Support and FAQ

Please direct any technical support enquiries to support@projectforum.com.
However, first please take a look at the frequently asked questions below, as well as our support forum. You may find your question has already been answered.

User's Guide

The best way that you can learn all that ProjectForum can do for you is via our full user's guide:

ProjectForum User's Guide (PDF)

Support Forum

We offer an online support forum (using ProjectForum of course) where you can post questions publicly.

Getting Started

For a quicker introduction, we offer a getting started page which will walk you through some of the key concepts.


Frequently Asked Questions

Note that this FAQ covers both CourseForum and ProjectForum, because the two applications largely share the same underlying technology. Where there are differences between the two, these will be noted.

Top Five Questions:

  1. What do I do if I forget the site admin password?
  2. How do I upgrade to a newer version?
  3. What files should be backed up?
  4. Can I run ProjectForum on my current web host?
  5. Can I brand the site to match my existing web site?

FAQ: Initial Setup Questions

Where do I enter my license key?

Make sure your ProjectForum server is running. In your web browser, go to the home page of your ProjectForum server. Either use the link labelled "Enter Key" or go to the "Site Administration" page, and follow the "Enter New Key" link next to the "Licensing" label. Copy and paste the key you received from your email into the "New license key" field, and press the "Okay" button.

Do I need to host things on my local machine? Can I put ProjectForum on the same machine as my web server?

You can definitely put things on your server if you have one available. ProjectForum doesn't require a special "server class" machine, but if you have a dedicated server available, thats certainly the best place to run it, since you know it should be always available, backed up, etc.

What URL do I give to other people to use my forums?

When you run the software on your own machine, you usually see a URL like "http://127.0.0.1:3455". The "127.0.0.1" always refers to the local machine, so if you use this on other machines it won't work. In place of the "127.0.0.1" you need to provide the main IP address of your machine (e.g. look in "System Preferences" or "Control Panel"), or its DNS hostname, if publically registered. Remember to keep the ":3455" at the end!

I already run a website using XYZ web hosting company. Can I run ProjectForum there?

It depends on the web hosting company. CourseForum and ProjectForum contain their own built-in web server; this stays running all the time and waits for incoming web connections. Your hosting company then would need to let you have a long-running program on their servers. Some will certainly allow you to do this. Others will have restrictions preventing this, either allowing only static pages, or only short-running programs (CGI scripts, Perl, PHP pages, etc.). So ultimately you'll need to ask your web hosting provider if they can help you with this. If not, we offer our own hosting service; see CourseForum hosting or ProjectForum hosting.

On OS X, do I need to enable "Personal Web Sharing" or...?

No, ProjectForum does not rely on any of the web server services provided by OS X. It is completely self-contained.


FAQ: Networking Problems

I've tried ProjectForum from several computers within our office network with no problem, but can't access it from home. What's wrong?

Most likely, there is a firewall preventing you from accessing the server from home. If you do not already have a web server running on your machine, you may want to try changing ProjectForum to run on port 80 (the standard web port) rather than port 3455 (the default). This can be done via the site administration page. If this doesn't work, you should probably consult with your network administrator. See also the next question about proxying.

Can I run both my web server and ProjectForum on port 80 on the same machine?

Not directly, but you can probably do this by configuring your web server to proxy certain URL's to ProjectForum. Please see our Proxying through a Webserver HOWTO for information.

When I try to connect to http://127.0.0.1:3455 in my browser, I keep getting errors about "Bad URL"? What's wrong?

If you're sure that ProjectForum is running, you'll want to check if your web browser is going through a proxy server. Since 127.0.0.1 is a special address meaning "the computer you're running on", the proxy server would have no idea it means yours. Check your web browser's preferences for a way to tell it that it should connect to certain hosts directly, without going through the proxy server.

I'm using ProjectForum as part of a larger website, but when I set it up running inside a browser frame (using framesets), I couldn't login! What's wrong?

Starting with IE6, Microsoft changed the browser's security policy so that web browser cookies (which are used by CourseForum and ProjectForum to store login information) will not be accepted when coming from a website that is different from the site hosting the toplevel frameset. These are known as 'third party cookies'. While this behavior can be circumvented by having everyone using your site change their browser's security level to 'Low' from the default 'Medium', there is no other practical solution.

I've registered a domain name for my site and am using the domain forwarding features of my registrar to hook it up to my site. But when I do that, I can't login. How do I fix this?

Most domain registrars offer two types of forwarding: one where the original domain name is still displayed in the browser, and one where it changes to the actual name or IP address of the site. The former approach uses frames, and will prevent signin from working (see previous question). You'll want to change your forwarding to use the second type of forwarding, where the actual website address is displayed in the browser.


FAQ: Usage Questions

How do I delete a page?

Just edit the page and delete its contents. Because ProjectForum doesn't revolve around a master page list, empty pages don't cause any clutter. As well, the group's administrator has the ability to permanently delete the page from the group.

How do I delete an entire group?

Only the site administrator can do this. Sign in as the site administrator, and go to the group directory (home) page for the site. Click on the small triangle beside the group you'd like to delete, and you'll be taken to an Information page for that group. From there, you can delete the group (or just archive it).

How do I handle people who post inappropriate remarks?

Each page has a history of all changes made to it, including who made the change. This makes it easy to identify who made a particular remark. Because everything, including comment postings, just become part of the page, it's of course also simple to edit the page to remove any offending remarks.

How do I include information from other websites into forums, rather than just linking to other web pages?

You can use the standard "include:" markup to incorporate another web page directly into a forum page. You can also define new link types, which allow you to define exactly what information you want to include, and how it should be displayed. See our Including Other Web Information HOWTO for more information.

My browser displays Japanese or other characters properly, but when I try to edit the page, it messes them up.

CourseForum and ProjectForum use a form of Unicode called UTF-8 to allow pages to contain all kinds of characters in all kinds of languages. Certain older browsers however, do not handle UTF-8 at all well unfortunately. Browsers that are known to have trouble with UTF-8 include IE5.0 on Mac OS, Netscape 4.x, Opera 5.0. Browsers that handle UTF-8 well include IE5.5 and newer on Windows, Mozilla-based browsers (e.g. Netscape 6.x and newer), Safari, and most other newer browsers.

How can I embed a block of HTML in a page without links, line spacing etc. getting interpreted by the system?

You need to first turn on the "allow use of HTML tags" option in the Group Admin screens. After that you can just start and end the block of HTML with lines reading "===html===". This feature is available starting with version 3.4.

How do I import a group into a different copy of ProjectForum?

Copy the course##.db file and attachments## directory for the group onto the same machine running the copy of ProjectForum you want to import into. They must be placed in an "import" directory located inside the "Group Data" (or "Course Data" directory) for the server you are importing to. On that ProjectForum site, sign in as the site administrator, and then from the Site Admin page, click on the 'Import Group' link. Select the course##.db file you placed on the machine, and press the Import button. The group should now be available in your ProjectForum site.

Why does nothing happen when I click on the RSS link?

The RSS link on every page of a forum links to the forum's RSS feed page. This is not a normal web page, but an XML document which can be understood by a RSS aggregator to track changes to the forum. While some browsers include a built-in RSS aggregator, more often you'll use a separate application. For more information on tracking changes via RSS, please see our page on RSS support.

Why does Firefox seem to ignore links to our LAN file server, but they work fine in IE?

This is a result of a questionable security policy, not found in other web browsers. You can verify that security settings are the problem by viewing the JavaScript Console (via the Tools menu) after trying to click on a link; you should see a "Security Error" message. Links can be made to work by changing a global configuration setting, or modifying your user.js file, depending on the version of Firefox you're using. Please see Links to local pages don't work for complete details on what to change. This procedure has changed several times across different versions, so if things start breaking again, check back to that page for updates. Note also that Firefox is somewhat more picky about link syntax than IE; something like "file:\\server\foo\bar.doc" should work for both.

Why don't links to files on shared drives work on IE?

As with the Firefox issue, this is a reaction to security issues, and affects users running versions from around WinXP SP2. The specific issue is that file: links to files on a drive that are referenced by drive letter (e.g. file:U:\\file.doc) don't work. Our strong recommendation is to refer to such files using UNC style paths. If you absolutely must use drive letters, you should be able to adjust the IE security settings to allow this. To do so, enable the "My Computer" security zone, and then in the IE security options for that zone, adjust the setting that reads "web sites in less privileged web content zone can navigate into this zone."

FAQ: Administration Questions

I want to make sure ProjectForum's information is backed up... where is it stored?

On Windows, ProjectForum creates a "Group Data" directory normally in "C:\Users\username\AppData\Roaming\ProjectForum" (this can be changed; see here). On Linux, the "Group Data" directory is placed in the same directory where you are running from (i.e. the "present working directory"). On OS X, it is stored inside "Library/Application Support/ProjectForum" in your Home directory. (For CourseForum, this is the "Course Data" directory, and stored within "CourseForum" inside "Application Support").

How do I upgrade to a newer version and still keep my data?

Shut down the existing ProjectForum server program if running, replace the application with the new one, and restart. On Windows, just running the new installer will leave any existing data intact.

I forgot the site administration password - now what?

In the Mac and Windows version, look in the menus associated with the small window that comes up when you start ProjectForum. You'll find a menu item saying "Reset Site Password..." which will clear the password so you can go in and set a new one. In the command line versions, stop ProjectForum, run "projectforum -resetpassword" and then start it up again.

On Mac OS X, can ProjectForum be run as a daemon, rather than with the user interface?

Yes. Please see our Running as an OS X StartupItem HOWTO for information on running from the OS X command line, or running automatically at system startup time.

On Windows, can ProjectForum be started automatically when the computer starts?

Yes. Please see our Running as a Windows Service HOWTO which describes how to accomplish this using Windows services.

How do I move things to a different server?

Install a copy of ProjectForum on the new machine, start it up there, and then shut it down (i.e. exit the application entirely). Note the location of the "Group Data" directory ("Course Data" for CourseForum). Copy the "Group Data" directory, including all subdirectories, from the original machine to the new machine, replacing the "Group Data" directory there. Start up ProjectForum on the new machine, and it will pick up everything you copied over.

The service version on Windows won't stop running. How do I kill it?

This is a problem of course because you'll need to shut down the old version before you can upgrade to the new one. Sometimes, services won't die, even when you try to stop them via the Services control panel, or even using "End Task" in Task Manager. In those cases, the command line utility "kill.exe" will usually do the job. You can find out more info from this Microsoft Knowledge Base article; here is one place to download the utility.

I have multiple IP addresses; can I listen on just one?

Yes, there is an option available when using one of the command line versions (on Unix, or see the HOWTO's referenced in the previous two questions about running a command line version for OS X or Windows). You'll want to add the option "-address", as in "-address 192.168.0.1"

I tried the above on Windows to get ProjectForum to run on port 80 on just a single IP address, but it still runs on port 3455..?

If ProjectForum can't bind to the port you select, it will fallback to port 3455, so something is preventing ProjectForum from listening on that port. If you're running IIS on the box, see this Microsoft support article which explains why IIS will bind to all addresses, even those not being used for IIS, and how to fix it.

How do I setup SSL?

For information on setting up Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) support, which is only available in ProjectForum, please see our SSL HOWTO.

Can I change the appearance of ProjectForum, e.g. altering colors so it matches my other sites?

Yes. Along with the built-in themes, you can also create new themes. Please see our Creating New Themes HOWTO for information.

Can I change the set of pages that every forum starts out with?

This is possible in ProjectForum (not CourseForum), starting with version 3.4. To do this, you will need to manually create a set of files on disk. Start by creating a directory inside your "Group Data" directory named "startpages". Inside that, create directories called "group" and "project" (which will hold the starting pages for groups and projects respectively). Inside each of those, create a set of text files, one per page that you'd like to have in your forums. The filenames should be the names of the pages (no file extension). You must include at least the following pages: Home, Help, Changes, Search, and (for groups) Projects.

How can I prevent Google or other web crawlers and search engines from indexing my site?

Starting with version 3.3, if you place a 'robots.txt' file in your 'Group Data' or 'Course Data' directory, the file will be served by the internal web server. See the Web Robots site for details about how to use this file.

I'm not comfortable with all my data being stored in a proprietary format; is there any way to extract or export it?

The backend data storage (.db files) can be fully accessed using an open source database toolkit called Metakit. There are simple command line and graphical tools for browsing databases, as well as programming API's in C++, Tcl and Python. We'd also be happy to discuss any special needs you have for managing this data.


FAQ: Licensing Questions

What is a group? How many to a group?

A group is an independent work area. If you've got the program up and running, you'll see that you can create several different groups. There are no restrictions on the number of users in a group. Some people find a single group suits their needs fine, others find it better to split things off. Generally, when you have the same set of people working on a single thing, you want to have them all in one group. See also next question.

Are there any limits on the number of registered users in a group?

No, with the regular licensing model, licenses are based only on the number of groups (courses in CourseForum); you can have as many users as you need in each group. However, our Enterprise licenses (Campus licenses for CourseForum) do use a per-user model.

If I buy a license, does it stop working after one year?

No! You can continue using the software indefinitely after purchasing your license. However, your license entitles you to only one year of free updates to the software; after that if you want to get a newer version you will need to renew your license. But you can continue using the software you have for as long as you want.

What are the differences between CourseForum and ProjectForum?

The two products share most of the same features. The terminology and default templates are different, with CourseForum optimized to support online courses and student groups, while ProjectForum has been designed for business and workgroup users. ProjectForum also provides the option to use encrypted SSL connections, which are not available in CourseForum. The set of default pages used to populate newly created forums can also be changed in ProjectForum, but not CourseForum. Finally, the list pricing for CourseForum reflects an educational discount not applied to ProjectForum. In the future, there may be additional differences between the two products.

I have a ten group license, and am running ten groups now. When I'm done with some of them, how can I add new groups? Do I have to delete the groups I'm done with? It would be nice to have them around for reference.

When logged in with the administrator password, you can actually archive older groups. That way, you can still view your existing content, but can't make any changes to it. You can have as many archived groups as you want, they don't count against your license limit. And you can decide to re-activate an archived group at a later date.