CMSMS 1.6 – Beginner’s Guide

CMSMS Full Review

April 23rd, 2010

I posted a full review of CMSMS 1.6 – A Beginner’s Guide on Amazon: Read my review of this book.

CMSMS 1.6 – Chapters 10 and 11

April 21st, 2010

The final two chapters of the book deal with advanced topics that can enhance a site that’s already up and running. The first extra feature to be examined is enabling a site for multi language capabilities with user submitted,  not automatic, translations. I can’t say I’ve had a need to do this yet, but when creating a site for an international corporation this would be a vital step. The next items of interest I felt were way out of place as they should have been dealt with much earlier in the book in the chapter on creating templates.  Creating additional editable content blocks and optimizing the site for search engines really should be thought about when the site is first being coded and are far more instrumental than multi-language capabilities. After taking a look at user defined tags and an events dispatcher there is a study on integrating jQuery into a site which is yet another item I feel better belongs in the chapter about templates. In today’s world jQuery and other JavaScript libraries are becoming so widely used that they really are part of a template and not just extra functionality.

Chapter 11 closes the book with a rather dull read on creating site and database backups, which must be done with two modules, seeking help on any CMSMS problems, and performance tuning. These are important concepts, but it was a dreary read and I think perhaps the advanced functionality or a case study of a really well done site would have been a better way to end the book.

Overall though, this is an incredibly useful and easy to digest manual for getting started with one of the best CMS applications available today.

CMSMS 1.6 – Chapter 9

April 20th, 2010

Chapter 9 dives into the <sarcasm>wonderful</sarcasm> world of eCommerce. The chapter wisely begins by explaining that for a site which is mostly eCommerce with only a few other pages, CMSMS is not the solution. Even with this little preface though, I think the merits of CMSMS as an eCommerce platform were not addressed in full enough detail. Also notably underrepresented in the opening pages of the chapter were an overview of the myriad eCommerce solutions available for CMSMS and the fact that they are incredibly incompatible with each other – as in they will actually destroy your entire website.

So, after the far too sparse overview and warnings the book dives into the Products module which sadly needs a custom field added for image.  Creating templates and categories is covered and detail and the CMSMS eCommerce solutions start to look acceptable.

The next module to integrate is the Cart module which thankfully is easy to connect to Products. After Cart comes Orders which has tons of dependencies and templates to worry about and also needs to be integrated with Self Registration. This is where the eCommerce solutions begin to get very annoying to work on as there are so many forms to style – login, billing info, shipping info, etc.

The last step discussed in detail is setting a Paypal gateway. The book makes sure to explain the work one must do outside of CMSMS, setting up dev PayPal account, connects the CMSMS Shop to PayPal using IPN.

Optional modules for taxes, shipping, promotions, and gift baskets are also mentioned but not really explained. If you’re looking to use features like these, it’s better to just use a dedicated eCommerce platform as getting all of these independent modules to communicated with each other can be misery.

Overall the chapter does a good job introducing and explaining the eCommerce setup in CMSMS but it really glosses over the  more important aspects such as choosing the right eCommerce platform, building a secure environment, fulfilling orders, and more.

CMSMS 1.6 – Chapters 7 and 8

April 19th, 2010

Chapters 7 and 8 guide the user through all of the advanced functionality made possible by 3rd party and custom-built modules. The gallery and form builder plugins are examined in detail which only helped to reassert the opinion I already had that these are the best gallery and contact form plugins available on any CMS. Next came the newsletters module which is a cool concept, but the book glossed over the fact that sending emails really should be done from a dedicated email server through a system outside of your CMS. Surprisingly absent was coverage of the  blog, guestbook, and forum modules as these features show up time and time again on  requirements lists.

Chapter 8 deals with creating new module by using the CTLModuleMaker module. That’s right, you can use a module making module to create a new module. The book walks the user through the steps of  creating hierarchy, creating templates,  and integrating the module into the site search. Thankfully most of this difficult work is prefaced by encouraging the user to thoroughly search existing modules for the desired functionality before tackling the somewhat difficult task of creating a brand new module. The idea of modifying and combining existing modules to achieve new functionality is also encouraged with an example of turning the general feedback module  into a help ticket system.

These two chapters are really starting to get into the heart of CMSMS, but if you’re just a designer or an end user, you can probably put the book down at this point. For hardcore developers, these chapters mark the point where you should stop skimming and start really reading.

CMSMS 1.6 – Chapters 5 and 6

April 15th, 2010

In chapters 5 and 6 it starts to become really obvious what makes CMSMS so darn simple. Modules are a familiar part of any CMS but they’re often plagued with problems and difficult to configure, but alas, this is not so with CMSMS. The news module is given quite a bit of attention as it is part of default install and is so  flexible it can create anything from a simple “latest headlines” widget to full blown multi-category blog with custom fields. The search module is then examined, which, admittedly, takes a bit more work to configure than searching in WordPress. Following the search module come an explanation of other default modules and their suggested uses – most of which really are astounding in their simplicity and usefulness. The image manager has a built in image editor, the menu manager can easily be used to create a sitemap, and the print module can print pages to PDF. Wow!

Following the exciting discussion on modules is the bit more dreary but incredibly important overview on users and permissions. As the chapter explains, the default user types are editor, design,  and admin, and in my experience, these three always seems to be  enough. For those who want to know about going beyond the default user types the book certainly provides more than enough information.

One somewhat confusing thing about this chapter is that at the very end of the users section the book discusses the archiver module. This module makes archives of all files and their changes across the site. It is presented in the chapter as a great tool to allow only the site admin to use, but I think it would have been better discussed in the modules chapter, or maybe the whole users and permissions chapter should have preceded modules. Oh well, there’s still been a lot of great info so far.

You can preview chapter 6 here.

CMSMS 1.6 – Chapter 4

April 14th, 2010

Chapter 4 is really what CMSMS is all about – creating templates quickly and easily. The first introduces Smarty tags and how they can be used in both templates and in content, and then details basic smarty parameters. Next the readers is shown how to create templates and link them to CSS files which culminates in an in-depth walk-through of starting with a static mockup on the local machine and creating a full CMSMS template. For any designer/developer unfamiliar with CMSMS, give this chapter a read and you’ll be amazed at how much easier creating a template is in this system compared to the miserable XML uploads of Joomla or the dozens of files to edit in WordPress. It literally only takes 5 minutes to create a static mock-up into a fully integrated template with CMSMS, so do yourself a favor and look into it.

CMSMS 1.6 – Chapter 3

April 13th, 2010

Chapter 3 deals with the Pages tab of the admin section, a logical next step after set up as this is the area most frequented by end-users. In fact, I daresay that this is the only section of the admin any content producers ever have questions about. The chapter of course covers the basics such as adding, deleting, and editing pages but it also explores some of the more complicated workings of Pages, including many features I did not know existed or never really got around to learning.

After reading this chapter I realized how easy it actually is to set up search engine friendly URLs, set the default template through site config, copy pages, and perform bulk page actions on multiple pages at once. I’ll definitely be working these features into my next CMSMS project!

New Book – CMS Made Simple 1.6

April 12th, 2010

I’ve been lucky enough to have been offered a free copy of a new book from Packt Publishing called CMS Made Simple 1.6 – Beginner’s Guide to read and review. I plan on reading a few chapters a week and will post reviews as I go along. I kicked things off last week with the first two chapters and am pretty happy with the read so far.

The book opens by addressing the important questions of who, what, and why? A brief introduction explains who will most benefit from reading this book, what a CMS is, and why one should use  CMS Made Simple. By introducing the concept of separating layers of code and explaining how a CMS easily enables this best practice, the book engages both the novice and the seasoned coder and then walks them through the installation process in the second chapter. This chapter reads as a friendlier version of the standard CMS Made Simple installation documentation, which anyone unfamiliar with concepts like databases and file permissions will surely appreciate. The chapter finishes by succinctly reviewing the administrative interface for the site. For those already familiar with CMS applications, I suggest you begin here as this is really the first bit of new material you will encounter, and for those who are novices, I recommend reading this part twice so that the following chapters are easier to follow.

Check out more about this book on the Packt Publishing website.