eXo is an outstanding open source social networking platform; it’s also a prime candidate for a collaboration tool that users will find intuitive because the interface is “social” in design and very simple to use. With eXo, you can comment on posts, upload and share docs, create groups, and much more.

There are three flavors of eXo: Community, Express, Enterprise. The flavor we will be focusing on is the Community Edition. This particular version offers:

  • A social intranet solution
  • User acceptance QA
  • A Tomcat bundle
  • Native mobile apps
  • Access to community addons
  • Access to community forums

It might seem a bit limited, but it’s not. Once you get eXo up and running, you’ll be shocked at how much the Community Edition offers.

Installation requirements

  • CPU: 3 GHz Multi-core recommended
  • Memory: 4 GB of RAM (8 GB recommended)
  • Disk: 2 GB (depending of the amount of data)
  • OS: Windows or Linux
  • JDK: Java 6 or 7 (set the JAVA_HOME environment variable)
  • Browser: Google Chrome 25+, Firefox 19+, or Internet Explorer 8+
  • Port 8080 must be open on the internal network

Installing eXo

There really isn’t an installation for eXo; you simply download and extract the file, run an executable, and wait for the command to tell you when the service is ready. Here are the detailed steps:

  1. Download the zip file that fits your platform (Windows, Linux, Mac).
  2. Unzip that file.
  3. Change into the newly created eXo-Platform-community-XXX directory (XXX is the release number).
  4. Run the start_eXo script*.
  5. Wait for the script to finish.

* On Windows: Open a DOS prompt command, go to eXo-Platform-community-XXX directory (XXX is the release number), and type the command “start_eXo.bat”.

* On Linux: Open a terminal, go to the eXo-Platform-community-XXX directory (where XXX is the release number), and type the command “./start_eXo.sh”.

Once you run the command, prepare for a long wait, because quite a lot of services are being started. You will see information fly by like what you see in Figure A.
Figure A

The startup of the system will take quite a while. (Click the image to enlarge.)

The command output will let you know it’s time to open your web browser and point it to http://ADDRESS_OF_SERVER:8080/portal. When you do that, you will see the Account Setup screen (Figure B). This is where you need to enter the information for your first user as well as the Administrator credentials.
Figure B

I have yet to see any difference between the user created during installation and the superuser. (Click the image to enlarge.)

The next window is a reminder to start creating users. Click Start, and you will be sent to the eXo main window (Figure C).
Figure C

Your eXo main window, which looks similar to Google+. (Click the image to enlarge.)

Once you’re logged in, the first thing you should do is add your company logo. To do that, go to Administration | Portal | Branding and Upload your logo and Save it (Figure D).
Figure D

You can also choose from a dark themed or light themed Navigator bar. (Click the image to enlarge.)

The next phase is to add users (users cannot sign up from the web interface). To manually enter a user, go to Administration | Users | Add User. Once you fill out that user information, you can add the user to a security group. To add a user to one of the built-in security groups, follow these steps:

  1. Go to Administration | Users | Groups And Roles.
  2. From the Groups listing, click the group you want to add to.
  3. In the right pane (Figure E), enter the user you want to add.
  4. In the Membership drop-down, select the type of member this will be (author, editor, manager, etc.).
  5. Click Save.

Continue doing this until all of your users are set up. After you complete this task, you should go back and manage your applications (you can actually manage the applications first thing, if you like).

Figure E

Tap the name icon (the figure to the right of the username entry) to select from a list of users. (Click the image to enlarge.)

What you can do with application management is define what groups and memberships have access to a particular application. Follow these steps:

  1. Log in as the administrator.
  2. Go to Administration | Applications.
  3. Navigate to the application to be managed and click its entry (Figure F).
  4. Select the Group from the left pane.
  5. Select the Membership from the right pane.

Once you’ve selected a membership from the right pane, the permission will be added to the application. You can add and remove as much as necessary.

Figure F

Giving memberships access to applications. (Click the image to enlarge.)

Now it’s just a matter of creating spaces that users can join (or be assigned to by an admin) and post about a specific topic. To create a space, do the following:

  1. Log in as the administrator.
  2. Click My Spaces.
  3. Click +Add New Space.
  4. In the popup window (Figure G), give the space a name and description (optional).
  5. Define the access (Visibility: visible/hidden, Registration: open/validation/closed).
  6. Define the group to invite to the space.
  7. Click Create.

Figure G

You can create as many spaces as necessary. (Click the image to enlarge.)

From this point on, it’s just a matter of becoming familiar with the platform. Fortunately, since we’re dealing with a social-centric tool, the learning curve should be a breeze.

When you want to stop the eXo server, go back to the terminal window it was started from and issue the stop_eXo command (either .sh or .bat) in a similar fashion as you did with the start command.