BigTree CMS

BigTree is the Content Management System (CMS) that powers our main institutional website. It is an extremely extensible open source CMS built on an industry standard platform (PHP and MySQL.) It was created by designers, user experience experts, and content strategists to help us develop and maintain a better website.

Using a CMS allows site management to be distributed, empowering individuals in various departments to maintain their own content, while University Communications oversees the overall look, feel, and experience. BigTree users may have different levels of permission and are only assigned access to their department’s pages. Information Services provides support and training for BigTree use on campus.

Tips & Tricks

  • BigTree automatically puts boxes or “blocks” around every piece of content. Knowing where the boxes are can be helpful. Display them by clicking the Show Blocks button in the Page Content editor.
  • Most users have only been given Editor permissions, rather than Publisher. If you’re not sure who has Publisher permission in your department, you may send a request to the Help Desk to have your edited and saved pages published.
  • The File and Image Browsers enable you to create folders and upload into those and other folders you have Creator permission in. However, you cannot rename folders once they’re created, and you cannot move folders or files or images.
  • In the Image Browser you can search by image title. If you find an image you’d like to use somewhere else on our website, you can find it by searching for the number in the filename. For example, if the image has a filename of thumb_sml_img_0911.jpg, just search for “0911”. You can also freely browse the Image Library and use an image from any folder.
  • Also in the Image and File Browsers, you always start off at the top level, regardless of where you have permission to upload content or create subfolders. To help you navigate, you may use the search box to search for folders, as well as files. And clicking any item in the search results will display the location of that item to the right. You can click on this location to open that folder and view its contents.
  • Content in Modules, such as News, Events, Directories, Maps, Tips & Answers, FAQs, or Forms, must be edited by a BigTree administrator. Contact the Help Desk with requests for revisions. Please provide the page URL, title, and the new text, or any other instructions, such as removing questions.


  • Clicking the blue Archive folder icon in lists of subpages immediately archives that page along with all of its subpages. Clicking the red “X” by archived pages permanently deletes them–and all subpages–without warning! (Publisher permission and above.)
  • Adding an ‘External Link‘ to a page erases all prior content on the page, including all subpages of that page. (All permission levels may edit the External Link field; only Publishers may approve the change.)
  • When using the Replace button in the File or Image Browsers, BigTree will actually replace the original file with the new one, keeping the old file name. This preserves links to the image or file across multiple pages. It also deletes the old file. (Administrator and Developer user roles only.)
  • Published Revisions–those automatically saved by the system, rather than the ones you manually save–are only kept for 30 days. After that, they’re gone forever.
  • The URL Route field, on the SEO tab when editing a page, should be left blank unless the page’s Navigation Title (on the Properties tab) is inordinately long. If necessary, the only text that should go in there is alphanumeric characters and dashes–no spaces, colons, or slashes. This will dictate what appears in the browser address bar, after the rest of the full URL, for example, after (Putting anything else in this field has unintended consequences with Google Searches and Analytics.)


How to upload a file to a webpage
  1. Edit a page in BigTree as you normally would.
  2. When you get to text that you’d like to be a clickable link (or if you’re wanting to change an existing clickable link), select that text and then click the BigTree editor’s Insert/Edit Link button (looks like a piece of chain, eight icons in from the right).
  3. In the Insert Link box that comes up, click the browse icon to the right of the “Url” field (for reference, the browse icon looks like a folder with a magnifying glass over it).
  4. In the File Browser window that comes up, navigate to your desired resource folder. You may navigate into subdirectories, if you’d rather do that. The directory structure is entirely for your and other users’ organizational benefits. It’s easier for some to store things into separate directories.
  5. Once you’re in the directory that you want to upload files to, click the “Upload Files” button toward the top-right of the File Browser screen (note: the upload button will only be displayed if you have the required permission to upload files).
  6. In the Upload Files window that comes up, click the grey “Upload” button to the right of the type-in field, and it will bring up the standard File Upload window for your OS.
  7. Navigate to the file (or files…you can actually select multiple files from this File Upload box…if you want/need to upload multiple files to BigTree) that you want to upload, select it/them, and click the “Open” button.
  8. This will take you back to the “Upload Files” screen, only now the Select File(s) type-in field will be filled in with the filename(s) of the file(s) you selected in step #7 above.
  9. Click the blue “Upload Files” button to upload the files to the system.
  10. After a little bit of uploading/processing time, you’ll be taken back to the File Browser window, only now the file(s) you uploaded will be among the files listed. Click the filename of the file you want to link to and click the blue “Use Selected Item” button.
  11. You’ll be taken back to the Insert Link window, only now the Url type-in field will be filled out with the full path to the file you selected in step #10 above. The remaining fields in the Insert Link box let you make adjustments to the text that is displayed as a clickable link on a page (if you need to change that), the “Title” for the link (which is an accessibility thing that is “read” to users using screen-reading devices, mostly), and the “Target” dropdown, which you can use to control whether the link opens in the same window/tab (in which case select “None” from the dropdown) or a different window/tab (in which case select “New window” from the dropdown). The general rule of thumb that I use is that, if I’m linking to a PDF or somewhere other than an site, then I set the link to open in a new window. That way, when the user is done reading whatever you linked to, if they click the close button for the browser window/tab, they’re right where they left off on the OWU website.

If you’re wanting to link to a file that has already been uploaded to the system, then you can skip steps #5-#9 above and just select the file you want to link to after you’ve navigated to where it’s stored in step #4 above.

External Links