Table of Contents
The VuFind® documentation can be a bit intimidating for a new user. This page is designed to help you get started. The page contains some background on VuFind®'s capabilities and requirements, and it will point you in the right direction when you are ready to install your own copy.
What It Does
VuFind® does a lot of things, but its main purpose is as a discovery tool: it takes data that you already have (such as library catalog records) and presents it through a new interface that will make it easier for users to find items in your collections.
There are two parts to setting up VuFind®: installing all the software that VuFind® needs to interact with users and making sure it has access to your data so that it has something to search through.
Setting up VuFind® involves installing a lot of software. Here's a quick list explaining how the pieces fit together:
- Apache is a web server. Whenever you enter an address into your web browser, you are actually requesting a file from a web server somewhere in the world. VuFind® needs Apache so that its pages are visible to users who want to access them.
- Solr is a search engine. VuFind® uses Solr to index your records and search through them on behalf of users. VuFind® interacts with Solr in exactly the same way that your web browser talks to a web server. To make this possible, Solr runs inside its own self-contained web server. Fortunately, Solr is included with VuFind® itself, so you don't need to worry about installing it separately.
- PHP is the programming language that was used to write VuFind®. Apache uses PHP to turn VuFind®'s code into web pages customized to answer user requests. PHP is the engine that drives all of VuFind®'s interactivity; without it, VuFind® wouldn't be able to do anything.
- An Integrated Library Management System (ILMS, ILS) or Library Services Platform (LSP) should be familiar to anyone working in a library setting: it is the software that traditionally handles catalog searches as well as circulation and administration. VuFind® is designed to talk to an ILS of some sort, though non-library users may be able to use it in other creative ways. You can install and test VuFind® even if you do not have access to a real ILMS. Note that most of VuFind®'s documentation uses the acronym “ILS” for these types of systems.
- MySQL is the Database Management System (DBMS) that houses VuFind®'s local application database for your social metadata and such. When users add tags or leave comments, that information is stored in the MySQL database. Note that this is separate from your ILMS database.
- Some ILS systems may have additional requirements for compatibility with VuFind® (for example, Voyager requires the Oracle instant client software to be installed), but as modern systems have become increasingly web-based, it is less common to have special requirements like this than it used to be.
Choosing an Installation Platform
VuFind® can run in a lot of different environments, as you have probably noticed from the long list of installation notes on the documentation page. The two most common platforms are Windows and Linux.
- The main advantage to installing VuFind® under Windows is familiarity. If you aren't a techie, chances are that you've spent more time using Windows than using Linux. It's also likely that you're already running Windows, so if you want to try the software on your desktop computer without installing a new operating system, Windows could be your best choice.
- VuFind® can run perfectly well under Windows, but it was originally designed with Linux in mind. For this reason, installing VuFind® under Windows takes a bit more work, since you have to change more settings to get it running. This is all documented, but expect to invest extra time getting the details right. If you want to run VuFind® under Windows and don't mind working with some additional technology, a virtualization environment like Vagrant or VirtualBox might allow you to find the best of both worlds by allowing you to run the software in a Linux environment from the comfort of your Windows machine.
- VuFind® was originally built under Linux, so this will offer the greatest ease of installation. With our instructions, you should be able to set up a VuFind® server from scratch even if you are not familiar with the environment. (Obviously, if you plan on running VuFind® for the long term, you will want to learn more… but you can test with little or no background knowledge).
- Because the Linux command line is a bit more flexible than the Windows command line, some of the packaged utilities have more functionality under Linux.
- VuFind®'s components generally run faster and remain stable longer under Linux.
- Just as Windows' advantage is familiarity, Linux's disadvantage is unfamiliarity; you will have to learn some new things if you are not already familiar with it.
- There are a lot of different versions (often called “flavors”) of Linux out there. Different groups of developers bundle different programs together and release them under different names. This can be a bit confusing at first, and choosing the best flavor for your needs is beyond the scope of this document. We currently have detailed instructions on several flavors; our Ubuntu notes will probably have you up and running the fastest, but Fedora isn't too much harder. Notes for other flavors may be added eventually, and many flavors are similar to the two we have documented – Ubuntu is part of the Debian family, while Fedora is similar to RedHat and other “enterprise Linux” flavors.
If you've decided on a platform for installation, go back to the installation page and click on the instructions for the desired operating system. These should guide you through the process of installing the software and importing your data.
Still not sure what to do? Having trouble with installation? Visit the support page. The VuFind® community is always happy to help new members along.