dotCMS v1.9: Multi-site Management, New UI

Open source J2EE/Java Web CMS dotCMS (news, site) got a face-lift and several new capabilities in the latest release of version 1.9.

With this release, dotCMS tries to ease the life of developers and appeal to companies that don’t have Java developers on staff. Hence, the focus on the ability to easily create and manage templates and content types with mere knowledge of HTML, CSS and some scripting.

These goals are reflected in the new User Interface that provides data and HTML-driven commands and a set of new features for web developers.

What You Will See in v1.9

Multi-site Management

Although the vendor calls it “multi-tenant,” let’s clarify that we’re not really talking about anything SaaS here. The new multi-site management feature allows to build and manage a plethora of sites on a single dotCMS instance.

To create a new site, you could clone one of the existing sites using the new “copy host” feature in the Host Manager and select which parts of it you want in a new one (down to the particular files or pages). Or, you could create a new site which is a complete physical copy of one of the existing ones.

site cloning dotcms.jpg
Site Cloning in dotCMS

Nowadays, any organization of a decent size needs to be able to manage multiple sites, which may have different look-and-feels; yet, at the same time, be able to re-use and share content across multiple domains.

With dotCMS, some multi-site capabilities were available in previous versions, for example 1.7, but the UI was not set up to handle multiple hosts. It was not possible to apply permissions on the host-per-host basis.

We think there’s still some work cut out for dotCMS with this feature, as it is not easy at this point to, for example, sync the sites when new content has been added to site X and you want to inherit and re-use it in the already cloned site B.

New UI

The dotCMS UI has been completely rebuilt using a mix of Dojo and AJAX.

dotcms 1.9 gui.jpg
dotcms 1.9 GUI

Again, appealing to less technical users, dotCMS – while keeping the same content management processes and nomenclatures to alleviate the pain of relearning a CMS for the existing customers – is trying to provide the ease of use with the tabularized UI, which can be customized.

Scripting Support

What used to be a plug-in before is now a full product feature in dotCMS 1.9. The Web CMS supports PHP, Groovy, Python and Ruby – turning the CMS into a development platform for developers, who are masters in languages other than Java. But still, everything runs on top of Java within JVM, each scripting language has an interpreter written in Java -- allowing for virtualization, scalability and clusterability.

The vendor says the choice of languages to support was rather easy, with the popular PHP as a no-brainer. But .NET or ASP, for example, are not supported, despite the rising popularity of .NET Web CMSs, as was identified in the recent research. Will Ezell, CTO, commented that they tried .NET support, but decided not to include that in the release, although supporting ASP may sound like an interesting idea to think about in the future.

Standards, Integrations and Richer Content Types

As promised, dotCMS in this release also supports CMIS 1.0, in addition to JSON, RSS and Web Services, allowing users to integrate content within the CMS with content stored in other content repositories.

Richer content types were implemented as part of the starter site package, giving users the ability to create various types of content, e.g. a blog entry, as a complement to the existing content modeling abilities from the previous versions.

A small (but nice to have) new feature called SUDO Login allows administrators to log in under different types of system users in order to see the UI of other users, or check whether the security model and permissions have been implemented correctly.

Form Builder

We all use web forms, and dotCMS 1.9 developers and even non-techies can now create various web forms using a widget that has drop-down menus, so you can specify fields for different types of content (binaries, fields, dates, etc.) in one interface.

Changes in the Licensing Model

dotCMS comes in the following licensing flavors:

  • Community Edition under GPL 2.0
  • Three Enterprise Editions - Standard, Pro and Prime.

All Enterprise versions come under the new dotCMS Open License, which gives customers maintenance warranty, access to the source code and frees them of the requirement to commit any code changes back to the community. This goes somewhat against the free-sharing spirit of open source, but may come in handy for those organizations that need to protect their intellectual property.

Enterprise Prime edition also has a wider database support, including Oracle, MS SQL, PostgreSQL and DB2.

You can play with dotCMS 1.9 right away, as well as check out the Enterprise Prime edition via a 90-day free trial.