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Collection presentation: Web publishing software (Pawtucket)

The collection presentation component of CollectiveAccess, or front-end website software, is called Pawtucket. It’s designed to pull content from the Providence database into a public-access interface that’s entirely customizable. The default theme for Pawtucket is visually quite plain, but with a little modification of the site’s CSS and navigation files and almost any design can be supported.


The look and feel of a Pawtucket site is governed, as with many php-based websites, by a theme directory. To begin designing, simply copy the default theme folder, rename it to match your project, and set the theme in the setup.php file.


In addition to the page style files, site graphics, and navigation pages you’d expect to find in the theme folder, you will also encounter search and browse configuration, indexing, and result controls, site feature code for user interaction and more. The Pawtucket download from the CollectiveAccess site comes with several different themes representing past projects created with the software. It can be useful to explore these themes prior to beginning your project.

Default navigation areas

By default Pawtucket navigation includes the following pages: Home, About, Browse, Advanced Search, and Gallery (where users can explore curated sets of records). The default site architecture also includes detail pages for each record table/type where metadata and media (if relevant) is presented, plus a quick search and quick browse box. Search and Browse results, with optional post-execution filtering and display controls, represent another page.

As with the back-end, an app.conf file controls many preferences for Pawtucket. The most frequently modified aspects of this front-end file include:

  • Disabling and enabling of user interaction and features
  • Search options including secondary searching, partitioning, page results
  • Access enforcement for item viewability
  • Detail page settings including display of metadata elements
  • Geo-spatial mapping of search results
  • Some browse controls (others are set in browse.conf)
  • Slideshow settings, RSS capabilities and social media buttons


Some of the files that control Pawtucket’s special features and user interaction can be found in the theme directory. The Bookmarking feature, for example, which is explained in more detail below, is controlled through through the theme directory at views/Bookmarks/. However, some “add-ons” such as the Contribute forum are handled as plugins and can be found at app/plugins.

Ranking, Tagging, Commenting, My Collections

Pawtucket supports object level ranking, tagging and commenting by registered site users. When enabled in app.conf, login/register links are accessible in the upper right of the window and under media on object detail pages. Tags and comments are managed and moderated through the back-end user interface under Manage > User Generated Content. These object ranks supply the content for the User Favorites lists on the Home page and Favorites section. In addition to ranking, tagging and commenting, registered users can also create collections of objects by clicking the "Add to collection" link beneath images on the object detail page. A My Collections area, accessed via a link once the user has logged in, allows for editing, organizing and sharing of collections.

Social Networking Tools

An optional “AddThis” widget allows your site audience to easily share pages on from Pawtucket in a variety of online environments including Facebook and Twitter. A Twitter-specific plugin allows institutions to automatically tweet newly created Objects. The title of the new Object will be published, as well as a shortened link to the Object record plus any optional metadata of your choosing. Configuration files for this feature can be found in the Providence directory at app/plugins/twitter/conf.


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