13.1 Understanding Navigation in Oracle Portal

Oracle Portal provides opportunities for adding site navigation both manually and declaratively. On the manual end, create your own navigation pages, publish them as portlets, and add them anywhere on a page. On the declarative end, configure custom search portlets to find content by attribution, such as by its category, perspective, create date, author, and so on, and publish results automatically in page portlets.

This section provides a brief overview of these navigation objects and elements. It contains the following subsections:

13.1.1 Navigation Pages

A navigation page is a special type of page that can be included on other pages to provide a consistent set of navigational elements. A navigation page might contain a logo, the page title, a login link, and links to main pages, such as a home page and any other top-level portal pages. Typically, navigation pages are used for navigation bars, page banners, and page footers.

Navigation pages are excluded from searches, preventing their unnecessary inclusion in search result sets.

Creating a navigation page is similar to creating a standard page: create a page, devise a layout, apply a style, and add content. Then take the extra step of publishing it as a portlet. Once it is published as a portlet, a navigation page becomes available for selection on a banner pick list in the Create Page wizard. From here, other users can add it to their pages. Navigation pages that are published as portlets can be added to any portlet region on a page.

Although you can add any item or portlet to a navigation page, and even divide your navigation page into several regions, bear in mind that the idea is to add navigation pages to other pages. Consider designing navigation pages that take up as little space as possible, so that when they are added to other pages, there is still plenty of room for the rest of the page content.

For information on publishing a navigation page as a portlet, see Section 13.3, "Publishing a Navigation Page as a Portlet". For information on selecting a default navigation page for a page group, see Section 4.5.4, "Choosing a Default Navigation Page for a Page Group".

13.1.2 Smart Links, Breadcrumbs, Search Boxes, and Object Map Links

Oracle Portal provides built-in navigation item types that you can use for rapid construction of site navigation. Among these are Smart Links, Breadcrumbs, Search Boxes, and Object Map Links.

Smart Links get their values automatically from previously configured portal properties. For example, when page group administrators create page groups, they can specify a contact e-mail address. To place this information on a page, all you do is add the Contact Smart Link item. The appropriate e-mail address is automatically fetched from the page group configuration information, and the specified address displays on the page. You could add a Contact Smart Link to a Portal Template in the Shared Objects page group. No matter which page group used that template, the correct contact information would always display on the page.

Other automatically created Smart Links include Account Information links; Advanced Search links; and links to your portal's Home, the Portal Navigator, the Portal Builder, the Portlet Repository, and the personal page of the currently logged-in user.

Another built-in navigation item type is the Page Path Smart Link (Figure 13-2). This element is more familiarly known as breadcrumbs. Once placed, you can configure the number of steps up the page hierarchy the breadcrumbs should display and the separator to use between each breadcrumb.

Figure 13-2 Page Path Item (Breadcrumbs) Showing Two Levels up the Page Hierarchy

Page Path item (breadcrumbs)

The Basic Search Box Smart Link provides a quick way to enable your users to search for specific portal content. Simply place it on a page, and you're done. Users can enter search criteria based on content attributes, such as display name, author, publication date, keywords, and, perhaps most usefully, content classification, such as the object's assigned category or one of its perspectives. This is an easy way to assist your users in getting to specific types of content rapidly.

For information on working with built-in navigation item types, see Section 13.6, "Populating a Navigation Page with Navigation Elements".

13.1.3 Custom Searches

Traditionally, you might think of navigation as a tool for clicking a series of links to get to content. The Custom Search portlet provides a navigation method that brings the content to you.

The Custom Search portlet is a powerful tool for automatically serving up fresh, focused content to your users. Use it to set up a query that executes automatically every time a user accesses a page. Your query can specify a search for all content that is classified under a particular category or perspective, is written by a certain author, was published on a certain date. Search against any type of attribute associated with your portal content. This includes custom attributes that you create.

The query can execute automatically and publish results in the same portlet from which it was executed. This means that you could place one or more Custom Search portlets on a page, and have each of them serve up a particular type of content. You could guarantee the freshness of that content by managing the values of the attributes that serve as search criteria. For example, if a Custom Search portlet automatically searches for all items with a Create Date greater than the start of the week, you could use that as a basis for a New This Week region on your page. Once a week, the content manager could update the date to filter out anything older than the start of the current week.

You can specify more than one search criterion for a Custom Search portlet. Doing so makes it possible to refine the search so that a specific class of content is served up in a given portlet.

For more information about Custom Search portlets, see Chapter 16, "Working with Search Portlets".