What is the Veterans and Families’ Directory of Services?

The Veterans and Families’ Directory of Services (VFDS) allows you to view the locations of veterans’ charities and services on a map. The services have been grouped into categories such as Education and Training, Employment, Finances etc.

VFDS allows veterans and their families to quickly and easily locate the services they need and view information about them without requiring any login. VFDS is available to the public via the Veterans’ Gateway website, HERE.

If you are interested in hosting the VFDS map in your website, please email Northumbria University’s Northern Hub for Veterans and Military Families Research: hl.vsdsupport@northumbria.ac.uk.

Here is an image of the embedded VFDS map, powered by rVIEW:

The live version available at https://www.veteransgateway.org.uk/local-support

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The following Alfresco articles are for administrators of VFDS, who manage map data through RippleNami’s instance of Alfresco. If you are not an administrator, but have feedback about VFDS map data (such as incorrect or missing information), please email Northumbria University’s Northern Hub for Veterans and Military Families Research: hl.vsdsupport@northumbria.ac.uk.

What is Alfresco?

Alfresco is a content management and services platform that connects directly to VFDS, allowing multiple administrator entities to upload, edit and manage VFDS map data for their region, without overriding the data of other regions. As updates are made to Alfresco, these are pushed to the VFDS map in real-time.

What data do I have access to?

The data you can access is determined by the user group you belong to. There are 5 user groups:

  • England User Group
  • Northern Ireland User Group
  • Scotland User Group
  • United Kingdom User Group
  • Wales User Group

While these user groups are named after geographical regions, these labels don’t determine where the charities are located on the map. The actual map location is determined by the latitude and longitude coordinates of a record.

If you see an item on the map that you believe you should have access to, but you don’t see the corresponding record in Alfresco, it is likely that the record has been allocated to a different user group than yours. Please email hl.vsdsupport@northumbria.ac.uk with the details of the item, and request that it be moved into your user group for you to manage.

If a charity needs to be moved to a particular user group, the change will need to be implemented by editing the record in Alfresco and updating its user group accordingly. 

How to add a new charity/service to the VFDS Map using Alfresco?

Before adding a new organisation, you first need to perform a search within VFDS to ensure it doesn’t already exist (to prevent duplicate entries being created).

Steps in VFDS:

1. Go to https://www.veteransgateway.org.uk/local-support/

2. Click on the search icon (magnifying glass) on the home page of VFDS:

3. Search for the name of the organisation. Please try both the full name and as well as any acronyms that may have been used:

4. Once you are satisfied the organisation is not already in VFDS, proceed to Alfresco to create a new record.

Steps in Alfresco:

1. Using the username and password supplied to you by RippleNami, sign in to Alfresco HERE.

2. Upon logging in, you will be presented with your Personal Dashboard. In the My Sites area, click on Veterans and Families’ Directory of Services: 

3. You will now be presented with the Veterans and Families’ Directory of Services site. In the section Site Links areaclick on the Location List: 

4. You will be presented with the list of services you are managing (Note: the list may take up to 30 seconds to load). Click on New Item

5. You will be presented with the pop-up Create New Item. Complete the necessary information. Items marked with an asterisk* are compulsory:

6. In the Category section, select the map layers that the organisation should appear on. If there is more than one category, hold down the CTRL key on your keyboard and select each one:

The full list of available categories and their subcategories that are available to you can be accessed HERE.

7. Enter the organisation’s latitude and longitude coordinates to be mapped. If you don’t know these but do know the organisation’s post code, you can use this handy on-line converter tool to find them. This also allows you to convert post codes to latitude and longitude coordinates in bulk: https://gridreferencefinder.com/postcodeBatchConverter/

Alternatively, you can find the latitude and longitude coordinates of a place directly in Google Map. Instructions for how to do so can be found HERE.

7. In the field Marker Link, enter the direct image URL of the map marker to display this organisation’s location on the map. Instructions regarding map markers can be found HERE.

8. Click Save. 

9. The new organisation will automatically be published to the VFDS map.

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Where do I find the VFDS map marker icons?

A map marker identifies a location on a map. VFDS uses an organisation’s logo, formatted in a specific way, as the map marker icon. The library of VFDS map marker icons can be found HERE.

The library of markers is in alphabetical order. You can browse the list, or search for a specific organisation’s map marker icon using the search field in the upper right-hand corner of the Alfresco screen. As you type, possible matches will appear in a drop-down list. Be sure to also check for acronyms when searching for markers:

Note: An * (asterisk) acts as a wildcard; use this to include all variations of an organisations name. For example, you’d want to enter “Woody*” in the search window to have “Woody, Woody’s” and “Woodys” returned in the search results.

To use one of these images in your dataset, copy the direct image URL from the marker’s Description field and paste the URL into your organisation’s Marker Link field:

If you have an individual map marker icon page open, the Description will be found under Properties, in the lower right hand menu:

Before you use the URL in your data, first test it in a browser to be sure you have copied the right one. Copy and Paste the URL into a browser, and the image should display against a black screen, like this:

If your organisation’s map marker cannot be found, you will need to make one, upload it to the library and retrieve the direct image link to use in your dataset. Instructions for how to make a marker icon are below.

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How do I make a VFDS map marker icon?

VFDS map marker icons use an organisation’s logo. It must be formatted to these specifications:

  • Square in shape
  • Sized to be 150px by 150px
  • Includes a black border, 10px wide
  • JPG, JPEG or PNG format

At that small size, fine detail such as writing will not be discernible. To ensure that the logo is recognisable on the map, it is recommended that you take this into consideration when making the marker icon. For example:

Original Logo

Map icon made from the full logo. The organisation will not be recognisable on the map:

Map icon made from edited logo. Much better for recognising on the map:

There are lots of different tools you can use to resize and format images. One of our favorites is Snagit by TechSmith.

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How do I upload my marker icon to Alfresco and generate a ‘direct image link’?


1. This is the template of the URL to make your Alfresco image publicly available. Copy it:

2. Upload your icon to the library of VFDS map marker icons

3. Click the share the button to make the image publicly available:

4. A popup will appear. Click View located to the right of the Public Link:

5. You will be directed to a page displaying your icon image. The URL for the page will have a format like the image below. The last portion of the URL is the image ID. Copy just that portion of the URL:

6. Paste your image ID into the portion of your Public Alfresco image link that you copied in step 1, replacing {{imageID}}. You can now use that direct image link as your organisation’s map marker icon: 

7. Don’t forget to also add the direct image link into the description of your marker in the VFDS map marker library, so that it can easily accessed by everyone in future.

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RippleNami and GDPR

RippleNami is proud to comply with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR. More information about this can be found HERE.

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