Shane Johnson, Senior Consultant at CITYTECH, knows the pain of systems that can't talk to each other. In 2008 he built a client's e-commerce site on a Content Management platform, then had to write custom RESTful services to allow other applications to access the content management system's content.

So when CMIS was announced, it didn't take much to convince Johnson of its value.

How CMIS Explorer Was Born

As 2009 rolled around, CITYTECH was invited to put together an Alfresco Code Camp in Chicago. In addition to speaking about Alfresco Surf and Share, he also saw this talk as a chance to raise awareness about the new proposed Content Management Interoperability Specification (CMIS) and its benefits.

The trick was, though, that he wanted to have personal experience with the proposed standard before talking it up to others.

Since he only needed to build a client, and didn't want to be contained or constrained by Web browsers, he decided to build a CMIS browser in Adobe AIR and Flex. The result, CMIS Explorer, allows people to access any CMIS-compliant repository. With this ability, users can manage their content all within the same tool rather than having to jump from CMS to CMS.

The further he got into building CMIS Explorer, the more he realized that rather than just using it to learn CMIS, he could actually use this client as a much more effective tool to show CMIS's power -- which was better than just talking about the proposed standard.

Where CMIS Explorer is Going

CMIS Explorer is still in its early phase. Right now the client can get repository info, types, children, and content streams, create documents and do search queries.

Ultimately Johnson would like to see this client become a full-featured, enterprise-grade application for accessing content repositories. While of course he wants it to be compatible with all available implementations, he would also like to see CMIS Explorer incorporate repository-specific functionality.

"For example," says Johnson, "the Alfresco extension specifies a URL to the icon for each document. In the end, it would be nice to hear that users all across the enterprise are using it to access their repositories whether they be open source or commercial implementations." 

CMIS Explorer client, Browser tab displayed.

According to Johnson, the single most important benefit that CMIS Explorer brings to users is that it's a desktop application, which means they get the simplicity of features such as drag and drop. Being a full desktop app also means that the client can evolve to store lists such as favorite repositories, the most frequently accessed repositories and the most recently accessed documents.

To see CMS Explorer for yourself, go to the CMIS Explorer Google Code page. And to track the project, keep tabs on Johnson's blog.