Magnolia 5 Released: Can Touch Separate Magnolia from the CMS Masses?Magnolia has released version 5 of its Java based open source CMS, a product years in the making, and it's built with touch based interfaces in mind. Will this help separate it from the bevy of CMSes competing for companies' attention?

Touch Now, Touch the Future

Version 5 was already partly available with v4.5, a release that laid in place the guts of the CMS. Now the touch based interface is ready to face the world, and those ready to update can look forward to an easier migration than from the 4 to 4.5 versions, Boris Kraft, Magnolia co founder and CTO said in an interview. Magnolia's touch friendly interface may not be revolutionary, but there's no doubt mobile is here to stay, so eventually other CMS vendors will have to make room for it.

That definitely puts Magnolia at the cutting edge, we think, and the fact v5 does away with things like dropdown menus may help convince others.

"Magnolia 5 offers unparalleled ease of use, providing a unified way for staff to access content creation Apps from tablets as well as desktops," Kraft said

Every task is touch enabled in v5, and each function is now more or less containerized within what are called Apps. Furthermore, the Apps are completely customizable, as one would expect with an open source product. As such, every product use case can be enabled around the tasks needed therein, and the workflows involved there can be included in just a couple of apps. That means many functions can be accomplished in just a couple of taps on a touch device.

Those functions all work in traditional interfaces as well, it's just that the build focus was on mobile in this version, something not many other CMSes can say. It might not launch Magnolia into instant stardom in the IT world, but that is no problem with Kraft and his team. The company is growing, hiring up new staff in the US, and even opening an office in China.

Magnolia screen icons.jpg
Plan on using Magnolia 5? Get used to these icons because they are the main access tools.

Apps, Pulse + Favorites

Apps, Pulse and Favorites (icons in above image) are the three main ways of navigating within the updated, Vaaden framework based Magnolia interface. Under Apps are all the content tools, Pulse is an action monitoring center, and Favorites is a kind of shortcut for the most used features somebody may need. Apps will access, manage and display pages, assets and documents in an intuitive way, but the advanced part is they will be customizable.

The Magnolia team likes to think this will allow for Magnolia customers to use their content in totally new ways, and managing it all from a mobile device is certainly one of those ways. While that kind of functionality may not be in huge demand right now, perhaps in two more years, it will be more common. By that time, Magnolia 5 will have rounded into full shape, and that puts the company in fine position.

As noted above, the company is expanding, and indeed competes against some of the largest enterprise players for some customers. Magnolia is simply much less expensive than the Adobe's and Sitecore's of the world, two companies Magnolia often competes against, Kraft said. Furthermore, Magnolia has been able to sustain itself over the last decade and compete virtually without a sales and marketing team. 

The Magnolia Model

Magnolia Community Edition is a free version of the system, and organizations often download it to test it out before buying the Enterprise Edition. Once they get the hang of it, they then contact the company for licensing, a pretty low cost way to gain customers. Another reason Magnolia has been so successful is simply its popularity among Java developers themselves.

That's just how Kraft likes it. Despite the recent hiring blitz and new office in China, Magnolia isn't out to blanket IT departments with sales teams and high pressure selling, Kraft said. One thing that could never be said about Magnolia, or Kraft for that matter is that they're over stated. In fact, that kind of sounds like Kraft's worst nightmare. 

"I'd rather have a small company than 10 customers that hate us," Kraft said, perhaps referring to some of his competitors who may have engaged in rather aggressive sales tactics.

Starting June 20, Magnolia 5 is available in both the Community and Enterprise Editions, and there's even a Magnolia Academy in the works to help with training, Kraft said. Part of that will be short video tutorials, a popular way to help learn new systems. Once v5 is launched, the Magnolia team will begin working on updating the SDK, so that looks like it will be one of the first updates to the fully upgraded system.