Sunday, August 9, 2009


A friend commented on my recent post about Alfresco, stating that I needed to try out Knowledgetree to be fair/objective in the comparison, so I built a stripped down Ubuntu 8.10 VM (I removed Apache, MySQL, and OpenOffice) and loaded the open source version of KT DMS v3.6.1.
My friend was correct. The little bit of extra effort required to run the full install of KnowledgeTree was worth it. It's convinced me to attempt to install the less easy "source code only" version (i.e., force it to employ the Apache, MySQL, and OpenOffice instances that I'm already running).
For the test VM, installation of KnowledgeTree was straight-forward. I only had to make the installer executable. The installer asked only a handful of questions (e.g.,what port? what password?) before installing. Keep in mind that this is not a small toolset. Installation did take a few minutes. After that, I loaded a few of the more obnoxoius documents that I have on hand: Asterisk - The Future of Telephone (15 MB!), one of my point papers in Word, an ODP presentation, a PowerPoint with a large graphic, and a PNG graphic file.
One thing noticed with both: PDFs with special formatting for trademarks tends to throw both programs. This is caused by their dependency on the same set of data extraction tools. There were no searches where one tool was more dependable than the other. Both failed on searching for "PostgreSQL" in "Asterisk - The Future of Telephony".
The differences between the two pieces of software don't appear to be technical. I don't have the resources to immediately test how each performs with large quantities of documents. You can be sure that I'll gripe about it if the tool-used acts up.
It's the web interface features that set the two apart. Each has features that I like, and features/issues that I don't:
  • Alfresco Pros
    • allows you to add a description of the document
    • indexes content and makes it searchable
  • Alfresco Cons
    • doesn't excerpt content as part of a search result
    • document uploads are indexed immediately (delays caused by large documents)
    • doesn't allow for multiple categories to be associated with one document
    • file stored without uploaded filename
    • demo built into installed software
    • heavy customization expected from user
    • deleting a document, deletes the document (no recovery)
    • some plugins require manual addition of a plugin manager
    • displays the filename instead of the title as part of search results
    • runs on top of Java (I'm an old fart. I remember the Linux + Java issues.)
  • KnowledgeTree Pros
    • indexes content and makes it searchable
    • uploaded documents are placed in a queue for indexing (allows for indexing in the background)
    • allows for multiple metadata ("cloud tags") to be associated with individual documents
    • light customization expected from user
    • allows filename change via the web interface
    • has a number of built-in tools for database and archive repair/management
    • deleting a document moves it to a hidden queue where it can later be expunged
    • built-in plugin manager
    • skinnable
    • runs on top of PHP (not sure if this is actually a plus)
  • KnowledgeTree Cons
    • doesn't allow for a description of the document (might be countered by the "Discussion" feature for each document)
    • file stored without uploaded filename
    • (at least for version 3.6.1) The "Search and Indexing" menu (only visible to the Admin) has a number of double entries (tolerable but ugly)
  • Other
    • Both tools are also slightly different in their purposes. KnowledgeTree strikes me as striving to be more of a front-end tool than Alfresco. Of late, Alfresco has been attempting integrate with other tools (MediaWiki, Drupal, Joomla, etc.). This would be nice, but the integration didn't carry over into the newest version. (MediaWiki integration may cause me to return to Alfresco.)
    • For those that require commercial support, both tools have it, if you're willing to pay for it.
    • KnowledgeTree has a much cleaner front end (it feels less Web 2.0-ish even though it uses metatags)
    • Both tools provide for open source versions, while formally declaring them unsupported (it's something that I can live with)
    • For the full-blown installs, both tools have nice interfaces
All in all, it looks like I prefer the KnowledgeTree tool. Much depends on how easy it will be to install the source code version. My only other requirement is that I need to be able to declare the storage location. Alfresco allows you to state this up front. KnowledgeTree requires installation first (I think) and then allows you to change the storage directory.
I'm still uncertain as to which tool I plan on using in the long run. Right now it's a balance of "how hard is the source code version of KnowledgeTree to install?" vs. "how hard is it to change Alfresco's interface and remove the demo from the install?". I'll keep you posted.