ProjectForum is a powerful tool for creating a rich, informative wiki for a project. Jack Wallen explains how easy ProjectForum is to administer, configure, and use.
If you run a small business or work for a company or not-for-profit and are in desperate need of help managing projects but don't have the budget for a costly solution, ProjectForum might be the right tool for the job.
ProjectForum (which was created by the people behind CourseForum) provides a simple way to create wikis for projects; the wikis can then be used by groups to maintain and manage the projects. The tool comes with everything needed to run (i.e., no additional web servers or database tools are necessary), making it incredibly easy to use.
ProjectForum has four licensing options -- Free, Basic, Standard, and Enterprise -- which are detailed below.
- Free: one group, unlimited users, essential wiki features
- Basic: one group, unlimited users, essential features + extras. $79
- Standard: multiple wikis, unlimited users, full range of features. $249/one group, $599/five groups, $849/10 groups, $1,799/50 groups
- Enterprise: unlimited wikis >= 150 users, full range of features + extra access controls. Pricing starts at $1,000
ProjectForum offers these features and more (all features are not available in every version of the tool):
- Site, group, project administrators
- Shared password for all users or individual accounts
- Page locking
- Activity tracking
- Version control
- SSL encryption
- Custom links
- Web views
- Simple WYSIWYG editor
- Image and file attachments
- Changes reported via email
You need to download the binary file, run the file, and then point the browser to http://ADDRESS_OF_HOSTING_MACHINE:3455. That machine does not need to already have a web server running in order to host ProjectForum wikis because the server is built in.
ConfigurationThe first time you point a browser to the ProjectForum page, you will be required to set the administrator password. On this same page (Figure A), you can configure the entire site's settings. Figure A
Make sure to visit each tab in order to completely configure the site. (Click the image to enlarge.)
This is how I configured a Standard License of ProjectForum on my test setup:
- Settings: Basic site settings, including admin password, server port, SSL, group password.
- Messages: MOTD
- User Accounts: Create individual users who can use the site.
- Notification: Set up email notification (SMTP server will be necessary to set this up).
- Import: Import group from another ProjectForum site.
- Custom Themes: Add and select themes for site.
- Custom Links: Create custom formatting commands to be used on the site. Custom Links is an advanced feature used to create special formatting, integrate external content from other sites/services, and more.
- Web views: Set up static views of a wiki.
Build a wikiThe next step is to create a wiki. To do this, log out of the administration site and then click the Create New Group on the front page. Now you will be on the Group Admin page (Figure B). You should go to the Settings tab and set a password for the group. Figure B
Click the image to enlarge.
There are a number of variations to this Group Admin page that are not seen on the main admin page. Specifically, the group administrator can:
- User Accounts: Add users to the group (these users must already exist on the site).
- Activity: Set up activity logs for the group.
- Export: Export the group into a static page that can be easily viewed online.
- Email: Allow a specific email address to be watched and any incoming email will then be posted into the group forum.
- Page templates: Manage page templates that can be used by registered users.
- Key pages: Manage the pages that are shown on every page of the group.
- Storage: Get information on how much space the group is taking up on the machine. From this same page, you can delete the older versions, unused files, and non-current files, as well as compact the databases and flush the log files.
- Pages: List and give access to all pages associated with the group.
- Attachments: List all attachments that have been added by users.
Work with templates
When you create templates, it makes building the group wiki much easier. Instead of users or administrators creating pages by hand every time, you can create templates that users can then load. This is how to create a template:
- From outside of the Group Admin page, create a page and format it the way in which it must be used for the template. (Figure C shows a simple template created for a new wiki).
- Save the template page.
- Go back into the Group Admin page and click the Page Templates tab.
- Add the name of the new template to the bottom of the list and click Save Changes.
This is a template for a fictitious wiki for the Fringe Division. (Click the image to enlarge.)
When an authenticated user wants to use that template, these are the steps she would need to take:
- From within the Group page, click New Page.
- Give the new page a title.
- From the Start This Page With drop-down, select the template to be used.
- Click the Load Template button.
The user can create her new page based on the template. The changes made to this page are not reflected on the original template.
ProjectForum is a powerful tool that can be a free or affordable means to creating a rich, informative wiki for a project. I highly recommend this tool for anyone who needs such a web-based tool, but doesn't want to have to also run a full-blown web server. If you've ever worked with a wiki, you will have no problem working with ProjectForum.