Building Sites from Templates

Site Templates can be administered from the Control Panel. They let Liferay administrators create multiple sites with the same default set of pages and content. Site templates can contain multiple pages, each with its own theme, layout template, applications, and app configurations. Site templates can also contain content just like actual sites. This allows administrators to use site templates to create new sites that are each created with the same default pages, applications, and content. After they’ve been created, these sites and their pages can be modified by site administrators. Using site templates can save site administrators a lot of work even if each site that was created from a given site template ends up being very different.

To get started, click on Site Templates in the Sites section of the Control Panel. Here, you can add, manage, or delete site templates. You can also configure the permissions of site templates. As long as a site is linked to the site template it was created from, changes to the site template’s pages, apps, and app configurations are propagated to the site. Changes to a site template’s content, however, are not propagated to existing sites that are linked to the site template. You’ll learn about the propagation of changes between site templates and sites in more detail in the section on site template use cases below.

To manage the pages of a site template, click on Site Templates in the Control Panel and select the Actions icon (Actions) and then Manage for an existing template. If you open the main Menu on the left side of your screen (if necessary), the site template is selected in the Site Administration dropdown menu. You’re provided some similar options as a regular site which include Navigation, Content, Configuration, and Publishing. By default, the Manage Interface begins with the template’s Navigation. From here, you can add or remove pages from a site template or select themes and layout templates to apply to the site template. Click on a specific page’s Options icon (Options) → Edit from the left menu if you’d like to select a different theme or layout template for that page, or manage any of the page’s extensive settings. To edit the pages themselves, click the page link from the left menu. You can add specific applications to each page of a site template and configure the preferences of each app. Each page can have any theme, any layout template, and any number of applications, just like a page of a regular site. As with site pages, you can organize the pages of a site template into hierarchies. When you create a site using a site template, the configuration of pages and apps is copied from the template to the site. By default, all changes made to the site template are automatically copied to sites based on that template.

The Content section offers separate repositories for content related apps based on your site template. For instance, by clicking Polls from the Content section, you can create a poll question that is only available for that specific site template. Assets created within your template’s Content section can only be accessed by sites using the template.

The Configuration section includes Application Display Templates and Mobile Device configuration options for your site template. Also, nested in the Configuration section is the Site Template Settings. This option allows you to edit the template’s name and description while also offering boolean options for activating your site template and allowing site administrators to modify pages associated with your template.

The following figure displays the form shown when editing the Community Site template’s settings:

Figure 1: Site templates have several configurable options including the option to allow site administrators to modify pages accociated with the site template.

Figure 1: Site templates have several configurable options including the option to allow site administrators to modify pages accociated with the site template.

By default, the following site templates are provided:

  • Intranet Site: Provides a preconfigured site for an intranet. The Home page displays the activities of the members of the site, search, a language selector, and a list of the recent content created in the intranet. It also provides two additional pages for Documents and Media and external News obtained through public feeds.

  • Community Site: Provides a preconfigured site for building online communities. The Home page of a community site provides message boards, search, a display of a poll and statistics of the activity of community members. The site will also be created with a page for a wiki.

Now that you know the basics for creating and managing your site templates, you’ll put your knowledge to the test by completing an example next.

Site Templates Example

Suppose you need to create the following three sites for the Lunar Resort’s internal use: Engineering, Marketing, and Legal. These should be private sites that are only accessible to members of these respective departments. You could design each site separately but you can save yourself some work if you create a site template to use instead.

To create a site template, navigate to the Control Panel and click SitesSite Templates. Then click the Add icon (Add Site Template) and enter a name for your template: you’ll use Department for this example. Leave the Active and *Allow site administrators to modify pages associated with this site template…* boxes checked. The Active box must be checked for your template to be usable. If your template is still a work in progress, you can uncheck it to ensure that no one uses it until it’s ready. Checking *Allow site administrators to modify pages associated with this site template…* allows site administrators to modify or remove the pages and apps that the template introduces to their sites–if you want the templates to be completely static, you should uncheck this. Click Save to create your site template.

From the left menu, notice that your site template is now selected from the Site Administration dropdown. You can now begin editing your site template. For this example, you want your site template to include four pages. First, create a Home page with the Activities, Announcements, and Calendar apps. Next, create a Documents and Media page with the Documents and Media app. Finally, create a Wiki page with the Wiki and Tag Cloud apps and a Message Boards page with the Message Boards and Tag Cloud apps. The changes you made to your site template above are completed in real time, so there’s no need to navigate back to the Site Templates page of the Control Panel and select Save.

Figure 2: You can see the name of the site template youre currently editing.

Figure 2: You can see the name of the site template you're currently editing.

Next, you’ll use your site template to create the Engineering, Marketing and Legal sites. Go to the Control Panel and click on SitesSites. Then click the Add icon (Add Site) → Department. Enter Engineering for the site name and set the Membership Type to Private. Recall that private sites don’t appear in the My Sites application so that regular users won’t even know that the Engineering site exists. Also, the only way users can be added to a private site is via an invitation from a site administrator. Leave the Active selector enabled so that your site can be used immediately. Select the Copy as Private Pages option since the Engineering site is intended for internal use only. Leave the Enable propagation of changes from the site template box enabled so that the Engineering site receives updates if the Department site template is modified. Finally, click Save to create your Engineering site.

Repeat these steps to create the Marketing and Legal sites. The new sites have all the pages and apps you created in the site template. To view the pages of the new sites, click on SitesSites in the Control Panel and then click on ActionsGo to Private Pages next to one of your new sites. Using site templates streamlines the site creation process for administrators, making it easy to create sites quickly. Now each department of the Lunar Resort has its own calendar, documents and media library, wiki, and message boards application. Although the pages and apps of each department’s site are the same, each site will quickly be filled with department-specific information as users add and share content within the sites. Also, site administrators can add new pages, apps, and content to their sites, further differentiating each department’s site from the others.

Propagating Changes from Site Templates to Sites

It’s possible for site template administrators to add, update, or delete site template pages. Changes made to a site template can be propagated to sites whose page sets are linked to the site template. Such a link is created when you create a site based on a site template and leave the Enable propagation of changes from the site template box checked. To disable or re-enable this link for a site, select the site from the Sites dropdown in the Menu by selecting the Site Selector button (Compass). Navigate to the ConfigurationSite Settings page and uncheck or recheck the Enable propagation of changes from the site template checkbox. In this section, you’ll learn about the propagation of changes from site templates to sites and discuss the options available to site administrators and site template administrators.

If a site’s page set has been created from a site template and the propagation of changes from the site template is enabled, site administrators can add new pages but cannot remove or reorder the pages imported from the site template. If a site has both pages imported from a site template and custom site pages, the site template pages always appear first; custom pages added by site administrators appear after the site template pages. Only site template administrators can remove, reorder, or add site template pages. Site administrators can add or remove custom site pages. They can also reorder custom site pages as long as they’re all positioned after the site template pages. Site template administrators cannot add, remove, or reorder custom site pages.

If a site administrator changes a page that was imported from a site template and refreshes the page, the following Information icon (Information) appears in the Control Menu with the following message:

This page has been changed since the last update from the site template. No
further updates from the site template will be applied.

Figure 3: You can click the Information icon to view important information about your site template.

Figure 3: You can click the Information icon to view important information about your site template.

If the site administrator clicks the Reset Changes button, changes are propagated from the site template page to the corresponding site page that was imported from the site template. Clicking the Reset Changes button makes two kinds of updates to a page. First, changes made by site administrators to the site page are undone. Second, changes made by site template administrators to the site template page are applied to the site page. Note: clicking the Reset Changes button only resets one page. If multiple site pages have been modified and you’d like to re-apply the site template pages to them, you’ll need to click the Reset Changes button for each page.

Site template administrators can set preferences for apps on site template pages. When a Liferay administrator creates a site from a site template, the app preferences are copied from the site template’s apps, overriding any default app preferences. When merging site template and site changes (e.g., when resetting), app preferences are copied from site template apps to site apps. Only global app preferences or local app preferences which don’t refer to IDs are overwritten.

In some cases, merging site template and site changes fails. For example, if pages from a site template cannot be propagated because their friendly URLs are in conflict, Liferay DXP could try to continuously merge the site changes. Instead of entering into an infinite loop of merge fails, Liferay DXP stops the merge after several unsuccessful attempts. Liferay DXP, however, doesn’t stop there: your merge is temporarily paused, you’re given an indication of the current merge fail, and then you have the opportunity to fix your merge conflicts. After you’ve squared away your conflict, navigate to your site’s Site AdministrationConfigurationSite Settings and click the Reset and Propagate button.

Figure 4: This type of warning is given when there are friendly URL conflicts with site template pages.

Figure 4: This type of warning is given when there are friendly URL conflicts with site template pages.

The Reset and Propagate button resets the merge fail count and attempts to propagate your site changes again. This process gives the Liferay administrator the opportunity to detect and fix a merge fail, when problems arise. This helpful process can also be done with page template merges, which follows similar steps.

Site administrators can also add data to site template applications. For example, site template administrators can add the Wiki app to a site template page and use the Wiki to create lots of articles. When a Liferay administrator creates a site from a site template, data is copied from the site template’s apps to the site’s apps. The preferences of the site’s apps are updated with the IDs of the copied data. For example, if a site is created from a site template that has a Wiki app with lots of wiki articles, the wiki articles are copied from the site template’s scope to the site’s scope and the site’s Wiki app is updated with the IDs of the copied wiki articles.

For example, consider a site template administrator who includes a Message Boards app as part of a site template. They even create Message Board categories and configures permissions over the actions of the categories. The first time a site is created based on the site template, the categories (app data) and related permissions are copied to the site. If the site template administrator adds, removes, or deletes some categories, however, such changes aren’t propagated to the site.

Now that you’ve learned how site templates work, you’ll learn how to share site templates.

Sharing Site Templates

If you want to export a site that uses site or page templates to a different environment (through a LAR file or remote publication), the templates must be exported and imported manually in advance or the import will fail.

To export a Site using a Site Template, use the following process:

  1. Go to the Control PanelSitesSite Templates menu.

  2. Click the Actions icon (Actions) and then Export for the site template your site is using. You’ll use the Export screen to obtain a LAR file with the content of the site template. Be sure to choose the applications and data you want exported.

  3. In your target environment, go to Control PanelSitesSite Templates and create a new site template.

  4. Click ActionsImport for that site template and upload the LAR file containing your site template’s content.

Now the site can be exported and imported normally to this new environment. For more information on exporting/importing content, visit the Importing/Exporting Pages and Content article.

In the next section, you’ll learn about page templates.

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