Roles and Permissions

Roles are used to collect permissions that define a particular function within the portal, according to a particular scope. Roles can be granted permissions to various functions within portlet applications. A roles is basically just a collection of permissions that defines a function, such as Message Board Administrator. A role with that name is likely to have permissions relevant to the specific Message Board portlets delegated to it. Users who are placed in this role will inherit these permissions.

The roles page of the control panel serves as a single interface which lets you create roles, assign permissions to them and assign users to the roles. Roles can be scoped by portal, site or organization. To create a role, click the Roles link and then click the Add button. You can choose a Regular, Site or Organization role. A regular role is a portal-scoped role. Make a selection and then type a name for your role, a title and a description. The name field is required but the title and description are optional. If you enter a name and a title, the title will be displayed in the list of roles on the Roles page of the control panel. If you do not enter a title, the name will be displayed. When you have finished, click Save.

In addition to regular roles, site roles, and organization roles, there are also teams. Teams can be created by site administrators within a specific site. The permissions granted to a team are defined and applied only within the team’s site. The permissions defined by regular, site, and organization roles, by contrast, are defined at the portal level, although they are applied to different scopes. The differences between the four types of roles can be described as follows:

  • Regular role: Permissions are defined at the portal level and are applied at the portal level.

  • Site role: Permissions are defined at the portal level and are applied to one specific site.

  • Organization role: Permissions are defined at the portal level and are applied to one specific organization.

  • Team: Permissions are defined within a specific site and are assigned within that specific site.

For more information about teams, please refer to chapter 3.

Figure 15.9: Roles Page and Role Actions Menu

Figure 15.9: Roles Page and Role Actions Menu

After you save, Liferay redirects you to the list of roles. To see what functions you can perform on your new role, click the Actions button.

Edit: lets you change the name, title or description of the role.

Permissions: allows you to define which users, user groups or roles have permissions to edit the role.

Define Permissions: defines what permissions this role grants. This is outlined in the next section.

Assign Members: lets you search and select users in the portal to be assigned to this role. These users will inherit any permissions that have been assigned to this role.

View Users: allows you to view the users who have been assigned to this role.

Delete: permanently removes a role from the portal.

Next, let’s examine how to configure the permissions granted by different roles.

Defining Permissions on a Role

Roles serve as repositories of permissions to be assigned to users who belong to them. So, to use a role, you need to assign members to it and define the permissions you want to grant to members of the role.

Figure 15.10: Defining Permissions on a Role

Figure 15.10: Defining Permissions on a Role

When you click the Actions button on portal-scoped role and select Define Permissions, you will be shown a list of all the permissions defined for that role. Click the Add Permissions drop-down menu to see a list of the permissions that can be defined. As of Liferay version 6.1, these permissions fall into seven categories: Portal, Site Content, Site Application, Control Panel: Personal, Control Panel: Site, Control Panel: Portal and Control Panel: Server. For non-portal scoped roles, you need to click on the Options link on individual portlets, then Configuration, then Permissions to assign permissions within the site or organization that owns the portlet.

Portal permissions cover portal-wide activities that comprise several categories, such as site, organization, location, password policy, etc. This allows you to create a role that, for example, can create new sites within the portal. This would allow you to grant users that particular permission without making them overall portal administrators.

Site Content permissions cover the content the installed portlets create. If you pick one of the portlets from this list, you’ll get options for defining permissions on its content. For example, if you pick Message Boards, you’ll see permissions for creating categories and threads or deleting and moving topics.

Site Application permissions affect the application as a whole. So, using our Message Boards example, an application permission might define who can add the Message Boards portlet to a page.

The control panel permissions affect how the portlet appears to the user in the control panel. Some control panel portlets have a Configuration button, so you can define who gets to see that, as well as who gets to see an application in the control panel.

Figure 15.11: Message Board Content Permissions

Figure 15.11: Message Board Content Permissions

Each possible action to which permissions can be granted is listed. To grant a permission, check the box next to it. If you want to limit the scope of the permission to a particular site, click the Limit Scope link and then choose the site. Once you have chosen the permissions granted to this role, click Save. For a portal-scoped Message Boards Administrator role, you might grant content permissions for every action listed. After you click Save, you will see a list of all permissions currently granted to this role. From here, you can add more permissions or go back by clicking a link in the breadcrumb list or the Return to Full Page link.

The list of permissions that you can define for a role may seem overwhelming. However, these permissions ensure that you can customize exactly which areas of your portal you’d like different collections of users to be able to access. Sometimes you might find that a certain permission grants more or less access than what you expected–always test the permissions yourself!

For example, suppose that you created a role called User Group Manager. You’d like to define the permissions for the User Group Manager role so that users assigned to this role can add users to or remove users from any user group. To do this, you might click on Go ToControl Panel and then RolesAddRegular Role. After naming your role, you’d click ActionsDefine Permissions. Then you’d click on the Add Permissions dropdown menu and select Users and Organizations under the Portal heading. Since you’d like user group managers to be able to view user groups and assign members to them, you’d check the Assign Members and View permissions under the User Group heading. Then you’d go back to the Add Permissions dropdown menu and select User Groups under the Control Panel: Portal heading and check the Access in Control Panel and View permissions so that user group managers can manage user groups from the Control Panel.

Figure 15.12: Make sure to test the permissions you grant to custom roles.

Figure 15.12: Make sure to test the permissions you grant to custom roles.

You might expect that these permissions would be enough to allow users assigned to the User Group Manager role to add or remove any users to or from any user group. After all, we’ve granted user group managers permissions to view user groups and assign members and we’ve granted them access to User Groups in the Control Panel. However, we’re forgetting an important permission. Can you guess what it is? That’s right: we haven’t granted the User Group Manager role permission to view users! Although user group managers can assign members to user groups, they don’t have permission to view users at the portal level. This means that if they click Assign Members for a user group and click on the Available tab, they’ll see an empty list.

Figure 15.13: Users assigned to the User Group Manager role cant find any users to add!

Figure 15.13: Users assigned to the User Group Manager role can't find any users to add!

To fix this, click Go ToControl Panel. Click on Roles and then ActionsDefine Permissions. Then click on the Add Permissions dropdown list and select Users and Organizations under the Portal heading. On this page, check the View permission under the User heading. Once you’ve saved, users who’ve been assigned to the User Group Manager role will be able to browse the portal’s entire list of users when assigning users to a user group.

Roles are very powerful and allow portal administrators to define various permissions in whatever combinations they like. This gives you as much flexibility as possible to build the site you have designed.

Note About Permissions for Deleting Containers

Liferay Portal contains many types of portal resources upon which permissions can be defined. These include both assets and asset containers. The term asset refers to any kind of content in Liferay such as a web content article, blog entry, wiki article, message board post, or Documents and Media document. Asset containers are portal resources used for grouping specific kinds of assets. For example, web content folders, wiki nodes, message board categories, and Documents and Media folders are asset containers.

When configuring permissions for assets and asset containers, it’s important to note that the permission to delete an asset container includes the permission to indirectly delete any assets in the container. This means that if a user has permission to delete an asset container, the user can delete all of the assets in that container even the user lacks permission to delete any of the assets in the container individually. Granting permission to delete a folder but not any of the contained assets is not a common use case. Nevertheless, it’s important to note that assets in a container can be indirectly deleted if their asset container is deleted.

Special Note About the Power Users Role

Prior to Liferay 6.0, the default configurations of many Liferay portlets allowed power users, but not regular users, to access them. Liferay 6.0 and subsequent versions grant the same default permissions to both power users and regular users. This way, portal administrators are not forced to use the power users role. However, Liferay encourages those who do to create their own custom permissions for the role.

Now that we’ve seen how to use organizations and user groups to manage users and how to use roles to define permissions, let’s examine the general portal settings you can configure.

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