Using Communications as Global Documents in activeCollab

The Problem

activeCollab Documents Module

activeCollab comes with a Global Documents module. This module allows you to upload a file – text or otherwise – and have it be visible to all users of the system. This is great for storing common documents – policies, questionnaire, usage documentation, templates etc. Global Documents are visible to everyone – both owner company people and all clients.

Confidential Items Module

On the other hand our Confidential Items Module has been very popular. For example, you can make a ticket confidential. Confidential items can be seen only by people who are assigned to them, subscribed to them or are administrators. So in a client project, you can make an internal work item as ticket and assign it to your own team. This means the item (and all its comments / tasks / time records / attachments etc) won’t be visible to the client.

Can we make Documents confidential?

As people used Confidential Items more and more, they wanted more and more things to be confidential :-) One of the request was to make Global Documents confidential. So that they will be accessible easily (from a link in top toolbar, without needing to go to each project), but can be seen only by designated users.

Truth be told, we also wanted this feature. As a matter of fact, we began implementing it in the first version of Confidential Items itself. The problem is that it can not be implemented the way activeCollab is designed today. Global Documents do not have people assigned to them. They do not have subscribers. They are open to all.

We can make an item confidential only if we know the list of people for whom it should be visible.

Since we don’t have a list of people with global documents, we can’t make them confidential. (Sure, you can select people who will get a notification about a newly created document, but this list is not stored and can’t be edited later. They are not “subscribers” who receive alerts about updates.)

Adding a list of people with global documents will require many changes to the module – something that won’t be retained across upgrades and can cause hassles.

The Alternative Solution

Every problem has multiple solutions!

While I and Malay were brainstorming on this, we got an easy way out. Something that will serve the purpose as Global Confidential Documents and could fit in nicely with activeCollab.

The Communications Module.

You can make a communication visible to everyone, or select a list of participants. Communications module also allows you to lock user comments and attach files. Attachments of Communications are only visible from the communication itself.

Put these together and you have Global Documents, that can also be confidential.

Here’s how you can do it:

  • Create a new communication.
  • Add some title and description.
  • Select participants – people who can see this communication. You may also select a type and whether the communication is visible on the dashboard if you wish.
  • Post the communication.
  • Go to the communication’s page.
  • Post a new reply to the communication and attach the document you want.
  • Once your reply is posted, lock the communication to prevent further comments.
  • There you have it! Participants can now access this communication either via its direct permalink, or click on the Comm. link in toolbar and find it there. They can download the attachment, but can not make new replies / comments. All other people will simply not see this communication!
Communication used to post a global confidential document

Communication used to post a global confidential document


So can Communications Module replace the Documents module?

Documents module is great to share common files, and shows an interface oriented for file sharing (document list on left, categories on right). So if you use file sharing heavily, it’s great.

But for most other users, Communications Module can serve file sharing needs just as well. Removing Documents module also reduces one icon from the top bar – making the UI easier. The name “Comm.” may not explicitly tell people that they will find documents there, but a little training (or opting to notify participants when a communication is created) can solve that as well.

Was this helpful? What do you think?

What do you think about this tip? Was it helpful? How do you use Communications module? Post a comment below!