An Introduction to Opus
Opus is a content management engine which lets you publish one or more web sites in your web space, each of which can include an online newspaper. Each site can have a different look and feel. Sites can have multiple authors. A web front end allows authors to write new articles without any need to learn HTML.
Opus was developed to publish a web site and online newspaper for the village of Milton and it also runs this site and quite a few other sites created both by The Hug and others.
Opus is named after the penguin from Bloom County, a long deceased
daily strip which used to be syndicated in many papers in the US and UK.
Opus lets you run one or more web sites. Each site can be divided into one or more sections and within the sections you can have any number of pages, which we call articles. You can use templates to give articles in each section of the site a very different look and feel (so it can look nothing like this page, although many Opus sites do have this sort of look).
Each paper has an editor and one or more authors, including the editor. Authors write articles which are stored in the database and retrieved when the articles are read.
Articles come in different shapes and sizes. News articles appear in the site's news section while web articles allow you to add more static content. Datacard articles are useful for holding more structured information, such as contact directories.
Articles are written and updated via web forms. The text of articles can
be plain text so you don't need to understand HTML mark up (although if you
do you can use it). This article for example is article number 3, you can
see the article number in the URL of this page. It has the same basic
layout as other pages on this site because they share the same template.
Each article has a headline followed by the text. For example the headline
for this article is "An Introduction to Opus" and the article text is what you're reading now.
As well as web articles, like this one which provide the basic building
blocks for your web site where you're providing pages or information
you can also create a news section where news articles are displayed.
Opus allows the most recent news articles can be displayed together on a news page, which you can see in action on the Milton village site.
When displayed this way long news articles are split automatically after the end of the first paragraph and only the first paragraph will then appear followed by the hotlink "More...".
News articles can be embargoed, so they don't appear in the paper until the date/time specified, and expired, so they disappear after the date/time specified.
News articles can be marked to go in the paper's diary, in which case a date and optionally, start and end times, are specified and it will also appear the paper's diary section and that can be linked to a Google Calendar. Again you can see this on the Milton village site.
Web articles, like this one, are similar to news articles, but don't appear in the news section of the site.
Datacard articles consist of one or more predefined fields. The fields can
be single or multi-line text, select pull downs or check boxes. Opus uses
an XML based markup scheme to define the fields in a database article and how
they are solicited and displayed.
Opus lets you put non-HTML documents, in formats such as Word and PDF, on your web site, and to treat them just like other Opus articles.
Opus comes with its own search engine, you can see that on this web site: it's the "quick search" box on the left side of the page, so you can be sure readers can find the information they're looking for, and our comprehensive hit logging ensure you know who's looking at what on your web site. It even searches your non-HTML documents in most cases.
Opus uses templates which allows you a great deal of flexibility in designing your web site. You can put the navigation on the left, as here, or at the top, or wherever you want it, or have no navigation at all. You can use automated navigation schemes like the folder scheme on this web site where the navigation is generated by Opus automatically. You can lay the pages out however suits you and we can give you different templates for different types of page. You can also make Opus use different templates for different web browsers, so that the page generated can be tuned to best fit the user's browser so that they see your site to best advantage.
Opus is written in PHP using a MySQL database back end. Both of these are
freely available under the
GNU General Public Licence.
Opus is designed to be useable by people with little or no experience
of either PHP or MySQL, although you'll get more out of it if you understand
these packages. You also probably need to understand the basics of how to put
together a web page and how to write HTML. Although again these aren't vital.
Probably the hardest part of the installation is installed PHP and MySQL,
but if you're using an ISP to host your paper this will already be done for
Opus comes with extensive documentation, both in PDF and HTML format.
It is available online here.
If you want a copy of Opus to try for yourself you can download it
from this page. You will need a web server with PHP and MySQL and you will need the expat library compiled into PHP or Apache (which most distributions and ISPs seem to do as standard now).
Copyright and Licence
The Opus Content Management Engine is Copyright © 2000-2013 The Hug.
This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the
GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation; either version 2 of the License, or (at your option) any later version.
This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU General Public License for more details.