If you are a fan of ColdFusion, or are open to considering it for your Web Content Management (CMS) platform, you should definitely take a close look at the latest release of PaperThin’s CommonSpot Content Server.
In a recent interview with Todd Peters, PaperThin’s President, CMSwire discussed the key themes of the CommonSpot 4.0 release, trends in the content management market place, and topics such as ColdFusion application server performance.
With the 4.0 release of CommonSpot, PaperThin has stuck to its roots. They have demonstrated both a commitment to practical feature development and the sensitivity to prioritize customer-driven requirements. Introducing PaperThin
Massachusetts based PaperThin, Inc. is a mid-market web content management vendor, delivering a single ColdFusion-based Web CMS product, CommonSpot Content Server. In operation for over 11 years, the company delivered the first version of CommonSpot in 1998.
CEO Todd Peters is a focused and amicable technologist who started down the CMS road developing document and information management and dissemination solutions for AT&T in the early 1990’s. Todd’s goal for the CommonSpot product is to deliver the most feature-rich Web CMS product in the middle market, combining ease of use, features, and rapid time-to-deployment. Web CMS and Web CMS, What’s CommonSpot?
I have worked fairly extensively with CommonSpot and a number of other Web CMS products. I’ve found that each product is instilled with an unshakable trace of its roots. What this means is that the software will probably always function best in an environment that closely matches the one for which it was originally developed. In the case of CommonSpot, the software was developed as a mid-market CMS solution, excellent for small to mid-size organizations, or as a specific component of a large organization’s overall CMS strategy.
CommonSpot is not an enterprise content management solution. It is focused specifically on low to medium volume Web publishing and is most appropriate for small/medium business or as a large organization’s department-level solution.
CommonSpot is a feature rich Web CMS. PaperThin is a company that stays tuned to the needs of their customers. In my opinion, these are the product’s primary strengths.
As an integration and/or extensibility platform, CommonSpot is improving, but has a ways to go. It was not designed for this any more than it was designed for high volume publishing. For the mean time, these areas are best left to other vendors.
Generally speaking, the product is easy to use. It installs quickly, has an intuitive interface for content authors, and has a less intuitive, but adequate interface for site administrators.
Key features such as templating and workflow are designed in a simple and adequate way. Template inheritance is particularly powerful. And when combined with content security and metadata capabilities these features allow for easy standardization of both presentation and metadata practices.
Customization of the product and integration of custom software is flexible and straight forward, but requires knowledge of ColdFusion. A broad core API is not part of the current release, but is something we expect to evolve as CommonSpot moves towards a ColdFusion Component architecture and supports more and more web services interactions.
CommonSpot does support the creation of multi-language sites, but does not provided localized versions of the software and has not spent a lot of time developing multi-lingual site support. The interface for contributors/administrators is currently only offered in English.
CommonSpot is 100% ColdFusion and therefore may be deployed on any number of ColdFusion/J2EE platforms including JRun, BEA, and WebSphere. As a ColdFusion application, the software will scale best in a WebSphere/Linux configuration. What’s New and What’s not?
When asked what the key themes of the 4.0 release were, Todd Peters said “Improved scalability, usability, and content reuse”.
What you won’t find in this release is support of XML syndication or consumption. However, do stay tuned to the next release for more on those topics.
This release is also not the place to look for radical architecture changes. PaperThin is still supporting ColdFusion 5, so are not yet able to offer a component based core product, nor the nifty web services support that ColdFusion MX Components are sure to bring.
What this release does aggressively deliver is a long list of very practical new or enhanced features. There’s a little bit for everyone here.
Following are the highlights of the 4.0 release:
Static Site Generation
This add-on module enables the site administrator to publish parts or all of a CommonSpot website out to a delivery server as 100% static content. Either explicit settings or internal analysis controls which content is published statically. The remaining content is served dynamically, as in previous versions. A very nice element of this feature is the ability to schedule static content generation at a granular level. It goes without saying that performance and scalability were primary drivers for this feature.
Content Authoring Enhancements
A number of useful new features will make the lives of both template designers and content authors a bit easier. These include:
-- Built-in spell checker
-- Visual comparison of arbitrary page and content element versions (much like a visual diff utility)
-- XHTML Compliance (1.0 Transitional)
Version 4.0 includes significant enhancements for metadata authoring, management, and utilization. You are now able to bind custom metadata forms to a number of different system objects. Field-level security is included. And very importantly, metadata foreign key relationships are now supported.
Simple Forms Enhancements
Simple forms are not so simple anymore. This release brings multi-page and multi-tab form support, summary page support, GUI form design, and more.
Advanced Search Builder
This feature, known as “Query by Example”, enables non-technical users to create sophisticated Advanced Search forms that drive search results off metadata and primary content.
Site Management Enhancements
-- Replication has been improved for better scheduling control, more sophisticated support for parallel deployment, and more granular control over replication scope
-- Copying of sub-sites and control over the objects to include when copying has been added as a new feature (a huge time saver) CommonSpot vs. the Competition
The Web CMS marketplace is more than a tad crowded. In the ColdFusion Web CMS space alone you have CommonSpot, Site Executive, Ektron, NQ Content, Far Cry, and others.
Does CommonSpot hold its own in this field? In its area of strength – typical small/medium business websites – the answer is definitely yes. As folks such as CMSWatch
have noted, CommonSpot is an excellent value, with some notable features such as templating and Section 508 compliance.
As we at CMSwire can testify, the feature set CommonSpot offers combined with its relative ease of use, definitely positions the product as a solid contender in the mid-market Web CMS space. The 4.0 release has done nothing but strengthen this position.