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Basic Concepts

What is AEM?

Adobe Experience Manager is a web-based client-server system for building, managing and deploying commercial websites and related services. It combines a number of infrastructure-level and application-level functions into a single integrated package.

At the infrastructure level AEM provides the following:

  • Web Application Server: AEM can be deployed in standalone mode (it includes an integrated Jetty web server) or as a web application within a third-party application server (WebLogic, WebSphere, etc).
  • Web Application Framework: AEM incorporates the Sling Web Application Framework that simplifies the writing of RESTful, content-oriented web applications.
  • Content Repository: AEM includes a Java Content Repository (JCR), a type of hierarchical database designed specifically for unstructured and semi-structured data. The repository stores not only the user-facing content but also all code, templates and internal data used by the application.

Building on this base, AEM also offers a number of application-level features for the management of:

  • Websites
  • Mobile Applications
  • Digital Publications
  • Forms
  • Digital Assets
  • Communities
  • Online Commerce

Finally, customers can use these infrastructrue and application-level building blocks to create customized solutions by building applications of their own.

The AEM server is Java-based and runs on most operating systems that support that platform. All client interaction with AEM is done through a web browser.

Typical Deployment Scenarios

In AEM terminology an "instance" is a copy of AEM running on a server. AEM installations usually involve at least two instances, typically running on separate machines:

  • Author: An AEM instance used to create, upload and edit content and to administer the website. Once content is ready to go live, it is replicated to the publish instance.
  • Publish: An AEM instance that serves the published content to the public.
These instances are identical in terms of installed software. They are differentiated by configuration only. In addition, most installations use a dispatcher:
  • Dispatcher: A static web server (Apache httpd, Microsoft IIS, etc.) augmented with the AEM dispatcher module. It caches web pages produced by the publish instance to improve performance.

There are many advanced options and elaborations of this setup, but the basic pattern of author, publish and dispatcher is at the core of most deployments. We will  begin by focusing on a relatively simple set up. Discussion of advanced deployment options will follow.

Getting Started


While production instances are usually run on dedicated machines running an officially supported OS (see Technical Requirements), the Experience Manager server will actually run on any system that supports Java Standard Edition 8.

For purposes of familiarization and for developing on AEM it is quite common to use an instance installed on your local machine running Apple OS X or desktop versions of Microsoft Windows or Linux.

On the client-side, AEM works with all modern browsers (Microsoft EdgeInternet Explorer 11, Chrome 51+ , Firefox 47+, Safari 8+) on both desktop and tablet operating systems. See Supported Client Platforms for details.

Getting the Software

Customers with a valid maintenance and support contract should have received a mail notification with a code and be able to download AEM from the Adobe Licensing Website. Business partners can request download access from

The AEM software package is available in two foms:

  • cq-quickstart-6.3.0.jar: A standalone executable jar file that includes everything needed to get up and running.
  • cq-quickstart-6.3.0.war: war file for deployment in a third-party application server.

In the following section we describe the standalone installation. For details on installing AEM in an application server see Application Server Install.

Default Local Install

  1. Create an install directory on your local machine. For example:

    UNIX install location:   /opt/aem

    Windows install location:   C:\Program Files\aem

    Equally, it is common to install sample instances in a folder right on the desktop. In any case we will refer to this location generically as:


    Note that path of the file directory must consist of only US ASCII characters.

  2. Place the the jar and license files in this directory:


    If you do not provide a file, AEM will redirect your browser to a Welcome screen on startup, where you can enter a license key. You will need to request a valid license key from Adobe if you do not yet have one.

  3. To start up the instance in a GUI environment, just double-click the cq-quickstart-6.3.0.jar file.

    Alternative, you can launch AEM from the command line. For a 32-bit Java VM enter the following:

        java -Xmx1024M -jar cq-quickstart-6.3.0.jar

    For a 64-bit VM, enter:

        java -XX:MaxPermSize=256m -Xmx1024M -jar cq-quickstart-6.3.0.jar

AEM will take a few minutes to unpack the jar file, install itself, and start up. The above procedure results in:

  • an AEM author instance 
  • running on localhost 
  • on port 4502

To access the instance point your browser to:


The result in author instance will be automatically configured to connect to a publish instance on localhost:4503.

Author and Publish Installs

The default install (an author instance on localhost:4502) can be changed simply by renaming the jar file before launching it for the first time. The naming pattern is:


For example, renaming the file to


and launching it will result in an author instance running on localhost:4502.

Similarly, renaming and launching the file


will result in a publish instance running on localhost:4503.

You would install these two instances in, for example

<aem-install>/author and



For more details on customizing your installation see the following:

Unpacked Install Directory

When the quickstart jar is launched for  the first time it will unpack itself into the same directory under a new sub-directory called crx-quickstart. You should end up with the following:


If the instance was installed from the GUI, then a browser window will open auomatically and a desktop application window will also open displaying the host and port of the instance and an on/off switch:



If you are using symlinks, have a look at issues with symlink.

Starting and Stopping

Once AEM has unpacked itself and started up for the first time, double clicking on the jar file in the install directory simply starts the instance, it does not re-install it.

To stop the instance fom the GUI, simply click the on/off switch on the desktop application window.

You can also stop and start AEM from the command line. Assuming you have already installed the instance for the first time, the command-line scripts are located here:


This folder contains the following Unix bash shell scripts:

  • start: Starts the instance
  • stop: Stops the instance
  • status: Reports the Status of the instance
  • quickstart: Used to configure start information, if necessary.
There are also equivalent bat files for Windows. For more detailed information see:

AEM starts and automatically redirects your web browser to the appropriate page, usually the login page; for example:



Once logged in, you have access to AEM. For further information, depending on the your role, see the following:

Advanced Deployment

The above section should give you a good understanding of the basics of AEM installation. However, installing a full production system of AEM can involve considerably more complexity. For full coverage of advanced installation see the following subpages: