Oracle Portal Building Portals
Release 3.0.8

Part Number A87570-01





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What Is Oracle Portal?

This chapter introduces some basic information about Oracle Portal, and provides a brief introduction to the examples presented in this book. Sections included are:

1.1 How Does Oracle Portal Work?

Oracle Portal helps you efficiently manage, access, and interact with information by enabling you to create three distinct entities: content areas, which provide a built-in structure for organizing, classifying, and cross-referencing items in a Web site; applications, which allow you to insert, maintain, and display data from your Oracle 8i database; and pages, which make data from your content areas, applications--even sources outside your intranet--accessible from a single location. Even after you become familiar with these concepts, using the product to its fullest potential requires a solid understanding of how all the pieces fit together. Let's take a look at the following illustration:

Figure 1-1 Oracle Portal Content Areas, Pages, and Applications

It is important to realize that the placement of pages, portlets, and portlet providers in the center is significant. Although you can use Oracle Portal to create content areas and/or applications without ever creating or using pages, the focus of Oracle Portal is really to enable you to build portals. A portal is a Web-based application that enables your users to access content areas, external Web sites, other applications, newsfeeds, and other useful information. In very simple terms, a portal makes chunks of information, usually from disparate data sources, accessible from a single entry point. That entry point is called a page. For example, a financial analyst's page would likely include relevant financial information from real-time Internet-based stock quotes, financial reports from an online repository, and access to the legacy financial accounting and banking systems. None of these data sources are inherently similar, or even know anything about each other; yet with Oracle Portal, they can all be presented side-by-side, right on the same page.

1.1.1 Pages

As mentioned, a page is really the face of the portal: what users see and use to interact with the content of the portal. The appearance of the page--that is, the colors and fonts in which the page is rendered--is controlled by the page style.

Each page is divided into rectangles or squares called regions. Within each region, you can place one or more portlets. A portlet is a re-usable information component that summarizes or provides access to an information source. Portlets are the fundamental building blocks of an Oracle Portal page. What are "portlets"?

You can think of portlets as "Web components" which display excerpts of other Web sites and generate summaries of key information. These portlets can then be collected with other portlets so that users have easy access to frequently used sites and information, all from one page. Oracle Portal uses portlets to integrate both structured and unstructured data into a single, personalized view.

You can use portlets to access nearly any type of Web-accessible information, such as files published on the corporate intranet, reports on data managed by enterprise applications, and news or stock quotes from the Internet.

Here are some common uses for portlets:

A portlet belongs to a portlet provider that has been registered with Oracle Portal. Each portlet can have one and only one provider; a provider may have one or more than one portlet that exposes an underlying application or data source. Applications, content areas--even other pages--can all be portlet providers, because elements from each can be placed within a region on a page as portlets. Within a content area, navigation bars, folders, categories, and perspectives can all be published as portlets. Within an application, components such as menus, forms, reports, and so on can become portlets. The dashed lines in Figure 1-1 represent the ability of each object to be published as a portlet.

For example, you might create a navigation bar in a content area, publish the navigation bar to the portal, then include the navigation bar as a portlet on a page. If Yahoo! was a portlet provider, you might have portlets such as local television listings, your calendar, your Yahoo email account, and so on. Oracle Portal provides instructions for creating your portlet providers in the Portal Development Kit (PDK), so you can even make data from your proprietary applications available to your pages. For more information, see Oracle Portal Release 3.0 Development Kit or visit

Each provider is defined, registered, and maintained within a single instance (node) of Oracle Portal. Once a provider is registered with an Oracle Portal node, its portlets are available to be placed on a page. A local node is the instance of Oracle Portal to which you are logged on; a remote node is another instance. In Figure 1-1, Node 4 is considered the local node. Although Node 4 is the only node shown in detail, Node 3, which contains another instance of Oracle Portal, would most likely embody a similar structure. Nodes 1 and 2 represent participants in the Oracle E-Business Portals Partner Initiative, which is dedicated to fostering a community of outside partners to develop content and solutions built around Oracle Portal. The solid lines tipped with arrows from each of these nodes suggest that they have been added to the local node as remote nodes. By doing so, the local node gains access to all portlets available on these nodes for use on locally created pages.

Oracle Portal provides two methods of creating portlets. You can use the Oracle Portal user interface to either leverage external information sources or to create your own applications or content areas that display as portlets.

1.1.2 Content Areas

Note: For the purposes of this chapter, a sample content area focusing on the entertainment industry has been created. See Table 2-1 on page 6 and Table 2-2 on page 7 for a complete description of the Entertainment content area.

Each content area is made up of folders, in which items are stored. Within the Entertainment content area, for example, there is a folder for Dance, one for Music, and so on. Within each folder are items: files, URLs, images, even other folders that relate to the folder in which they are contained. An item in this content area might be a review of an event written up by a reporter from the local newspaper.

Just as the appearance of a page is controlled by the page style applied to the page, so is the appearance of a folder controlled by the content area style applied to the folder. Navigation bars, which help you move quickly to key areas of the content area, are also controlled by content area styles. Content area styles and page styles are distinct entities, however: you cannot apply a content area style to a page, nor a page style to a folder or navigation bar. The layout of a folder is also determined by the content area style.

Following along with the diagram, next come some classifications that help characterize an item:

For information on how to plan your content areas, see "Planning Content Areas" on page 6. What's the Difference Between Content Areas and Pages?

1.1.3 Applications

Oracle Portal components, such as menus, reports, forms, calendars, and so on, may be used individually or may be connected to produce complete Web-based database applications. For example, an employee expense chart may link to a report that details individual expenses. When you publish an application's component as a portlet, that application becomes a portlet provider.

Each application you build in Oracle Portal is based on a schema in the database. In addition, you can create and manage other database objects for use by application components, such as schemas, tables, views, stored procedures, and so on. For example, you might create a table object and use it to manage data inserted/updated/deleted by a form component. The data within the table can then be displayed to users through a chart or report component.

1.1.4 Security

The letters ACL you see next to some of the boxes stand for Access Control List. The ACL controls which users and groups may access the object, and to what extent. For example, if you wanted all the users in a group to be able to see the items in a folder on a content area, in the folder's ACL you would grant that group View privileges. Content areas, folders, and items all have ACLs, as do pages, components, schemas, and applications.

ACLs are just one way you can control access to objects within Oracle Portal. You can also use global privileges to grant access to all objects of a given type. For example, granting the Create privilege for All Pages to a group enables all members of the group to create pages. (If the ACL and a global privilege conflict, the higher privilege level prevails.)

1.1.5 Putting It All Together

Now let's see how all these pieces might look on a page. The following illustration depicts a very simple example of how you might bring together data from three different sources together on a single page:

Notice that the folder in the content area contains regions, as do pages. A folder region contains items; a page region contains portlets. As you can see, only one of the folder regions depicted actually appears on the page. You can do this by publishing the folder as a portlet, then using the Customize link to exclude all other folder regions except the one you want to display.

Another region on the page contains a form from an application you built with Oracle Portal. Finally, you populate your third page region with a portlet provided by an external business partner. This simple example demonstrates how easy it is to create completely customized sets of information for individual users or groups.

Note: For a graphical introduction to Oracle Portal, visit the Oracle Portal Quick Tour in the online help system or at

1.2 Examples in the Building Advanced Portals manual

The examples contained in this manual are intended to provide you with a starting point for building your own intranet portals using Oracle Portal. This manual describes two scenarios: the basic intranet portal and a line of business portal.

1.2.1 Simple intranet portal

This portal example teaches you how to build a basic page for your intranet, and add pre-built portlets that are provided with Oracle Portal. You will build a customizable HTML portlet, where you can add your own HTML. You will also learn how to build a calendar application, where users can add, delete, and modify events. In this example, you'll learn how to create a form, a calendar, and a link.

1.2.2 Line of business portal

This portal example teaches you how to add a page to the simple intranet portal. You will learn how to build chart components, then build a tabbed portlet that accesses these charts. You will also build several forms, reports, and folders and expose them as portlets on your portal page. You will also learn how to build a menu portlet to organize existing documents and data, as well as documents you create.

1.2.3 Human Resources portal

This portal example teaches you how to control the display of components and tabs within a portal to enable you to create a customized workplace. You will learn how to build a team organization chart, as well as reports based on SQL queries. you will also learn how to build complex applications to display different information on the portal, depending on the type of user. You will also learn how to leverage information in an existing content area in a portal.

1.2.4 Information repository

This content area example teaches you how to build a repository of information that contains all types of information, including text, documents, and images. You will learn how to use a content area to create an information repository that provides Healthy Living employees with access to all the information they need in their day-to-day lives within the company.

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