Back in 2004 -- yes, eons ago in Web time -- we lamented over not having a blogging client awesome enough to make us do away with our browsers for daily publishing work. Although there were a few promising candidates, ultimately none of them yielded a good enough score on our terms.
Since then we’ve been keeping tabs on developments in the desktop web content authoring and management tool business, and things have certainly come a long way.
Adobe caught our attention anew just recently. Their release of Creative Suite 4, including Contribute v5.0 sparked hope that we might find a wonderful desktop tool in which to while away our days. Let's take a closer look.
|Vendor||Adobe Systems, Inc.|
|Product Name ||CS4 or Adobe Contribute 5.0|
|Product Category ||Web Publishing, Micro Publishing, Web Content Management|
|Typical Scenario ||Simple Online Publishing, Small to Medium Website Management|
|Bad Fit Scenario ||Large Websites, Database Driven Websites, Ecommerce|
Company & Product History
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for, well, your entire life, you’re at the very least a smidge aware of Adobe’s offerings. Photoshop alone has revolutionized the standard of online photographs, of graphic design, and in some (a lot of) cases, our online personas (looks). Of course, the benefits don’t stop at aesthetics.
In September of last year, the release of Web Premium CS4 especially highlighted a topic that’s got many companies in a tizzy. Regulars like Photoshop and Illustrator are given parts of the release, but also along for the ride is the lesser-known contender, Contribute v5.0.
Where From Contribute?
The software was first introduced by Macromedia in 2003. It was aimed at allowing users to collaboratively publish, author and review Web content without learning HTML.
When Contribute was first released, Macromedia heavily promoted the ease of use for any and all Web writers, claiming it to be a tech layman’s game despite the high quality output and advanced capabilities.
In 2006 -- post acquisition -- Adobe jumped on the blogging bandwagon and re-marketed Contribute as a one-stop-shop for editors -- but in spite of the trendy use of the word “blogger”, it was pretty much the same thing.
The not so well known (nor seemingly that actively developed) Contribute Publishing Server (CPS) has been along for the ride. But hey it's 2009 and CPS is at v1.11. So we're thinking she's never been nor is likely to ever be the star of the show.
Market & Pricing
Still aiming to serve the same audience of writers, Adobe presently boasts productivity as their new “killer feature”.
Seemingly bent on conforming Contribute’s marketing strategy around current Web memes, the publishing software will now reportedly boost publishing ROI by increasing content management efficiency. Not only is it a browser-less publishing tool, it also allows users to manage content living in Dreamweaver templates. Collaboration gains are offered once the Publishing Server is hitched up. That's the story.
You can buy the desktop software outright for US$ 199 or existing owners can upgrade for US$ 99. A 5 user multi-pack lists for US$ 799 or you can go with the entire CS4 suite for US$ 1,699.
Contribute Publishing Server is an additional cost. Each CPS user must have a client access license which runs US$ 89 each. For example, if you have ten Contribute CS4 users connecting to a Contribute Publishing Server, then you need ten access licenses. This is similar to how Microsoft CALs work.
Ye Ol’ Requirements
The following is a list of the requirements we had for a good browser-less blogging service and how Contribute measures up:
- Runs on Windows [Yes!]
- Access to all of MT's article fields [Sort of...requires modifications.]
- WYSIWYG HTML/XHTML Editor [Yes!]
- Spell checker [Yes!]
- Access to article categories [Yes!]
- Ability to set publish date [Yes!]
- Access/editing of previous articles [No]
- Image/file upload support [Yes!]
- Support for multiple Blogs [Yes!]
- Usable, intuitive interface [Yes!]
Have a Look See
9/10 on the CMSWire scale ain’t bad, but it’s still not a 10. And there is some hacking around required to get close to replicating access to all of a blogs fields. Contribute has a field for Tags, for example, yet the contents of this field does not end up in Movable Type's Tags field -- it get embedded in the body of the article.
With that said, the slew of options Adobe is known for offering with their products is nice. For starters, once you set up a Contribute connection to your blog (it’s fairly easy), you can choose to publish directly from Microsoft Word, from your browser (Windows only) or from Contribute’s Interface. This scenario of course only applies if you are using a limited set of fields (probably just Title, Category and Body).
Contribute Welcome Screen
Additionally, Contribute’s Interface is quite intuitive. The WYSIWYG editor didn’t display the page exactly as it is, but it came fairly close.
Contribute WYSIWYG Editing of a New Article
As you can see, the editor is fairly bulky -- something we’re not too fond of, but the bulk is generally for good reason.
The various toolbars located at the top are heavy with options and editable fields, including tags, drop down menus for multiple category selection, editable publish dates and times and the option to toggle between different blog connections. Other run of the mill options include HTML tools for link management, images and spell check (a handy new feature in v5).
Contribute Spell Check, New with Version 5.0
The HTML manipulation tools work fairly well -- as one would hope -- but the Link tool was a bit annoying, in that a) it assumes you are linking internally to existing pages, and b) it does not support microformats (i.e., you cannot set the rel="foo" link attribute).
Admittedly, this is common problem with many current WYSIWYG HTML editors. And microformats are an advanced topic, yes. But we'd expect a company like Adobe to be on top of this.
The Sticking Point
Using the software is definitely a breeze. At face value, everything is pretty straightforward and almost all questions that do arise can be answered after just a few seconds of digging and clicking around.