Manage documents for free with OpenDocMan

The OpenDocManager open source tool can help your small business get its documentation into a form that is easy to use and to manage.

For many companies, storing documentation on a shared drive is enough. But what if you need a system for check-out/check-in, easy search, departments, and user control? You can go with a full-blown content management system, or you can focus your energy on a single-minded document management system such as OpenDocMan. This free document management system offers these features:

  • Add any file type to the system
  • Upload directly from your browser
  • Metadata fields for each file
  • Departments/categories
  • Check-out/check-in
  • Revision history
  • Documents stored physically on the server
  • File expiration
  • Custom document properties
  • Automated document review process
  • Automated file expiration process
  • Approve or reject a new or changed document
  • E-mail notification
  • Quick search by author, department, or category
  • Full search by metadata, author, department, category, file name, comments, etc.


  • PHP 5/MySQL 5
  • Apache/IIS

A LAMP (Linux Apach MySQL PHP) or a WAMP (Windows Apache MySQL PHP) server will do just fine. In this post, I will be installing on a Ubuntu-based LAMP server. If you install on a WAMP server, you would have to make slight adjustments to the process.

Preparing for installation

With a LAMP server up and running, you need to take care of several tasks prior to installation.

1. Create a database, which you can do with your normal tool (I prefer MySQL Workbench). You will be asked to name the database in the installation process, so be sure to remember the name you give it.

2. Create a data directory outside of the OpenDocManager install directory. For my installation, I created the directory dataDIR in /var/www/ with the command sudo mkdir /var/www/dataDIR.

3. Give the newly created directory write permissions with the command sudo chmod -R ugo+w /var/www/dataDIR.

Installing OpenDocMan

The first step is to download the latest, stable release from the OpenDocMan download page (in either .zip or .gz format). After the file downloads, move it into the document root of your web server (in my case, /var/www/).

Next, open a terminal window and change into the Apache document root. You must unpack the archive file by using a command like sudo tar xvzf opendocman-XXX.tar.gz (XXX is the release number). This will create a new directory called opendocman-XXX (XXX is the release number). I prefer to rename that directory for the sake of simplicity. To do that, issue the command sudo mv opendocman-XXX opendocman (XXX is the release number).

In order to smooth out the installation process, you need to make sure the opendocman folder belongs to the user associated with the web server. For example, if your web server user is apache, you'd want to give ownership of that folder with a command like sudo chown -R apache.apache opendocman. This command should give the installation the right permissions to proceed. Now, open a web browser and point it to http://ADDRESS_TO_SERVER/opendocman (ADDRESS_TO_SERVER is the address to the machine hosting OpenDocManager). This will start the web-based installer.

Since this is a new installation, you will be prompted to click the Create A Configuration File button (Figure A). If you get an error after clicking the button, you need to manually give write permissions to the contents of the opendocman folder. Figure A

Click the image to enlarge.
The next screen will ask you for the database information (Figure B); all of the information requested in this screen is self-explanatory. (If you haven't already created the database, you need to do that first.) Remember to enter everything carefully and that the data directory is the new directory you created outside of the OpenDocManager root directory. Also, be sure to make note of the password you give the admin user (i.e., the only available user upon completion of the installation) because you'll need that to log in.

After you enter this information, click the Next button. If you get a permissions error for the templates_c directory, issue the command sudo chmod -R ugo+w /var/www/opendocman/templates_c.

Figure B

Click the image to enlarge.

Click the Run The Installer button for the installation to complete. After you click the Click Here link that appears, you will go to a login page. Log in with the user admin and the password you created during installation.

Congratulations! You have a working installation of OpenDocManager.

Post installation

You need to go back to the terminal window and issue the command sudo rm -rf /var/www/opendocman/install. Then you should go to the admin panel (Figure C) and start adding departments, categories, users, etc. From this point, the system is incredibly easy to use. Your users will be adding docs, checking docs in and out, and more. Figure C

Click the image to enlarge.


Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website

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