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In this section you will learn

What is DSpace?


Example of DSpace home page - using the default user interface (JSP) at the University of Zimbabwe (left) and using the customizable XML User Interface (Manakin) and a customized header at the University of Hawaii (right).

DSpace is an open source repository application that allows you to capture, store, index, preserve and distribute your digital material including text, video, audio and data.  DSpace provides a way to manage your materials and publications in a professionally maintained repository to give them greater visibility and accessibility over time.
There are over 1000 digital repositories worldwide using the DSpace application for a variety of digital archiving needs.  DSpace is most often used as an institutional repository - a platform that provides access to research output, scholarly publications, library collections, and more.

It has three main roles:

  • Facilitates the capture and ingest of materials, including metadata about the materials
  • Facilitates easy access to the materials, both by listing and searching
  • Facilitates the long-term preservation of the materials

The DSpace application has many customizable features and tools for managing digital content, enabling digital preservation and providing accessibility to your materials. As an open source application, there is a very active community of developers, researchers and users worldwide that contribute their expertise to enhance the DSpace application.

What can DSpace be used for?

DSpace can be used to store any type of digital materials, including:

  • Documents, such as articles, preprints, working papers, technical reports, conference papers
  • Books
  • Theses
  • Data sets
  • Computer programs
  • Visualizations, simulations, and other models
  • Multimedia publications
  • Administrative records
  • Published books
  • Overlay journals
  • Bibliographic datasets
  • Images
  • Audio files
  • Video files
  • e-formatted digital library collections
  • Learning objects
  • Web pages

What are the benefits of using DSpace?


Example of DSpace's built-in organizational structure of Communities and Collections - using the default user interface (JSP) at the University of Zimbabwe (left) and using the customizable XML User Interface (Manakin) at the University of Hawaii (right).

Because DSpace is a turnkey repository application it may be deployed “out-of-the-box” as an institutional repository. The majority of DSpace users do little to no customization of the application beyond adding local branding.  DSpace allows you to:

  • Organize, describe and store your content easily through the built-in structure
  • Archive and distribute material you would currently put on your personal website
  • Get your materials out quickly, to a worldwide audience through exposure to search engines such as Google
  • Have a persistent network identifier for your work, which never changes or breaks

Additionally, DSpace allows institutional repositories to:

  • Preserve reusable teaching materials that you can use with course management systems
  • Store examples of students’ projects (with the students’ permission)
  • Showcase students’ theses (again with permission)
  • Keep track of your own publications/bibliography

How does DSpace work?

Behind the scenes, this is a look at how DSpace works:

How is the DSpace software licensed?

DSpace is free open source software. That means that you can download, use, and modify DSpace for free. The software is shared under a Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD) license.  We have also tried to find good open-source tools to package with the DSpace application, all freely available under an open-source license (although not all the same license as the one for DSpace itself), so that you get a complete system along with the part that we created.  Users are also allowed to modify DSpace to meet an organization's specific needs.   

What is the open source development model used for DSpace?

The code for DSpace is kept within a source code control system from SourceForge. This system allows code to be added or modified over time, while maintaining a track of all changes and a note of why the change was made and who made it. This assists with the development of the software and ensures the quality and traceability of the code. Any past version of DSpace can be downloaded from the system in an identical state as originally distributed.

Control of the source code repository is delegated to a small group of 'committers'. Only the committers have the ability to change the code and release new versions. The committers work with the wider community of DSpace users to fix bugs and improve the software with new features.

Anyone who wants to is welcome to submit big fixes, new features or feature requests. The can all be done through the SourceForge administrative system SourceForge administrative system.  Support is provided on an informal basis via email lists. There are three DSpace email lists:

  1. General for general questions and announcements
  2. Technical for technical support
  3. Development for developers and to discuss development issues

Hungry for more?

Need more general information before moving any further? Below is a list of materials that can help you learn more about DSpace.

General DSpace Information

Comparing/Evaluating Software Options

Repository Planning Guidance 

Know of other resources? Please add them here!

Information in this section was adapted from The DSpace Course by Stuart Lewis and Chris Yates from the Repositories Support Project.

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