As a Site administrator you can configure your Totara Social site to work in a way that suits the needs of your organisation. This includes managing users, processes, and content within the site.

You will be able to do everything a standard user can do as a Site administrator, alongside your additional tasks. For guidance on the basic functionality see the User Guide section of this documentation. 

There are some tasks that a Site administrator can do that are not described on this page, but can be found elsewhere in this documentation, these are:

Other Site administrator functionality is described on this page (such as registering your site), or in one of the sub-pages linked to via the related page block on the right-hand side of this page (such as configuring site extensions). 

Accessing the Administration menu

Site administrators have their own Administration menu from which to access all the administration options. Once you have logged in to Totara Social as the Site administrator (using the username and password set-up during installation), you can click the Cogs icon () from the top menu to display the available options.

All Totara Social sites must have at least one Site administrator. An initial Site administrator account is set up during Totara Social installation to obtain preliminary access to all the site administration options.

An existing Site administrator can set-up further Site administrators.

The Administration menu includes an Overview page option. The Overview page is a useful place to start as it provides links to all the site administration options in one place. That is, it contains shortcuts to most items that are contained within all the other Administration menu options. 

  1. Select Administration from the main menu.
  2. The Overview page displays by default 

Alternatively you can select Admin home, then select Overview to display the page.

Registering your site

You can register your Totara Social site under Admin home > Totara registration. Administrators will be redirected to this page after upgrade until registration has been completed, so ensure you have the registration code available for each site before you upgrade. Partners can obtain the registration code for their customers' sites via the Subscription Portal. Direct subscribers will receive their registration code direct from Totara Learning.

  1. Select Administration from the main menu to display the available options.
  2. Click the Admin home tab and then select Register to display the Registration page.

Registration is optional; however, it does help the Totara Social team gather a picture of where Totara Social is being deployed around the world. No information that would personally identify any of your users will be sent to the Totara Social team. It is also free to register.

Site options

You can configure the workings of your Totara Social site within Site options. Select Administration > Configure Site > Site Options to display the Site options page.

Familiarise yourself with your Site options by working through each of the settings available. These settings specify how your system will work and how users may interact with your Totara Social site. These settings are summarised below.

Site Options


Site settings

Includes options for setting your site's name, language, country (default), theme, home page, and whether or not to share your site statistics with the Totara Social team.

  • Site name: The name of the Totara Social site.
  • Language: The default language for the site.
  • Country: The default country for the site.
  • Theme: The default theme for the site. If your theme is not listed, check the error log.
  • Send weekly updates?: If checked, your site will send weekly updates to with some statistics about your site.

User settings

Provides a range of options for user actions within the site, including how user information is displayed.

  • Users can choose page themes: If checked, users will be allowed to select a theme when editing or creating a page.
  • Display remote avatars: If checked, the Gravatar service will be used for users' default profile images.
  • Search usernames: If checked, allow usernames to be searched on as part of the administration function of Search users.
  • Anonymous comments: If checked, anyone can leave comments on public pages or pages they can access by secret URL.
  • Staff report access: If checked, site and tenant staff will have access to the reports page for users in their tenants.
  • Staff statistics access: If checked, tenant staff will have access to the statistics page for users in their tenants.
  • Require reason for masquerading: If checked, administrators will be required to enter a reason for masquerading as other users.
  • Notify users of masquerading: If checked, users will be notified when an administrator masqueraded as them.
  • Show Get started block: If checked, a progress bar with tips about how to get started will be displayed as a side block on homepage.
User profile settings

Decide which profile fields will appear in the About block on a user's profile page. There are three column options:

  • Basic: When checked, the corresponding profile field is required and will be displayed in the About block.
  • Extended: When checked, the corresponding profile fields are optional and will be displayed in the About block, but under an expandable Show full profile link.
  • Locked: The user cannot amend this profile field. This can be useful to secure accuracy of important information such as email addresses or first names.

Group settings

Enables you to specify who can create groups, and whether or not Group administrators can make their group(s) accessible by the public.

  • Create groups: Decide which users will be able to create new groups. Choose from Everyone, Administrators and staff only, and Administrators only.
  • Create public groups: Decide which users will be able to make groups that are viewable by the general public. Choose either Everyone or Administrators only.

Tenant settings

Provides the ability for you to setup your client organisation as tenants on your Totara Social site, with each tenant being managed separately by designated Tenant administrators. These settings determine how users of the system access and work within tenants, such as whether users can become tenants by self-registering and whether a user can belong to more than one tenant.

  • Confirm registration: If checked, new self-registered user accounts must be approved by a tenant administrator before they will become active.
  • Users allowed multiple tenants: If checked, users can be members of several tenants at the same time.
  • Warning time for tenant expiryA notification message will be sent to site and tenant administrators a set period of time before a tenant expires.
  • Auto-suspend expired tenants: If checked, expired tenants will be automatically suspended.

Account settings

Enables you to change account settings, such as how long an account will remain active by default or following a certain period of inactivity.

  • Session lifetime: Time in minutes after which an inactive logged-in user will be automatically logged out.
  • Login tries lock time: You can set a time (between 5-60 minutes) which is how long the user has to wait to log-in again after exceeding the maximum number of login attempts.
  • Default registration expiry lifetime: Determine how long registration applications that require an administrator action will stay active.
  • Default account lifetime: If set, user accounts will expire after the set period of time from either today or the day they are created in the future.
  • Override user account lifetime: If default account lifetime is set, then choose how to deal with user expiry times. Choose from Only for newly created users, For new users and users without an account lifetime already set (excluding site administrators), or For all user accounts (excluding site administrators).
  • Default account inactivity time: How long a user account will remain active without the user logging in.
  • Warning time for inactivity / expiry: The time before user accounts are to expire or become inactive at which a warning message will be sent to them.

Security settings

Provides the ability for you to configure different default security checks and permissions.

  • Virus checking: If checked, virus checking will be enabled for all uploaded files using ClamAV.
  • Path to ClamAV: The file system path to clamscan or clamdscan.
  • Anti-spam: The type of anti-spam measures used on publicly visible forms. Choose from Advanced, Simple, or None.
  • Enable Spamhaus URL blacklist: If checked, URLs will be checked against the Spamhaus DNSBL.
  • Enable SURBL URL blacklist: If checked, URLs will be checked against the SURBL DNSBL.
  • Disable external resources in user HTML: Check to disable the embedding of external resources, preventing users from embedding things like images from other hosts.
  • reCAPTCHA on user registration form: If checked, users self-registering a new account will have to prove themselves human by passing a reCAPTCHA test.
  • reCAPTCHA public key: The public key for your site's reCAPTCHA account.
  • reCAPTCHA private key: The private key for your site's reCAPTCHA account.

Proxy settings

Allows you to configure different proxy address, authentication and credential settings.

  • Proxy address: If your site uses a proxy server to access the Internet, specify the proxies in hostname:portnumber notation.
  • Proxy authentication model: Select your proxy's authentication model, if appropriate.
  • Proxy credentials: Enter the credentials required for your proxy to authenticate your web server in username:password format.

Email settings

Allows you to set SMTP and system mail address settings. Additionally you can add a custom MAIL FROM address for email envelopes.

  • SMTP host: SMTP server to be used for mail sending, e.g. Alternatively enter "qmail" if you want to use qmail or keep empty to fall back to the PHP mail() function.
  • SMTP port: Specify port number if SMTP server uses port different from 25.
  • User: If SMTP server requires authentication, enter user credentials in the corresponding fields.
  • Password: If SMTP server requires authentication, enter user credentials in the corresponding fields.
  • SMTP encryption: If the SMTP server supports encryption, enable it here.
  • System mail address: Enter email address to be used in the From field of all outgoing emails. This email address should usually match the user account for SMTP authentication. If this setting is empty or incorrect then outgoing emails are likely to get marked as spam or are not delivered at all.
  • Custom sender address: In special cases you may want to enter custom MAIL FROM address for email envelopes. If not specified System mail address or admin email is used instead.

Notification settings

Provides the ability for you to set the default notification options for new users; these can be overridden by the user through their own settings.

General settings

Includes options that can be configured for a number of general display and accessibility settings.

  • Allow public content: If checked, users will be able to create content items that are accessible to the public rather than only to logged-in users.
  • Allow sharing on social networks: If checked, users will be able to share pages, blogs, files, ideas and other content on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn.
  • Generate sitemap: Generate sitemap files from publicly accessible pages, groups, and forum topics.
  • Show online users: If checked, users will see a sidebar with a list of the online users.
  • Online users limit: The maximum number of users to display in the online users sidebar.
  • Registration agreement: Force users to agree to the terms and conditions before registration.
  • Allow mobile uploads: If checked, users will have the option of setting an authentication token. Items uploaded with this token will be saved as user content.
  • Enable HTML editor: Defines whether or not the HTML editor is enabled globally.
Activity settingsProvides options for how long activities are stored in the database. You can set the Activity expiry period, which is how long activities generated by site users will be stored in database. This can be set in days, week, months, or years.

Logging settings

Provide options for the logging of events and event log expiry.

  • Log events: Decide which events should be logged. Choose from None, Masquerading, and All.
  • Event log expiry: Decide how long to keep the event log.

Installing a language pack

Totara Social comes complete with an English language pack. You may also download and install support for other languages. To do this, you install language packs in a sub-directory of your dataroot directory, called Langpacks. You may wish to ask your System administrator to help you with this task. 

To install a language pack:

  1. Make sure you have a Langpacks directory inside your dataroot directory (one should have already been created for you).
  2. Download the language pack you want to install from the Language Packs page. The language pack version needs to match your Totara Social site version. 
  3. Extract the content of the downloaded TGZ archive.
  4. Copy the directory to the Langpacks directory inside your dataroot directory.

    Make sure the name of the directory you put inside the dataroot Langpacks directory has a name like xy.utf8, where xy is the language code.

  5. In Totara Social, select Administration from the main menu. 

  6. Next, select Configure site > Site Options to display the Site options page.

  7. Go to Site settings and select the appropriate default language.

The default language can only be changed when there is more than one language pack installed. Users can also choose what language they see using their own settings.

 Editing the language strings

Administrators can put modified (or new) language files into the local/lang directory, and the strings in those files will override the strings in the installed language packs.

For example, say you would like to change the string Logout to Let me out! This string is defined in htdocs/lang/en.utf8/mahara.php.  You can create the file htdocs/local/lang/en.utf8/mahara.php with the following contents:

$string['logout'] = "Let me out!";

There is no need to edit the original language files, so updating the site to newer versions of Totara Social will be easier  as there is no need to merge local changes to the language files with the updated versions.

Strings used by plugins are stored in files like htdocs/artefact/file/lang/en.utf8/artefact.file.php.  These strings can be overridden by creating


Changing the site's appearance

Totara Social comes with a set of default themes. You can also install other themes that may have been developed especially for your organisation. To do this, any customised theme needs to be saved to Totara Social's Theme directory. You may wish to ask your System administrator to help you with this task. 

To install and/or change a theme:

  1. Where a customised theme is being used, install this to Totara Social's Theme directory. 
  2. In Totara Social go to Administration > Configure site > Site options.
  3. Select Site settings and select the appropriate theme.

Tenant administrators can select themes for their tenancy only.

Search settings

Elasticsearch requires Java to run. These instructions assume this is a developer environment, where Elasticsearch and Totara Social's web server are running on the same machine. For a production environment, you may want to move Elasticsearch to a different server, and to add some access control to it. 

The Elasticsearch plugin relies on database triggers to keep its content up to date. So the database account used by Totara Social must have the ability to create and delete triggers.

Installing Elasticsearch on Linux

There are some packaged installations of Elasticsearch available, but for development purposes this isn't necessary. Elasticsearch is available as a completely self-contained ZIP file. If you're wondering what version of Elasticsearch to install, try the latest. Totara Social uses a simple subset of the Elasticsearch functionality, which should work with a wide range of Elasticsearch versions. If the latest version doesn't work, look in htdocs/lib/elastica/ to see what version of Elasticsearch is compatible with our current version of the Elastica PHP library.

To install Elasticsearch, follow these steps:

  1. Download the Elasticsearch ZIP file from
  2. Extract the Elasticsearch ZIP file into a convenient directory. Call it Elasticsearch.
  3. In your new directory, find the file config/Elasticsearch.yml and open it in a text editor. 
  4. Add these configuration lines to the bottom (replace YOURNAME with your name). These will prevent your site from automatically clustering with other Elasticsearch servers other devs might be running on your network.

    Code to add:


  5. Once that's done, open a terminal and cd into your Elasticsearch directory.
  6. In the terminal, run this command: bin/Elasticsearch

You should see your terminal fill up with Elasticsearch log messages, indicating that the server has started running. Elasticsearch will now continue to run until you close this Terminal window, or hit Control-C to kill it.

For instructions on installing Elasticsearch on Windows, please see Running as a Service on Windows in the Elasticsearch documentation.

Configuring Elasticsearch in Totara Social

  1. While your Elasticsearch server is running, log in to your Totara Social site (which is running on a web server on the same machine as your Elasticsearch server).
  2. Go to Administration > Extensions > Search > Elasticsearch.
  3. This should bring up the Plugin administration: search: Elasticsearch page, which lets you configure the Elasticsearch search plugin for Totara Social. You'll notice that many of the settings are greyed out and can only be changed by editing your config.php file. That's okay! The default settings will work perfectly with an Elasticsearch server also on its default settings, running on the same machine.
  4. Scroll down, and select all the content item types that you want Elasticsearch to index. (Probably all of them.)
  5. Click Save.
  6. Go to Administration > Configure site > Site options.
  7. Open the Search settings subsection, and set Search plugin to Elasticsearch.
  8. Press the Update site options button. You may notice a longer-than-normal Loading time after pressing this. That's because, when you first activate the Elasticsearch plugin, Totara Social initiates an initial indexing of the site. So once you see the Site options have been updated message, you should be able to use search and get results based on the current content of your site.

Updating data in Elasticsearch

Totara Social uses triggers, a queue table, and a cron job, to keep the data in the Elasticsearch server up to date.

When you first enable Elasticsearch, the plugin runs a database query that puts a record into the search_Elasticsearch_queue table for every artefact, view, and user in your database.

Henceforth, every time you insert, update, or delete a record of the types indexed by Elasticsearch, the triggers insert a record into the search_Elasticsearch_queue database table.

The  cron function, which is scheduled to run every 5 minutes, pulls records from this table, and then pushes them into the Elasticsearch server using Elasticsearch's REST api.

The number of records sent to Elasticsearch in a single cron run  is limited by the cronlimit setting in the Elasticsearch plugin settings page.

So you can update the data in Elasticsearch by simply running the cron. There is also a standalone cron script in the Elasticsearch plugin directory, which you can use if you want to run the Elasticsearch cron function more frequently: htdocs/search/Elasticsearch/cron.php

Resetting Elasticsearch

If your Elasticsearch falls out of sync due to problems with your server, or if you just want to reset it, you can do that using the Reset ALL Indexes button on the Elasticsearch plugin settings page. This will delete & recreate the database triggers, destroy and recreate the Elasticsearch index, clear out the search_Elasticsearch_queue table, and then re-fill it by directly querying your database, and send one starting set of records to the Elasticsearch server.

Please note that resetting Elasticsearch will cause it to re-index all records. This is a very performance intensive operation on large databases and should be executed when server load is low e.g. overnight where fewer users are accessing the server.

Troubleshooting Elasticsearch

For more information about Elasticsearch, setting up and troubleshooting, please see Getting Started in the Elasticsearch documentation.

Site files

You can upload external files for use within Totara Social. These are called Site files

To view or upload Site files:

Go to Administration > Configure site > Files to display the Site files page.

Select Site files to view, edit, or delete site files.

Uploading site files

From the Site files page, select Upload to select external files to be uploaded into Totara Social.

Drag and drop, or browse for files and then click Upload.

In the Share With field, type in or select who you want to be able to access the file.

All files uploaded can be added to content and other resources visible to logged-in users. Files uploaded to the public directory may be added to content and other resources visible to anyone, whether they are logged in or not.


By default, the Links and resources menu displays to all users on the right-hand side of most pages. It provides users with shortcuts to useful or frequently used information.

You can specify the items that display on this menu, as well as what displays in the footer on each screen. 

To configure the Links and resources menu:

Select Administration > Configure site > Menus to display the Menus page.

Go to the Menus section of the page.

In the Edit field you can choose from these two options:

  1. Logged in links and resources: Select this if the new menu item is to be accessible to logged-in users only. 
  2. Public links and resources: Select this if the new menu item is to be accessible to everybody (whether logged in or not).

In the Type field, there are two options to choose from:

  1. Site file: Select this if the new menu item is a link to a Sitefile, then enter the link text you want to display and select the Site file from the dropdown list.
  2. External link:  Select this if the item is a link to an external website. Then enter the link text you want to display and the URL (web address) of the external website.

Select Add.

New user welcome message

The new user welcome message is sent to every user when they have successfully registered on Totara Social Site. 

To change the new user welcome message:

Select Site Administration > Configure Site > Static pages.

Select New user welcome message from the dropdown list.

Click on Save changes

Site pages

Site pages are pre-built pages that are available to users of the system. You can create and customise Site pages with the content items and layout that you require. 

To configure Site pages:

From the main menu go to Administration > Configure site > Pages to display page for the Site pages.

Select from the following options:

  1. Create page: To create a new site page.
  2. Copy a page: To copy an existing site page.
  3. Edit (pencil icon): Alongside any page to edit that site page.
  4. Delete (bin icon): To permanently remove that site page(where this option is available).

Creating a new page works the same as elsewhere in Totara Social, you can read more about creating pages in the pages guide.

On this page

Related pages

Still have questions? Why not post them in the forums of the Totara Community.

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