Milen Dyankov

Software Engineer, Consultant, Developer Advocate

Liferay Beginner's Guide - review

February 01, 2012 | 4 Minute Read

As I promised a few weeks ago, in this post I’ll share my thoughts about “Liferay Beginner’s Guide” book. As with earlier reviews, don’t expect any judgments, recommendations or generalizations. Those are to be made by you. I’ll only concentrate on what I found interesting (or boring) and worth mentioning (for one reason or another). So let me try to summarize over 350 pages in a few lines.

The first thing to mention is that you will not have to write a single line of code (apart from configuration). This book seems to be meant for …, hmm. I was about to write “administrators” but thats not the right term here. Please help me find the English term for a adventurous webmaster who goes like - download, make a couple of clicks to configure and then “go live”. In another words, I have the impression the authors goal was to show that Liferay is just as easy to install and configure as all these popular CMS systems written in PHP. Whether that’s the truth or not, you’ll have to decide for yourself.

The first 60 pages will teach you to … install. No, sure it’s not that hard to install Liferay. The book will teach you to install everything you (may eventually) need - Java, MySQL, OpenOffice, and then a combination of Liferay and a few of the major application servers out there (like JBoss, Glassfish, Weblogic). Don’t expect any detailed description or explanation of what’s where in configuration files. The book goes like “copy the file”, “click here” and “type this there”. If this procedure fails for some reason, you’ll have to look for help somewhere else.

Also the whole installation part assumes your OS is Windows. As most of you probably still use this “state of the art” OS, the approach is probably OK if you install locally to give it try. But once you decide to go on-line, you’ll have to either pay the price for Windows hosting or find another book to tell you how to do the same installation and configuration in some “better suited for the net” OS.

The next 200 pages will walk you through portal configuration as well as site and content management. As usual, some things are better explained then other, but if you are a novice you’ll get the idea of how Liferay was meant to work. By the way, in case you want my advice, as soon as you think you have figured it all out, go read the chapter again. If the impression remains, switch to more advanced book. No, don’t get me wrong, it’s not that there is something wrong with the book. Just keep in mind, it was meant to be for beginners and some Liferay features (permissions for example) deserve a book of their own.

The most odd (at least for me) part of the book is in the next 60 or so pages and attempts to explain how to set up an on-line shop. I have to admit, the authors do their best to explain the Liferay’s out of the box features in this context. But the question that still bothers me is “Why would beginner be interested in setting up on-line store with Liferay?” I mean, are there chapters about setting up an on-line shops in any “A popular CMS written in PHP beginner’s guide” book? I have no idea what was the authors’ intention. Perhaps, showing up that Liferay is more than simply CMS. Well it is! It’s a portal! But it’s definitely not an e-commerce suite! The fact that out of the box you get a couple of portlets which have some basic product catalog and shopping cart functionality, does not make it such. Setting up an on-line store is NOT about having a shopping cart on the web site. It’s rather complex subject that requires good understating of security and at least some understanding of what terms like “Product bundling”, “SKU”, “Price lists”, “Upselling”, “Cross-selling”, etc mean. Sorry for emphasizing this but please trust me, even if you memorize the whole chapter, you are NOT ready to go live with your first on-line store.

OK, this post became too long so time to sum it up. The book is definitely for beginners. But actually it’s a good thing, as I don’t recall any other Liferay book targeting this audience. So if you are trying to figure out what is Liferay, what it offers and where you are supposed to click, then it may be an useful guide. Of course, It will not tell you the whole story, but at least it will answer most of the questions a beginner asks. It’s very likely the book will significantly reduce the time you spend googling for answers. It may even save me and many other people some time, as we would eventually spend less time answering basic questions on Liferay forums ;).