An Open-Source Solution For Content Management

The open-source arena now has its own world-class content-management system: Plone.
Most companies with a considerable Web presence have bitten the bullet and migrated to a commercial content-management system (CMS). The benefits of a CMS include the ability to assign content ownership and responsibility, easily modify and add content, assign effective dates and create workflows to make sure proper approval is gained before publication.

But what about a full-featured CMS from the open-source world? Most early attempts were not well received, but today that has changed. The open-source arena now has its own world-class CMS, called Plone, which is built on Zope; its content-management framework provides a full-featured CMS for open-source-friendly customers. In fact, Plone is more than a CMS -- it is a complete development platform that supports advanced templates and objects, and has a full rendering engine.

To take a look at the Plone solution, point your browser to, where you will find plenty of documentation -- a rarity for open-source systems. A tremendous amount of functionality is available without having to resort to customization. The default Plone setup includes support for various content types, workflow, internationalization (as of this writing, the Plone user interface has been ported to 30 languages), portlets and more. The user interface is also compliant with the World Wide Web Consortium's AA rating for accessibility. In case you're worried about support, more than 100 developers around the world and plenty of companies are dedicated to the continued development and support of Plone.

Plone is easy to set up by using the installer program or, if you're on a console-based Linux system, by following the simple installation instructions in the README file. If you're looking for a generic portal solution with collaboration functionality, it's likely that you'll have to make very few changes.

One of Plone's best features is its easily customized user interface. The entire system is template-based and driven by style sheets, allowing solution providers to customize the user interface to meet just about any client's requirements. Another feature that deserves mention is Plone's workflow engine. Workflow configuration is done through the user interface; the user can create as many content states and transitions as necessary. Each state can be tied to a worklist that can be used to group items requiring review by different parties. The ability to run custom scripts before or after a workflow transition makes possible custom actions, such as sending e-mail when content moves from one state to another. Overall, it's one of the most complete workflow systems I have seen in any CMS product, open-source or otherwise.

If you're a solution provider considering a CMS for a client, or perhaps a collaborative portal for your own company, take a look at Plone. You won't be sorry.

Kevin Carlson ([email protected]) is with Watchfire, a business-management software and services provider based in Waltham, Mass.

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