I was recently overwhelmed by the capabilities of the CMS tool BrowserCRM. This tool allows you to quickly create a powerful and flexible Content Management System. First impressions would lead you to think that BrowserCRM is a bit much for a CMS tool; it's not, it just handles things a bit differently. Simple tasks are actually simple. In this article, I'll take an in-depth look at how you can configure BrowserCRM to be a powerful CMS tool.
Getting and installing your license
Upon first logging in (using your administrator user and password) you will see the "Get A License" block, as shown in Figure A.
The first link you will follow is the appropriate license link. I suggest trying the "3 Free" license first. When you apply for a license, you will be sent an e-mail with a .txt file attached. The .txt file will look something like this:
3 Free Licence
Type: 3 Free
Licensed Users: 3
Organisation: YOUR ORGANIZATION
Email: EMAIL YOU PROVIDE
------ LICENCE FILE DATA -------
Now press the "Upload License" button. In the new screen, shown in Figure B, you can either upload or copy and paste the key.
Once you have copied (or uploaded) your key, select Upload Key, and you're done. With the "3 Free" license you will get a report saying the Licence file installed but not verified (complete with Euro spelling).
Now you are ready to begin configuring BrowserCRM.
There is a link near the top of the BrowserCRM window called Desktop; select it to reveal a Getting Started window. As administrator, you will see three important links:
- Configure Your Default Preferences
- Add New Users
- Import Data
Figure C shows your choices.
The first thing you will want to do is to take care of the Default Preferences. There are a lot of preferences to deal with. I won't go through the list, but once you have configured the Default Preferences and pressed Submit, you will be in the Settings window. The Settings of BrowserCRM are not edited in the standard method. Figure D illustrates this.
Take a look at the Accounts row. In this row, you'll see the following under Preferences:
In addition, you'll find these choices under Links:
Under Customized, you'll only find one choice:
- Module Editor
Accounts will show you any contacts you have entered -- if you select List. However, what I want to show you is under Links. Select the Industries link to reveal the real workhorse. What you will see, as illustrated in Figure E, is a listing of various industries that can be chosen when setting up the client. I will show you how to add or remove industries from this list.
Let's say I am setting up this CRM site to be used for a hair salon. I want to add the Color industry to this list. I will press New, enter the name "Color" in the Name field, and press Submit. Your new selectable entry to the drop-down is at the top.
I will be coming back to this section multiple times. Instead of having to navigate my way to it through various menus, BrowserCRM has a nice feature called Bookmarks that will help. Add this location as a bookmark to your personal preferences, and you'll have a fast way to get back to this tool.
To do this, select Bookmark and check the information. I changed the name of the bookmark from Edit Dropdown to Edit Industry Dropdown so I can easily remember what the bookmark was. Once you have completed the information, press Submit to add the bookmark. Now, when you select the Bookmarks link, you will see your bookmark listed. See Figure F below.
Now let's see how that edited drop-down works. Select the Contacts link from the top. We'll add a new Color company to the contacts. Select the New Company link. Now check the Industry drop-down and notice that our newly added Color entry is there, as shown in Figure G.
You can get back to the settings window by clicking the Settings link near the top right of BrowserCRM. Now that you see how these features are starting to function together, you can edit each setting or module for BrowserCRM.
It is critical that you setup your users before you take further action with this system; because of the way BrowserCRM handles functions such as e-mail, you will need users already created. To do this, go to the Desktop and select the Add New Users link. The new screen, seen in Figure H, requires you to enter a good amount of information for each user.
Of course, in a large corporate environment, this will be a taxing task. Unfortunately, I have yet to find a configuration to allow users to create their own account. You can, however, import contacts from a CSV file. To do this, select Settings (top right) and locate the Import function, as shown in Figure I.
The first thing you have to do is create a template for the import. Since there are so many different types of CVS files, the system needs to know some specifics. The first step is to select the New link from within the Template window. The new window (shown in Figure J) will require you to enter and select a few details.
Take note that you need to select the File Type because of the difference in line termination.
Once you press Submit, you will be taken to another screen where you upload the file to be imported. You will also have to take care to decide if you want to keep the field mapping as per your imported file.
The final step will be to map fields. You will see a list of your contacts with each contact in a column, such as:
To the left of these fields will be drop-down boxes. You have to map those fields to the correct item. For instance I would map Jack to Personal -- First Name. I would map Wallen to Personal -- Last Name. I would map Jack Wallen to Personal -- Name. I would map jlwallen@monkeypantz to AddressEmail -- E-mail Address. This will go on until you've mapped all fields correctly. If you do not map the fields, you will get zero imported users. The final step is to select Save Field Mapping and then press Last Step: Import Now.
The resulting page will tell you how many contacts were imported.
Understand that the users imported you will only serve as contacts, not system users. So you still have to go through the steps of setting up users.
Setting up e-mail
Another outstanding feature of BrowserCRM is e-mail. The e-mail client in BrowserCRM is so good it could easily be a replacement for, SquirrelMail, Yahoo, or Hotmail. To set up the e-mail client, go back to the Desktop and then select the Set up and manage your e*mail accounts link. A new screen will then appear , as seen in Figure K, that allows you to set up both sending and receiving e-mail accounts.
Select Receiving Accounts and then select the New link. This new screen, as shown in Figure L, allows you to configure incoming e-mail. Now this incoming e-mail is a bit different from your standard setup.
Users cannot set up their e-mail accounts -- only the system admin can do this -- so you will need to create users first. Once the system users are created (the number of users will be restricted by your license), you can add an e-mail account associated with them.
You should pay close attention to who can view and edit messages, as well as who the owner and admin of the messages are. Also, make sure you look at the extended permissions of the account (by pressing the down arrow to the left of the Permissions). The extended permissions allow you to determine who can view/edit or own/admin the actual account.
Yes, setting up e-mail accounts for everyone in a large company might be a very time-consuming task. Of course, this is simplified in a small business where you want the BrowserCRM to handle only company specific e-mails. For instance, let's say you have a email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. This would be a great tool for this use. Not only would the BrowserCRM handle support-specific e-mail, but you can assign tasks or jobs generated from those e-mails to specific users.
I intend on rolling out plenty of BrowserCRM installations now. After exploring its features and functions, I have found it to be as flexible as any other system of its type. With a bit of creativity, this tool can be twisted to meet nearly any need.
Don't be fooled by what you've read here; I've only scratched the surface of this system. The task/job system, the calendar, the knowledge base, files, memos, and opportunities make this system one very powerful tool. It might take some time, but trust me; you can get BrowserCRM exactly where you want it.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for Techrepublic and Linux.com. As an avid promoter/user of the Linux OS, Jack tries to convert as many users to open source as possible. His current favorite flavor of Linux is Bodhi Linux (a melding of Ubuntu and Enlightenment). When Jack isn't writing about Linux he is hard at work on his other writing career -- writing about zombies, various killers, super heroes, and just about everything else he can manipulate between the folds of reality. You can find Jack's books on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. Outnumbered in his house one male to two females and three humans to six felines, Jack maintains his sanity by riding his mountain bike and working on his next books. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website Get Jack'd.