How to figure out how to do something in openHAB 3

Happy birthday, Rich!

FYI, I noticed your avatar disappear and then reappear and then disappear again, so something’s up with it.

Off topic - my little dalek disappeared (from my point of view) a few days ago. I just harrumphed and re-uploaded the image, been consistent for me since.


Not gonna lie…I originally thought your dalek was a cheese grater, and it wasn’t until I clicked on your avatar that I realized the truth. I’m admittedly not a big Dr. Who fan, but I still felt a little silly for not questioning the cheese grater.

I understand the frustration of answering the same question over and over again. I still consider myself closer to a newbie than to most people that posted in this thread. I have a different opinion, which could be wrong, of course.

The first challenge a newbie has, after installing OH, is “how do I connect my devices ?”. The first impact with the OH jargon (things, items, bindings, rules, persistence, etc) is frightening. All that a newbie wants is the first place is to switch devices on and off, and having to understand such jargon takes its time. The OH3 semantic model is a great idea, but I have my doubts that a newbie should start from there.

To make things worse, to control some devices MQTT is required, hence a new and “horrifying” world.

Right, the docs explain it all, but who has the time to read them all ? It would be easier if discovery could do this initial job, but this is not perfect (in my case it never discovered all devices). Maybe a “first steps” document would be welcome. And then “grouping instructions” to start building a model.

After having all required things and items, probably the next step is rules. For simple rules OH3 is a major improvement, but for complex ones this forum is / should be the source for examples. Unfortunately it is “polluted” with examples from OH1 and OH2 that no longer work in OH3.

When I read the OH documentation it looks to me as “how it works” and not really “how it should be used”. OH3 improved this a lot, but is not yet perfect. Maybe a “sample model”, and how it was built, could improve this.


To reiterate what Rich and I both said earlier, this thread is not about new users. It’s about any users who don’t put in an effort before asking for help. Sorry for the boldface, but that message isn’t coming across to people arriving late to this conversation.

No one’s asking users to read all of the documentation. I haven’t read all of the documentation, and I never will. But when I’m trying to solve something, the first thing I do is to search the community and the docs. This is a reasonable expectation of anyone who comes asking for help.

That would be

Per Rich’s earlier post, we welcome and encourage you to contribute edits to any docs that you believe can be improved. Every time someone criticizes the docs, some of us take the time to point this out to them. Unfortunately, very few people actually follow through. Some just don’t have the time, which is understandable, but in many cases they just want to complain. That helps no one.

Your opinion isn’t wrong. We just need more people to go from having opinions to taking action based on those opinions.


Have you seen and read the Getting Started Tutorial? If you have comments or recommendations we’d welcome them. Even better are contrabutions. It’s not done but four new pages were just added to it this week.

But ultimately home automation is a development activity. Development involves dealing with abstract concepts and knowing how to use reference documentation. These are skills that can be learned. But they cannot be eliminated. At least not without also eliminating capability. And it’s the capability and power of OH which is why most of us are here.

The Getting Started Tutorial is intended to address your concerns. But it will not replace the reference docs.


Of course

I accept the repto, but I need to team with someone else to review.


Awesome. When you submit your edits, they’ll be reviewed by maintainers who will review and provide feedback. The markdown is similar to what’s used in the community, and the only thing I found confusing was properly signing off on my pull request (it’s not hard, I just didn’t get it at first).

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This is an early draft of what I have in mind. Will this be ok ? openHAB Primer.pdf (43.0 KB)

Great start
Thanks for willingness to pitch in! :+1:
head on over to the documentation section on github, bump around a little bit, get to know the contributors (Jerome is in charge and he is super helpful and appreciative of any help) and see where your document will fit in and maybe make a pull request

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I’m not sure your document will work as written, particularly as some of that content already exists. So, I’d personally rather see the insights you’ve expressed get incorporated into existing sections. For example, I think your thoughts on MQTT belong in the MQTT binding documentation as a very quick disclaimer that we don’t recommend learning MQTT at the same time as openHAB.

We’re off topic for this thread, so I’d follow @Andrew_Rowe’s advice and start chatting in GitHub about where things might fit in. :wink:

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It’s inevitable that some content is repeated between a user and a reference guide. And the real value is to achieve integration, that’s why I’ve requested some teaming / comments in my earlier post. If github is the way to go I’ll go.

Thanks again.

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Thanks Andrew. :slight_smile:
I am a bit busy next week, so please be aware that ther may be some delay.

I am also open for any help for the “How to contribute to the docs” FAQ.
I am still neglecting this FAQ due to time reasons and i think it will give some important guidance for beginners with questions.

I also had a quick look on the pdf some hours ago and it already looks really promising. :slight_smile:


OK, I’ll give them a look

Rich… sorry for hijacking your thread

No worries. I’m way less strict about that sort of thing than most.

BTW, I reloaded my avatar pic. Hopefully it’s back now.


The Cat in the Hat has returned, uncancelled.

Same kind of thing, merciless violence in a metal can :wink:


Hi @rlkoshak

I’m new to OH3 and perhaps one of the new type of user the GUI approach is designed to attract, because I don’t write code at all. And realistically, I don’t intend to try to learn how to either - it’s not such a high priority to me to commit that much time.

Saying that, I’ve installed OH3 under Docker on my Synology NAS and got a kiosk mode HABpanel working (mostly) the way I intended on an android tablet relatively painlessly by just configuring through GUI interfaces. So it can be done. Just by giving it a go, just like you urge folks to.

The getting started tutorials are great, but once you get to the end of them, things get much tougher. Searching for answers in the documentation or community rarely turns up anything useful because I haven’t found a way yet to filter out answers that assume I’m working textually, which are are largely incomprehensible to me.

Let me give you an example: I want to use a standard widget to trigger a script created using Blockly. Maybe I’ve missed something obvious, but I can’t find an answer or hint anywhere. Lots of discussion of much more complex questions, but I’m lost usually by the end of the first line. It might have something to do with the Exec binding, and whilst I understand how I might add commands “to the misc/exec.whitelist file in the configuration directory”, I don’t understand whether Linux shell commands are relevant to causing openHAB scripts to run, for example.

So two questions: can someone help me with my specific question? And is there a way of supporting people like me when we’re searching for answers that don’t involve working textually?

Many thanks. And thanks for the huge investment of time in the OH3 update - I’m amazed by what I’ve been able to achieve already with almost no skills!

Your specific question is a common one and, fortunately completely divorced from textual configuration (and nothing at all to do with the exec binding or linux commands). The only concept you likely need to add to your toolbox for this is that items do not have to be linked to channels (IMHO this is really the leap from beginner user to intermediate user). Most items are linked to binding channels so that the item corresponds to a device or service, but an item can also just be a standalone object that helps control how OH operates (I’d estimate the 10% of my items that aren’t group represent this class of item). Items can be used to trigger rules, display custom information, or store information that’s accessible to all other facets of OH. So, if you just want a script that can be turned on, create a switch item, if the script is supposed to enumerate something then create a number item, if you want to have several options, make it a string item. Then you just need to create a rule that triggers when that item changes and the only way that item will change (because it’s not connected to the outside world) is when you change it via OH, usually the UI.

As for your second question about finding help for no textual configuration: there are two different things going on here.

  1. This still has to develop with time. This new version of OH is only a few months old. While previous versions did have some configuration through a different UI, the bulk of the work was done with files and so that remains the majority of the historical discussions on these boards (and continues to accrue as many users are still waiting to move over from the older version to the newer). The OH3 (and therefore MainUI) help just can’t match in a few months the volume of information from many years of OH2.
    Your best bet when searching the forum is to use the Advanced Search sidebar and restrict your search to posts from just this year (OH3 was officially released in January) or late 2020 (there are a lot of posts from testing versions prior to the release). There are definitely still posts focusing on textual configs in that timeframe and posts about OH2 but the proportion of OH3 UI focused posts is much more in your favor at that point. There are also OH3 and openhab3 tags that could help filter down results further but these are not applied consistently and will also remove some results you may find helpful.
  2. Because of the ability in this new UI to create custom widgets through YAML definitions many of the forums topics and posts right now are about this new feature which is essentially textual configuration just separate from channel-thing-item configuration. So even when you’re looking for UI help it’s going to be hard to filter out many of these posts because this version of the UI itself depends so much on these configurations.

Thanks for such a helpful post.

Brilliant! I’ve read through the Tutorials but I don’t remember seeing this anywhere. That sorted it. So my widget is linked to this Item, and a change in state of the item triggers a rule containing some Blockly scripts. Great.

And I’m using your tips on searching for OH3 GUI-based discussion too. Very helpful.

Thanks again