Have you ever installed a piece of software but weren’t sure where to go from there? Have you struggled to find that feature that you know is there, but you’re not quite sure how to turn it on? Have you occasionally had problems just getting some complex piece of software installed? These are challenges faced by the average user of almost every piece of software ever created. Few software applications are so straight forward and simple that no documentation is required. As software becomes more and more complex, the documentation and training requirements increase as well. You need documentation and training that caters to the beginner as well as the expert.
I have heard many DotNetNuke users recite these same challenges. Like every content management system or application framework I have ever encountered, DotNetNuke is a complex system, so it is not unusual that some new users will find it challenging to get started. It is also not unusual that many experienced DotNetNuke users and developers will find new features and capabilities that they never knew existed. The biggest hurdle for many users is the perception that DotNetNuke is not well documented or that the only place to find information is in the forums.
Over the last 8 years, the DotNetNuke team, and the DotNetNuke community has created a wealth of documentation, videos and books covering all aspects of DotNetNuke. As an Open Source project, DotNetNuke has relied heavily on community members not just for coding and design skills, but also for providing much of the documentation that is available for the platform. Unfortunately, we have not always done a very great job of making that information easy to find for users. Some of the information is available on DotNetNuke.com, but often you may need to venture out to other websites to get information provided by the broader DotNetNuke community.
My purpose with this post is to provide a good starting point for anyone who is new to DotNetNuke, and even for many long-time DotNetNuke users, administrators, designers and developers. This list is far from exhaustive, but will provide a very solid foundation that should answer a lot of questions. I have used everyone of these resources and know that they are all provide high quality material that is fairly up to date. If you have been using DotNetNuke for any period of time, I am sure you have your own list of resources that you find valuable. Feel free to leave a comment and tell me what documentation and training resources you have found helpful.
There are a number of documents, both free and commercial, that are available for DotNetNuke. All of these documents are kept up to date with the latest releases of DotNetNuke and are extremely valuable to new and experienced DotNetNuke users.
- Installation Guide – This basic installation guide should get you started with installing DotNetNuke. It assumes that you already know how to setup SQL Server and IIS and focuses entirely on the DotNetNuke side of things in order to keep the guide short and simple.
- Quick Administration Guide – At 375 pages, the Quick Administration Guide is not all that quick, but it does provide information on practically every feature in DotNetNuke making it a very valuable resource. Of course, compared to the 1700+ pages that is the full SuperUser Manual, the Quick Administration Guide is a quick read.
- DotNetNuke User and Superuser Manuals – Before there was a book, or online help, or really much documentation at all, there was the User Manual created by Lorraine Young. This is the grand daddy of all user guides and is well worth the cost if you really must have a portable version of the documentation. If you are a DotNetNuke Professional, Elite or Enterprise subscriber then you already have access to these manuals. If not then you can purchase them on Snowcovered.
- Online Help – If you want the information in the User and Superuser Manuals but don’t really need it to be in PDF form, then checkout the Online Help. It is the same documentation, except that it is not portable. The really good news is that it is FREE!
- DotNetNuke Core API Help File – This documentation is brand new on the list. The DotNetNuke Reference Team has been hard at work this year trying to pull this together, and starting with DotNetNuke 5.5 we finally have a Windows Help file that contains the complete core API. This is a work in progress so some sections of the API will contain much greater details than other sections.
Some people have an easier time understanding content that engages both their visual and auditory senses. To help those individuals there are a number of free videos available which cover a wide range of topics.
- Installing DotNetNuke – This video is a great place to start if you are new to DotNetNuke and want to get it installed. Chris Hammond spends some time explaining how to install DotNetNuke and how to deal with some of the issues you may encounter along the way depending on your specific machine configuration.
- Basic DotNetNuke Administration – In the second video in the DotNetNuke Basic series, Chris covers the fundamentals of DotNetNuke and shows how to perform many of the common administrative tasks.
- Basic DotNetNuke Module Development – This is the third video in the DotNetNuke Basic series by Chris Hammond. If you are interested in creating modules for DotNetNuke, then this video will help you get started.
- Basic DotNetNuke Skinning – In the fourth video in the DotNetNuke Basic series, Chris covers how to create your own custom DotNetNuke Skins. The DotNetNuke Basic series contains over 6 hours of instruction and provides a wealth of information to help users get started with all aspects of DotNetNuke development and administration.
- DNNHero Tutorials – Aderson Oliveira has over 130 videos on various aspects of using DotNetNuke. Each video is 5 to 10 minutes in length. In these videos, Aderson covers a wide variety of topics that span both configuration and administration of core DotNetNuke features as well as discussing 3rd party modules and extensions.
- PSDtoDNN Tutorials – Like Aderson, Rick Beddie has created dozens of videos that cover many different administrative tasks in DotNetNuke. These videos are much shorter than those from DNN Hero and often only run between 1 and 5 minutes. Don’t let the length fool you, these are still very useful videos when you are just trying to find that one button or dropdown box to enable or disable a feature.
- DNNProfessor Tutorials – Before Aderson and Rick started creating their videos, Buck Anderson had created a number of terrific videos on DNNProfessor.com. While Buck has been somewhat quiet in 2010, there is still a lot of useful information in these videos and they are well worth your time to review. If you have purchased XMod, then Buck has a number of videos covering that particular module.
The free video content is great, but sometimes you just need more information or you need very specific information that is more targeted to your particular needs. In those cases, you should checkout some of the paid video options.
- Advanced DotNetNuke Webinars – DotNetNuke Corporation provides a number of paid webinars that go in depth on every aspect of DotNetNuke. If you don’t see a scheduled webinar that specifically addresses your needs then speak with Chris Hammond and he can customize a training course specifically tailored for your organization. These training courses go well beyond the free webinars and videos available online and are offered for those looking to take the next step into the world of DotNetNuke.
- DotNetNuke Creative e-Zine – Lee Sykes has created a large number of videos and articles covering most aspects of DotNetNuke. These videos fall somewhere between the 10 minute videos provided by DNNHero and the 90+ minute comprehensive training videos and webinars created by Chris Hammond. Like the DNNHero videos, each DNN Creative video is generally focused on a single task, feature or module.
While the community continues to churn out more and more free documentation, sometimes a book is the best resource for the job. If you want to know how to package your module or you want to know what a specific skin object does, then chances are that you will find that information in one of the many reference books available for DotNetNuke.
- DotNetNuke 5 User’s Guide: Get Your Website Up and Running – In this book is a good beginning reference for people wanting to get a DotNetNuke website up and running quickly. Chris Hammond and Patrick Renner focus on those tasks commonly faced when installing and configuring a DotNetNuke website without bogging the reader down with all of the advanced options and settings which are rarely needed by most DotNetNuke users.
- Professional DotNetNuke 5: Open Source Web Application Framework for ASP.Net – If you really need more in-depth coverage of the features in DotNetNuke 5 then this is a good book for you. Written by some of most active members of the community, this is a well researched book which goes into great detail about all aspects of DotNetNuke including, installation, administration, development and skinning. The only downside to this book is that it is starting to get a little dated. Originally written for DotNetNuke 5.0, there are many features which have come out in the last 18 months that are not covered in the book. If you are looking for a great reference book on DotNetNuke then this is the one to get. When supplemented with the current user guide and API Help file, it provides a solid foundation for fully understanding DotNetNuke.
Community Generated Content
DotNetNuke has a very large and passionate user community. That community is constantly creating great content that is made freely available to other members of the community. If you need a question answered – check the forums. Want to get the latest scoop on a feature that was just released - read the blogs of the developers who work on the platform. Want to find out what kind of sites you can create with DotNetNuke – browse through the sites on the DNNGallery. These sites are just a few of the ways that the DotNetNuke Community gives back to others in the community.
- Forums – The DotNetNuke forums are the hub of the DotNetNuke Community. This is where the most active community members hang out. If you need a question answered, chances are pretty good that someone in the forums knows the answer and is willing to provide the assistance you are seeking. Just remember that everyone in the forums is there as a volunteer, so be nice. We were all new users at some point and have not forgotten some of the challenges of learning a new system. As long as you approach the forums with a little bit of respect for those who are volunteering their time to help you, then you should have a pretty positive experience.
- Blogs – The blogs on DotNetNuke.com are written by members of DotNetNuke Corporation and members of the Core Team. If there is some new feature in DotNetNuke or some major community event, chances are pretty good that you will read about it here first. Some of the blogs are pretty technical and some are more social in nature, but all of them provide a lot of insight for the community into what is happening with the platform.
- DotNetNukeBlogs.com – Originally created by Chris Hammond, DotNetNukeBlogs.com aggregates blogs from many of the leaders in the DotNetNuke Community. There is some overlap with the blogs on DotNetNuke.com, but there is quite a bit of unique content that is aggregated from the blogs of various community members like Mitchel Sellers, Cuong Dang, Will Morgenweck, Bruce Chapman and many others.
- DNNGallery – The DNNGallery is a great site to checkout some of the top websites built using DotNetNuke. All of these sites were submitted by various community members to help show off the great capabilities of DotNetNuke.
Conferences and Community Events
Every year, DotNetNuke users across the globe get together to discuss DotNetNuke. We meet at local and national conferences and user groups. This is a chance to get a little more direct contact with key community members and learn from some of the best minds in the DotNetNuke community.
- DotNetNuke Connections – The DotNetNuke Connections conference is held every year in Las Vegas in conjunction with the DevConnections conferences. This conference is the premier event in North America for DotNetNuke developers, administrators and designers. With attendance by most of the major DotNetNuke vendors, DotNetNuke Corporation engineers and DotNetNuke Core team members, if you have a question about some aspect of DotNetNuke, you are guaranteed to find someone here who can answer your question or at least put you in touch with the right person. This is the place to be if you want to find out about the new features that have come out this past year, and those features that are being worked on for 2011.
- DotNetNuke OpenForce Europe – OpenForce Europe is the counterpart to the DotNetNuke Connections event and is the place where Europeans come together to learn about the latest with DotNetNuke. Attendees tend to be predominantly from Europe but still include a number of high profile DotNetNuke Corp employees and DotNetNuke Core team members.
- Day Of DNN – The Day of DNN is a series of community driven events that started in 2009 with Day of DNN – Orlando. This year there was a Day of DNN – Europe in Paris this past spring and there is also an upcoming Day of DNN – Chicago that is coming up on October 2nd. Much like the Connections and OpenForce events, DayOfDnn provides a great opportunity to meet some of the leaders in the community. These events are generally well attended and provide great content but are mostly regional events.
DotNetNuke is a great platform, with a great community. If you are really interested in learning how to use DotNetNuke to its fullest then there is documentation, videos and websites that can help you. If you know of other websites or content that didn’t make my initial list, then just leave a comment below and I’ll be happy to review any additional items that you think are worthy.