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User Guide

Chapter 3: Using Plone

Logging In

If you already have a username and password, you can log in to the site by typing them into the log in box in the lefthand column and clicking the log in link. Cookies must be enabled for you to log in to a Plone site.

Forgotten password

If you forget your password it can be sent to the email address you provided when you registered. You can request that your password be mailed to you by clicking on the Forgot your password? link located in the left-hand column of the website. If you did not specify a valid email address when you registered, you will need to contact your site administrator.

Logging out

Once you are logged in to the Plone site, in the upper right hand corner you will see a link to log out. It is good practice to log out of Plone when you are finished using it.

Member Folders

Each member has a folder where they can create and store content. They are located in the Members folder and contain a default home page called index_html. To see your member folder, click on the my folder link in the personal bar in the upper right hand corner of the site.

Setting User Preferences

In the upper right hand corner there is also a my preferences link that opens the Personalize form. This form allows you to set a number of preferences that change how you interact with the site.

  • E-Mail - This is the email address associated with your membership and is used a number of places in a Plone site. Most importantly, if you lose or forget your password, this is the address the system will send it to.
  • Content editor - When editing complex content you may want the help of an editor. If your site administrator has made one available, you can select it here. It will then be used when you click on the edit tab of an object. Default: None
  • Listed status - This property specifies whether your profile will show up on the Members tab and when someone searches the members listing. Default: Listed
  • Form Help - Each form field has an associated pop-up box that provides context-sensitive help. This is very useful for newcomers to the system as they will be notified of the usage of a particular form field when they are filling it out. Users who don't want help can turn this off by selecting no. Default: Yes
  • Display Names - Objects have a Name property that is used for the internal representation of the content object. The Name also shows up in the object's web address (also called a URL). By default these look something like: News_Item.2002-11-16.4102 but you could make it much simpler such as november_news by changing the Name value. Default: Yes

Note: When you change an object's name value, anything that references the older name will no longer be valid and would result in the page not being found. It is best not to change the name value after you submit an object for review or link to it from elsewhere.

  • Look - Some people like to change the look and feel of Plone and several looks or themes are provided to allow this. Select the look you would like for your Plone site. Default: Plone Default
  • Portrait - In larger organizations and in community websites it is useful to see pictures of other members. The portrait field allows you to upload a picture that is 75 pixels wide and 100 pixels high. (If you upload a picture that is a different size, it will be resized to 75 x 100).

Once you have made the desired changes to your preferences, click save to commit them.

Adding and editing content

As a site member, you have a folder in the members section where you can store your content. Rather than detailing how to add and edit all the different types of content available, we will cover adding one type of content, a Document, in detail. All content types are added and edited in a very similar manner, so it is mostly a matter of repeating the steps here.

What is a Document?

A document is a page of content, usually a self-contained piece of text. Documents can be written in several different formats, plain text, HTML or Structured Text. The default home page for a Plone site is one example of a document.

Adding a document

To add a document, you will need to be in Contents View mode; the link is available on the left hand side of the page. This mode shows you the list of objects in the folder and lets you edit them. If you do not see the Switch to Contents View link, you do not have permission to add or edit content in this location.

Adding a document

Once you are in Contents View, you will notice a drop down box in the upper right hand corner of the center panel next to the "add new item" button. This gives you the list of content types you can add in this folder. Select Document from this list, then click add new item. Once a document has been added you are taken immediately to the edit page for that document.

Editing a document

The document can be edited directly in the web browser, using the edit form. One thing to note is the highlighted edit tab at the top of the page. Messages appear at the top of this page, as shown below.

Editing a document

There are four fields for a document:

  • Name: This identifier will become part of the document's web address. It should be short, descriptive and contain no underscores or mixed case. For example, "audit-report-2003". If you do not provide a name, Plone will create one for you.
  • Title: This item will be shown at the top of the page, in the breadcrumbs, in the search interface, in the title of the browser and so on. This field is required.
  • Description: This is a short lead in to the document - usually no more than 20 words - to introduce the document and provide a teaser for the remainder of the document.
  • Body Text: This field contains the body of the document. The format for the content is set using the radio buttons below the field. They are:
  • Structured Text: The default setting. Structured text is a format for taking plain text and producing HTML without the user having to learn or type HTML. Structured Text references are available by following these links:
  • HTML: Any arbitrary HTML can be entered by a user.
  • Plain text: Plain ordinary text with no mark up.

If you do have your document as a file on your computer you can upload this instead of typing it into the body text field. Use the upload button at the bottom of the page. The contents of an uploaded file will replace any content in the body field.

Once you have finished editing your document, click the save button. You will be returned to the view tab where you can see how the document will be rendered. To edit it again, click on the edit tab.

If you don't provide correct input on the edit form, when you save the document you will be returned to the edit page and your errors will be highlighted. At this point your changes have not been applied - you must correct the mistakes and click save again.

Example error

Assign properties to a document

Any object can have properties assigned to it. These properties are also known as metadata and provide information such as keywords, copyright and contributor information. The properties form has several fields that are common to all types of objects:

  • Allow discussion: This property lets this document be discussed by users who have the right to do so. If left in default, it will use the site wide policy.
  • Keywords: Keywords are a way of assigning metadata to an object. Use control+click to select multiple keywords from the list.
  • Effective Date and Expiration Date -- The effective date is the first day an object should be made available and the expiration date is the last day. Searches and navigation only show objects within this date range. Leaving these items blank makes an object infinitely available.
  • Format: The MIME-type of the object. If you don't know what this is, just leave it.
  • Language: The language in which the item is written.
  • Copyright: Copyright information for the object.
  • Contributors: The names of the people who contributed to the object. Each person's name should be on its own line.

Publishing your document

Documents are created in the visible state, which means people can access them, but they will not show up in the site navigation tree. Visible documents are available through the search feature and by linking directly to their URLs.

When you are satisfied with your document you will need to submit it for publishing. To do this, select the state tab. This page gives access to the publishing process.

  • Effective Date: allows you to specify a date this content is effective from. Until this date is occurs, the content will not be published. If this date is not specified, then there will be no effect and the document will be published.
  • Expiration Date: allows you to specify a date this content will expire on. After this date the content will no longer be published. If this date is not specified, then there will be no effect and the document will be published.
  • Comments: provides an interface to add comments to this publishing process. These comments can be read by the person reviewing your content in the publishing process. Similarly if the reviewer rejects your content, they will be able to put comments here so that you will know why your content has been rejected.
  • Change state: these are the states that the document can be saved to. Publishing and reviewing content is covered in more detail in Chapter 4 of this book, but for the moment you will want to publish your content, so select Submit and then click save.

Your document will now be in the pending state. A reviewer will review your content and decide whether to publish it as-is, edit it and publish it, or reject it.

Adding and editing other forms of content

There are several different object types that come by default in a Plone site. Adding and editing these object types is a similar process to the one described above for documents.


Images are graphical pieces of content. This content type usually ends with an extension such as: gif, jpg, png, tif or pict. Images can be displayed inside of the Plone CMS without having to download them to the local computer if the image type (extension) is viewable in the user's web browser.

When you add an image, the id of the object is changed to be the file of the image. So if you upload an image called photo.gif, it will be accessible in Plone as photo.gif. When adding or uploading a new image you can select the image from your file system by using the browse button and selecting the file.

It is noteworthy that Macintosh .pict files are often not viewable by Microsoft browser platforms.


A file is any arbitrary object that can be uploaded from your file system. This could be any sort of item such as a plain text file, a Microsoft Word Document, an Excel Spreadsheet, a PowerPoint Presentation, an Acrobat PDF and so on. When you add a file, the id of the file is changed to be the name of the file. So if you upload a file called book.pdf, it will be accessible in Plone as book.pdf.


Link objects are the primary way for users to share URL's. These URL's can be internet resources or local resources. Links can contain metadata like any other content object. Please note that if you are going to link to a internet resource you should preface your link with the suitable protocol (e.g. http://), otherwise your link will possibly be incorrect.


Topics enable users to create collections of resources by querying the central information repository. The collection is defined on the criteria tab. The criteria specified will match all content objects that are cataloged by the system. You can query a number of different aspects of the system: by physical location, time created, review_state, and many other facets. Topics only link to other resources; they do not keep physical resources inside them like normal Folders.

By default only users with the Manager role are allowed to create topics.


Containers are the simplest and most powerful mechanism for organizing content. A Folder is a container that can house any sort of content object, such as Files, Documents, or any other content type. By default all content types can be added to a Folder.

News Item

News Items are commonly used in websites. Published News Items show up in reverse chronological order on the News tab and in the News section.

Discussing content

Any piece of content in Plone can be discussed. The owner of the content (otherwise known as the person who created it) turns on the discussion feature by clicking on the Properties tab of the object and checking Allow. The default radio button is the policy for the content object that has been set by the Site Administrator.

If discussion is enabled, when viewing content the discussion will be shown and users will be allowed to participate.

Searching for content

There are two ways to search for content in Plone. At the top of your Plone site there is a search box that provides an easy way to do simple keyword searches. You can narrow down the search results by using the Advanced search functionality. This is accessible by clicking on the search tab at the top of page.

In the Advanced search form you are able to query content by a number of attributes including: title, keywords, description, review state, creation date, content type and even author.

In this chapter we have covered some of the basic elements such as adding and publishing content, searching and altering your Plone instance to suit your needs. Although each Plone site is different, each will have these basic elements.

« July 2020 »