.1.4)
This chapter offers a brief, high-level overview of the terms and concepts that are helpful to know as you interact with your portal on a daily basis. If you read about something that you do not see within your portal, it's probably because the designers and builders of your portal chose not to implement that particular feature.
Note:If you are the page group administrator, you can most likely skip this chapter; a more detailed treatment of this material is contained in Chapter 6, "Preparing to Add Content".
Simply put, a portal enables you to interact with information from many different sources through a single interface. In OracleAS Portal terms, that interface is called a page. The portal itself is a collection of pages.
Figure 1-1 shows how the data and applications that you rely upon to do your job can all be brought together on a single OracleAS Portal page, making it easy for you to get things done without having to constantly navigate your way through your desktop or network.
If you're a user who is just going to look at pages and not add anything to them, you probably don't need to know much about how pages are structured. If you're going to add content to pages, however, or even change existing content, it's important that you know a bit about what goes into creating a page. Let's take a closer look at a conceptual illustration of three different pages:
In this illustration, the dashed lines forming rectangles depict independent areas of a page called regions. Like most pages, those shown here contain a region along the top for the banner, which displays the corporate name and logo. The actual content appears in the body of the page; in these pages, the body consists of three regions, each in a different configuration. Each region is a completely independent area of the page that can display data from vastly different sources. If you were a Human Resources professional, for example, one region might contain the Oracle Human Resources Application, another might have your e-mail application, and the third might display a chart that shows each employee's name, department name and number, and current salary. In most cases, what appears in each region is determined by the page designer.
Although a page like the one just described might prove extremely valuable to an HR employee, it's unlikely that a single page could provide all the information relevant to a given role. One might need to access a page covering corporate news and events, for example, or a collaborative page enabling the entire department to share and exchange information. In OracleAS Portal, you can create links or tabs to all the pages you use the most, keeping only the most important information right at your fingertips.
If you're a typical end user, the pages you access most frequently will be built for you by other people at your site. However, depending on your privilege level, you may have the ability to add content to one or more pages.
In OracleAS Portal, content comes in two forms: items and portlets. An item is something that you explicitly create or add to your portal page. A file is a type of item; so is a block of HTML code, a link to another page, a zip file, and so on. A portlet is a reusable component that is created by someone else—someone at your site, perhaps, or perhaps by Oracle or one of Oracle's partners. For example, to make your company's e-mail application available to you as a portlet, someone with programming expertise must use OracleAS Portal's APIs (application programming interfaces) to enable communication between Portal and that e-mail application. Once the portlet is created, anyone with the proper privileges can simply drop that e-mail portlet onto a page.
OracleAS Portal makes it easy to work with items on pages, once the appropriate privileges have been established. For example, you can use a step-by-step wizard to help you add, edit, or delete items from your pages, or, if you have a WebDAV client such as Web Folders available, you can seamlessly drag and drop files and folders back and forth between your desktop and OracleAS Portal pages.
Keep in mind that just because you have add or edit privileges on a page, you may not see your changes reflected on the page immediately. That's because there are further gradations of privileges beneath the overarching "write" privilege, to help page designers control what is displayed to large audiences and when. If you have Manage With Approval privileges on a page, your changes and additions must be approved by one or more people before it becomes visible to others. To help you keep track of the status of those items, you'll want to have the My Approval Status portlet on one of your frequently used pages so you can see whether your content has been approved, rejected, or is still pending.
Because the information contained in portlets is dynamic, you don't have to do anything to ensure that you always have the latest information. But how do you make sure that you're notified if something changes in one of possibly hundreds of pages and items that impact you? OracleAS Portal helps you keep tabs on important pages and items with its subscription and notification services. When you subscribe to an item or page, an alert is sent to your My Notifications portlet to notify you of the change.
If you are part of an approval chain, the My Notifications portlet also notifies you when something requires your approval. For example, if you must review all HR policies before they are published company-wide, you'll receive an alert when a policy requiring your approval has been published. The policy won't be displayed publicly until you explicitly approve that item.
OracleAS Portal provides many methods to help ensure that items are handled appropriately within your site. For example, you may find that in order to update an item, you first have to check out the item. While you're making your changes, no one else can edit the item, although authorized viewers can still see the item as it was before you checked it out. Once you've checked in the updated item, what happens to the older version? That depends on which versioning options have been established for the item. Depending on the requirements for a particular item, a new version of an item may or may not replace an existing version as the current copy; a copy of the old version may or may not be retained. While keeping older versions handy makes it easy to track changes made to a document over time, such records may not be necessary for all items.
To help you control when people see your work, you can specify a publish date for an item, which means it won't be visible to anyone (except you) before the date you supply. You can also set an expiration date to automatically hide items that are no longer relevant or important. And if item level security is enabled, then you can state who can see, edit, or manage the items that you contribute.
Again, your page group administrator controls which of these options are available to you. Contact that person if you want to take advantage of some of the features just described.
OracleAS Portal provides a robust search component to help you find the content you're looking for. Depending on how the authors of your portal have set things up, your search strings can be compared against a wide variety of classifications, including the name of the item, the author, a description, and keywords associated with the purpose or theme of the item. OracleAS Portal also enables you to instigate more complex searches using boolean logic, such as all pay stubs belonging to a certain employee, or all corporate announcements made on a given date. In addition, you can save your searches and assign them unique names so that you can use them again later without having to re-enter a complicated series of terms. (Keep in mind that although Portal provides all these capabilities, it's up to the people who build your portal to make them available to you and other users.)
Like all aspects of OracleAS Portal, the extent to which you can personalize your interface depends upon the level of privileges that have been granted to you by a page designer or administrator. Assuming you have log-in privileges, you will most likely be able to select your own home page and your own log-in password, and you might be able to select the page style you prefer as well. A page style determines the colors and fonts in which the pages you view are rendered. At the page level, you may have complete authority over your own personal page or home page, but none at all on other pages that are available to the entire company. On some pages, you may be able to personalize portlets to suit your own needs and preferences, or you may be able to hide certain portlets completely so that they don't appear on your page. Going a step further, you may even be able to add to or delete portlets from a page. (You'll know you can add content to a page if you see the Edit link in the top right corner of your page. If you don't see it, you don't have the proper privileges.)