Atlas - the easy way to keep the customer satisfied
Written by Ian Elliot   
Wednesday, 20 July 2011
Article Index
Atlas - the easy way to keep the customer satisfied
Customizing Atlas

If you are looking to set up a support website here's an off-the-shelf solution that will save a lot of time and effort. Here's a guided tour to the free version of Atlas.


We are programmers so of course the first thought when you need a customer or user support web site is to do-it-yourself but.... Such an app is more complicated than you first suspect, but what application isn't, and you could better spend your time dealing with making your application better or handling FAQ, questions and other resources that would keep your users happier.

Atlas is an ASP.NET system that you can download and use for free as a Q&A system. The only limitation compared to the paid-for version is that you can only put up five FAQs, documents and videos. Five may not sound a lot but it is more than enough to get you started. In addition it is a full featured system, easy to set up and easy to use. It offers a lot more than anything you could put together yourself and it is a lesson in how to build a good web application at the same time.

So the first thing to do is to download a copy of Atlas. You can use it as as a hosted service if you want to avoid any of the trouble of installation. You can download it and install it manually or you can use WebMatrix - Microsoft's easy to use Web app manager.

Atlas via WebMatrix

If you want to do it the manual way then no problem as there are good notes on the website about how to do it but the WebMatrix approach is very easy and it's worth getting to know WebMatrix anyway.

If you click on the link on the CounterSoft website this will automatically install WebMatrix and Atlas automatically.If you already have WebMatrix installed or if you install it from the Microsoft website then all you have to do is select Site From Web Gallery and search for Atlas.




You can read what Atlas does in the description box at the bottom of the form but do scroll down and discover the fact that the admin user is

and the password is


You can change both once you have the system up and running.

Once you accept the terms and conditions Atlas will download and the install will proceed. The good part about using Web Matrix is that it will install all the necessary extras needed to run the website, including IIS Express and SQL Express.

About the only scope for things to go wrong with Web Matrix is if you already have SQL Express installed as part of Visual Studio say. You have to provide the password for the system administrator i.e. user name sa. If you have forgotten it then you need to find it and check that it is correct. Your only other option is to reinstall SQL.

In addition things can become confused over which instance of SQL you are using. If you encounter any problems with connecting to or using SQL - usually the infamous error message 40 concerning named pipes - then the chances are you have the instance name wrong.

Enter the SQL server instance name  as:


for example. You can find the instance name by using the Sql Server Configuration Manager or by trying to make a database connection using Visual Studio which you can also use to verify the sa password. If you can't make a connection using the details in Visual Studio they wont work with Web Matrix either.


You should next see a dialog box that tells you that the install went well at the end of the proceedings. Your new website, usually called Atlas, will be in My Web Sites in your Document directory. If you want to delete and re-install at any time use Web Matrix simply go to My Sites, select the site and press Delete.

You can also run, examine and modify the entire site from Web Matrix - although there is a Visual Studio button that transfers you to a full IDE. However don't fall into the developer's trap of examining the code and database at this point! If you do you will waste a lot of time as it probably isn't going to be necessary as Atlas provides nearly all you need to customize it.



Last Updated ( Wednesday, 20 July 2011 )