Redefining Mobile with Open Atrium

Looking Around

Notice in Figure 1 that several tabs are visible that provide access to the core Open Atrium features. Depending on the type of group you created, some features you will want might not be enabled: Click Home, then click the Settings button again. Things look at little different here than they do in group settings, and only two options are present. If you select Site Settings from the drop-down list, a page appears showing the core Open Atrium features that are enabled. Notice that the shared calendar isn't currently available (Figure 6). To enable it, click the drop-down list for that feature, select Enable, then click Save Settings at the bottom of the page.

That page has other items you might want to consider. For instance, when I mentioned adding users, I suggested that, depending on how you ran your site, you might choose to add everyone manually or invite them to register on their own. Below the Features list is a category titled Settings. This includes default site registration settings. Also, there's a place to upload your logo.

Speaking of settings, if you were to create a public instead of a private group, you'd find a couple of additional features available, although they might not be enabled. These features include the aforementioned Atrium Calendar, the Case Tracker, and the Shoutbox. This takes a little getting used to because when you create groups, whether private or public, certain features are available while others are not. To enable features for a group, rather than simply making them available system-wide, switch to group view, click the Settings button again, then select Customize Features (Figure 7). Now you will see the features available for that particular group. In a public group, you can enable or disable features, define them as public, or define them as private. (A public group can have both public and private features.)

The calendar is pretty obvious in its function – you can create and share meetings, events, or anything else that is date related with members of your group. Events can be described by date and time and can span several days. When you add events, they are color-coded for readability (Figure 8). A small version of the calendar, as well as a list of upcoming events, appears on the main Dashboard page (see an example in Figure 1).

One of the really great features of the Open Atrium calendar is that it's possible to add iCalendar feeds, thereby letting the system populate the calendar for your group from an external source. When you do add an external feed, you can define how often the feed is checked (the default is every 30 minutes) and when (or whether) you want old entries purged.

The Project feature and, most importantly, Case Tracker are particularly useful for support or development groups. With this feature, you can create projects and tasks (cases) within those projects, then track their progress. Also, you can assign cases to other group members, and cases can be assigned a status, a priority, and a type (Figure 9). Although Case Tracker is not as powerful as Bugzilla or Mantis, it is excellent for a small support desk.

Before I wrap this up, I have to tell you about the Shoutbox, which is your basic or Twitter-like board. Shoutbox lets you send quick little messages to let others in your group know what you are up to (Figure 10). The great thing for people like me is that you aren't limited to 140 characters. You can interpret short as you see fit.

Part of what makes popular social networking sites successful is that they keep you posted via your regular email address should someone direct a message to you or to the group. Open Atrium can send a notification of changes to a blog, online document library, or event. At the bottom of each screen, just before you click Save, you will find an area labeled Notifications (Figure 11). Every user in your group is listed there. To let people know about a new post, check their names off the list. When it is an update to an existing post, you might choose not to notify users a second time (or third or fourth …). Once you save the information, email is sent to each member of the group.


Open Atrium is a fantastic example of what you can create with intelligent design (the real kind), a finely tuned Drupal installation profile, and a touch of style. To be part of that ongoing design, be sure to join the Open Atrium community to offer your expertise, contribute code, suggest improvements, or ask questions. With Open Atrium, you can collaborate, chat, and share information with your group from the comfort of your browser, which can be anywhere, including the palm of your hand, making the server the new mobile app.

Somehow I always knew it would come back to the mainframe.

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