Welcome to the Quick Start guide for Assets Server. In this guide, we briefly describe what Assets Server is, which main tasks it can perform, and how to start using the system.
Each topic is described in brief and, where needed, a link to an article with more detailed information is given.
Note: The guide is aimed at end users of Assets Server, not at system administrators who need to install or configure Assets Server, or at developers who want to create plug-ins or APIs.
What is Assets Server?
In simple terms, Assets Server can be described as a system in which files are stored in a central location. These files can then be accessed by multiple users and used in various ways:
- In a publication such as a magazine, newspaper, catalog, marketing material, Web site, and so on.
- Shared with others (even when they do not exist as a user in Assets Server), for example with a customer who needs to give approval before the files can be used.
In more elaborate terms, Assets Server is a Digital Asset Management system or DAM. It makes it possible to:
- Store an unlimited number of files
- Easily find files in the system
- Control access to files and the actions that can be performed on these files on user or user group level
- Open files in their native application for editing and save any changes back to Assets Server
- Store file versions in case changes that were made to a file need to be reverted
- Integrate with other systems and applications for a more efficient workflow
- ...and much more
We will discuss these tools and ways of working in the next topics.
At the core of the system lies Assets Server which takes care of almost all of the functionality available such as security (granting or denying users access to assets), a search engine, file processing (generating thumbnails and previews, extracting and embedding metadata and extracting full text for indexing) and file versioning.
To allow integration with other systems and easy re-use of content a RESTful API is available.
A number of customizable plug-ins can be configured to perform automation or to extend client functionality.
The server is completely self proficient which means that no external databases or other resources are required other than a file system. Assets Server has a built-in Web server for all its HTTP communication while all communication between the clients and the server is done over HTTP or HTTPS, meaning minimal configuration complexity regarding firewalls.
Combined with thumbnails and previews that are based on standard Web formats, the clients are very fast on a local network and can be easily used from remote locations or over the Internet.
The structure: clusters and nodes
Assets Server is a dynamically scalable system with a high level of built-in availability, redundancy and load balancing.
The structure consists of a cluster of one or more nodes, each with the ability to take on a specific role such as that of a search engine for searching and indexing, a processing engine for processing files and generating previews, or a job scheduler for running scheduled jobs.
Note: Technically, each node is the same and each is installed by using the same installer. Its role is determined by changing the configuration during the installation.
A typical cluster consists of 3 Search nodes and 2 Processing nodes.
For more information, see The Assets Server structure: clusters and nodes.
Accessing the files
So how do you access the files that are stored in Assets Server? To answer this question we will have a look at the applications to use, what is needed to install them, how you log in, and how access to files and the tools to work with them is controlled.
The files that are stored in Assets Server can be accessed by using the following applications or methods:
- The Brand portal
- The Elvis DAM mobile app
- A Share link
Each is described below.
Assets is the main application for working with files in Assets Server. If you are a general user, you will most certainly use this application. It is run in a Web browser and can be accessed through a link that you have been given by the system administrator. An Internet connection is required and you will need to log in to the system (see below).
Tasks that can be performed with Assets include:
- Searching for files using a free-text search, the Filter or by browsing the folder structure.
- Previewing files (up to 8 at a time)
- Viewing files in thumbnail view, list view or filmstrip view
- Downloading, uploading, deleting, or sharing files
- Editing images
- Opening files for editing and saving the changes back to Assets Server
- Placing files on an InDesign layout
- Assigning a rating to a file
- Requesting users to upload files
- Combining files into a Collection
- Editing metadata
For detailed information about these tasks, see Using Assets.
Figure: Assets is the main application for working with files that are stored in Assets Server.
The Brand portal
The Brand portal is similar to Assets but has limited features. It is mainly aimed at users such as local marketing teams, stores, subsidiaries and so on who require access to marketing materials and other content for reference or use in their own publications. The Brand portal can be styled with the colors and logo of the Brand of which the files are part. It is run in a Web browser and can be accessed through a link that you have been given by the system administrator. An Internet connection is required and you will need to log in to the system (see below).
Tasks that can be performed with the Brand portal include:
- Searching for files using a free-text search or by browsing Categories or a list of taxonomies
- Previewing files (up to 8 at a time)
- Downloading or sharing files
For detailed information about these tasks, see Using the Brand portal.
Figure: The Brand portal is used for distributing material to employees, stores, subsidiaries and so on, and can be styled in the corporate identity.
The Elvis DAM mobile app
The Elvis app allows you to access the files that are stored in Assets Server on your smart phone. With it, you can find, share and approve files. An Internet connection is required and you will need to log in to the system (see below).
Figure: Accessing the files from a smart phone can be done by using the Elvis DAM mobile app.
A Share link
A Share link is a link to one or more files in Assets Server that a user wants to share with you. This is even possible when you do not have an account in Assets Server. The link is opened in a Web browser and gives you direct access to only those files that have been shared. This requires an Internet connection, but you do not have to log in. Sharing is an efficient way of distributing files or getting files approved, commented on or rated.
For more information, see Sharing files with others using Assets.
Accessing the files in Assets Server on a computer and working on them is done through a Web browser. No installation is therefore necessary (with one exception, see below).
The preferred Web browser is Google Chrome, but the latest version of all other main Web browsers is also supported.
One particular way of working with files in Assets Server is to open a file in its native application and to edit them in some way (such as a document in Word, an image in Photoshop, and so on). To do this, Assets Server needs to communicate with those native applications. This is done through an application called 'Assets Agent' which needs to be installed separately on your system. Especially when you are a remote worker you will have to perform this installation on your local system yourself.
In a system in which files are stored that are used in production, access to the files is managed carefully (see the topic Access Rights below).
To access the files therefore, you are asked to log in when accessing the system.
Note: Logging in is only required when using Assets, the Brand portal, or the mobile app, not when you have received files that are shared with you.
The system administrator will have created an account for you and will have provided you with the details.
When your company makes use of a system called 'single sign-on', this process of logging in is done automatically by using the same credentials that you used for logging in to your system.
Setting the language
When logging in to Assets or Brand portal, it is also possible to choose in which of the supported languages you want to run these applications.
Files stored in Assets Server are typically used in a publication, as reference material or as archive material. It is important that not every user can access all files or that they can perform every action on the files that they have access to.
Access rights are controlled by setting up permissions which work on various levels:
- Based on folder level: you might be allowed access to some folders but not to others.
- Based on rules: you might be allowed to work on files that are set to status 'Draft' but not on files that are set to status 'Published'.
- Based on a combination of folder level and rules.
- Based on settings when files are shared with you: you might only be allowed to download the preview version of the file and not the original file, or you might see a watermark on all files.
Access rights affect all areas of working with files in Assets Server: searching, viewing, editing, downloading or deleting.
Once a file has been added to Assets Server, it needs to be found again. Searching is done by using the metadata of the file: information that describes specific aspects of a file and its content. It tells you:
- Who created the file
- What type of file it is
- Where the file is stored
- When the file was created
- ... and much more
Some metadata is extracted from the file itself when the file is added to Assets Server, while additional metadata can be added manually. Sometimes, metadata is so important that it is required to add it (for example, copyright information).
Figure: When importing an asset in Assets Server, all its metadata is also imported.
It is very important to be aware of metadata, what it does and what it is used for. Make sure therefore that you are fully familiar with using metadata in Assets Server. For more information, see Metadata in Assets Server - introduction and Assets Server metadata fields explained.
Using Assets Server with WoodWing Studio Server
Assets Server can be tightly integrated with Studio Server, WoodWing's system for streamlining the process of creating and publishing content. This way, Studio Server can be used to create and publish the content while Assets Server can be used to store, manage and retrieve an unlimited number of files.
Some of the tasks that can be performed with an Assets Server - Studio Server integration include:
- Adding files from Assets Server to the workflow process of Studio Server, including by placing images on a layout
- Archiving publications from Studio Server to Assets Server and reuse them later
For more information, see Integrating Assets Server with Studio Server.
Opening files for editing and saving the changes back to Assets Server
Files that are stored in Assets Server can all be opened in their native application for editing by using Assets. This is done through a 'check in / check out' process.
While the file is being edited, it is important that other users cannot make any changes to the same file. To prevent this from happening, the file is 'checked-out' (locked) when it is opened. When work on the file is completed, it is 'checked-in' (unlocked) which makes the file available for other users to edit.
For more information, see Opening files for editing (file check-out and check-in) in Assets.
Assets Server and Adobe InDesign
This process is made even more powerful when working with InDesign layouts. By installing the Assets for InDesign plug-in, InDesign and Assets Server can communicate directly with each other. This makes it possible to easily open layouts from Assets Server and save any made changes back to Assets Server, place images from Assets Server onto a layout (including on layouts that are not stored in Assets Server), or restore an archived layout.
For more information, see Assets for InDesign Quick Start.
Extending the Assets Server functionality
The default features and functionality of Assets Server and its client applications make it possible to perform a multitude of tasks.
However, each working environment is different and requires specific features to be available and specific tasks to be performed.
With Assets Server being an open system, the basic functionality of Assets Server and its clients can be extended through the use of extension points such as plug-ins and APIs. This way, repetitive tasks can be automated, external systems can be integrated, and workflows can be customized.
For more information, see Extending the functionality of Assets Server using extension points.
- 29 September 2020: Added sections 'General architecture' and 'Structure'.