Alfresco Interface – Differences between Share and HPI

We are working with a couple of different clients that are considering TSG’s High Performance Interface (HPI) to as an alternative to Alfresco Share.  This post will discuss some of the key differences between the two interfaces for those clients considering alternative Alfresco interfaces.

HPI and Share – what do they have in common?

It is important to understand that both Alfresco Share and HPI can access the same repository.  See our webinar with Alfresco back in February of 2014 on how HPI can be used to enhance Alfresco Share.

Before discussing differences, a quick review of some of the important attributes that HPI and Share have in common include:

  • No end user cost – Both HPI and Share can be added to an Alfresco Enterprise implementation without having to pay a per-user or other type of purchase cost.
  • Access to Source code – Both HPI and Share allow for customers to access to source code to modify for their particular implementation. While Share is available as Open Source, TSG has moved to a visible source model where clients gain access to the code as part of a small support arrangement.
  • Latest Web Frameworks – Both interfaces leverage the latest web frameworks including HTML5 and JQuery.
  • Stable Code Base – Share was first released in 2008. HPI was first released in 2005.  Both have been in use at clients, performance tested, supported and improved over time.
  • Authentication – Both leverage the Alfresco repository for authentication. Users and groups can be created manually in the repository or synchronized from other sources like LDAP.
  • Alfresco API – Both work off the Alfresco API and access the repository in a consistent manner. Share accesses the API through REST web scripts, HPI accesses the repository leveraging REST based calls to OpenContent.  Both the web scripts and OpenContent are built using the same Alfresco core Java APIs.  OpenContent runs as a subsystem within Alfresco and is TSG’s access layer to Alfresco, but also supports Documentum and Hadoop.
  • Integration – both tools can be integrated into other systems/solutions in a variety of manners.
  • Document Preview – Both HPI and Share use a combination of transformation server to generate PDFs and PDF.JS for preview of documents.
  • OpenAnnotate – Both Alfresco Share and HPI can include our PDF Annotation product, OpenAnnotate. See a video in our learning zone of Alfresco Share and OpenAnnotate.

Alfresco Share and HPI – Key Differences – One Size fits all versus Business Process

The core difference between Alfresco Share and HPI can be seen in the business use cases they were built to address.

  • As Alfresco’s primary interface, Alfresco Share has to address a wide variety of use cases for Alfresco. As the primary demonstration tool for the Alfresco sales channel, Alfresco Share must provide access to all Alfresco capabilities.
  • As an integration tool, HPI has been developed by TSG based on specific customer scenarios. Most of these scenarios surround Case Management and the ability to quickly search and navigate to a folder and perform business specific activities.

Typical example requests by experienced end users that result in HPI being chosen include:

  • Instead of searching all documents, can I search the ones that are relevant to me?
  • Can I control folder and document creation based on my business rules?
  • Can I require that metadata fields be populated during the document upload process rather than at a later time?
  • Can I control what functions are available for each type of document?
  • Can I streamline the approval process of workflows to reduce training?

Some key components that Alfresco clients point out that are provided by HPI in a Case Management scenario include:

  • Search Driven (Share is Folder Driven)
  • Side by Side Viewing of Documents
  • Related Folder Access and Viewing
  • Bulk Upload and property update
  • Folder Notes
  • Document Property Population
  • Folder Audit
  • Email from Folder with recording of email and documents
  • UI Admin Configuration (Share requires XML configuration, but an interface is in the works)

Key components that exist in Share but do not exist in HPI primarily focus on collaboration.  Collaboration components include the Calendar, Wiki, Blog, Activity Feed, etc.

One other significant difference has to do with folder navigation.  Share has extensive folder navigation to provide a the ability to add folders and navigate through a folder tree.  HPI has a folder offering, but the primary focus has always focused on search to a folder rather than the browse approach.

Alfresco Share versus HPI – Overall interface theme

Consistent with a “one size fits all” approach, Alfresco Share initially shows off every possible capability out of the box.  See the view of a document below as an example of how a document is initially displayed with all possible actions and properties displayed to the user.

Share Document

HPI focuses on a more minimalist approach where the actions are only displayed when requested.

HPI View

In the picture above, the user must select the properties icon to see the properties.

HPI Properties

Alfresco Share versus HPI – Search – Similar but different

Search is a common point of differentiation with Share and HPI.  Alfresco Share provides, out of the box, a generic search form that can be extended with XML configuration.  Search criteria take up one full page with results being show in a separate page.

Share Search Share Search Results

HPI provides a simplified, user-configurable search focused on a business user search that provides search criteria and results in one screen.

HPI Search

HPI introduces the concept of “Trac” as a grouping of types of search for a certain business function (Legal, Accounts Payable) with sub searches within those Tracs.  See related demonstration in the TSG learning zone.

Many clients have implemented HPI Search alongside Alfresco Share to provide a simplified search experience.

Alfresco Share and HPI  – Configuration Differences

Another major differences between Alfresco Share and HPI has to do with how the two products are configured.

Alfresco Share requires that user interface configuration for search forms, edit/view properties screens, and enabling/disabling actions be made in XML files.  The level of effort to configure Share increases as the size and complexity of the content model increases.  After configuration changes have been made, the Share web application must be restarted before the changes become visible to users.

HPI configurations are stored in a JSON object in the Alfresco repository.  Some differentiators between the configurations include:

  • HPI configuration file is accessed after the user has signed on to the system. In this manner, specific configurations can be assigned to an individual users.  This is a key point in our approach for multi-tenancy.
  • Alfresco Share requires a restart of the server if configurations are changed. HPI allows for any configuration to be changed without requiring a restart of the Alfresco Server.

Summary

Alfresco Share and HPI both provide unique capabilities for Alfresco users and are available without a per-user purchase price.  Alfresco Share provides more of a “do everything” Alfresco tool with a strength regarding adhoc folder creation/navigation and collaboration.  HPI is more focused on specific business use, mostly focused on Case Management with a Search focus (rather than folder browse) and navigation to a case or smart folder.  Alfresco users should evaluate both tools to provide the most amount of choice and flexibility given their ECM needs.