Sitecore (news, site) has unleashed the latest version of its web content management system. Among the new features in version 6.2 are RSS feeds for workflows, MS Outlook integration for workflow notifications, Web forms and some asset upload functionality using WebDAV.
While many of these features may sound a bit yesterday in the world of web content management, Sitecore users will probably welcome them with open arms. Better late than never, as they say.
Web Forms in Sitecore 6.2
The new Web forms functionality is targeted at non-technical marketers, who need to create web forms, carry out online campaigns and fight the good fight of web content optimization.
According to the company, using Sitecore CMS 6.2 Web forms tool, content editors can build forms and utilize reports to track and monitor conversion goals and user behavior for usability analysis and optimization. The tool also allows to capture data on abandoned forms and track dropout statistics.
Workflow Integration With Outlook
Sitecore now integrates with MS Outlook to allow users to receive workflow notifications via e-mail. This feature -- admittedly quite popular among content editors -- is a common means of workflow notification in the content management space.
In the case of Sitecore 6.2, the notifications go beyond simple informative updates. Users can get e-mail notifications and take workflow-related actions directly from their Outlook client. The alerts contain workflow actions, statuses and version comparisons.
Workflow Item RSS Feeds
Sitecore added RSS feed capability for items in workflows, allowing editors to subscribe to any changes that are made to a workflow-dependent item in Sitecore, selecting a specific workflow or workflow state as filters.
More information on this feature is available in Sitecore’s official documentation: the "Content Author's Cookbook", the "Client Configuration Reference" and the "Content API Cookbook" (not available to unregistered users).
Assets Upload Using WebDAV
While Sitecore calls this new feature “Web-based Distributed Authoring and Versioning (WebDAV) Media and Document Management,” in reality, it is a touch less exciting than it sounds.
WebDAV has been used by other CMS vendors in the past for scenarios when, for example, a batch upload of assets was in order. Using the Windows Explorer interface content editors can copy/paste or drag and drop images, MS Office documents and other binaries from a network share drive or their local computer to the CMS repository.
There are a number of ways to get media files into Sitecore. Content managers can upload them one at a time, create a structured .zip archive and then upload the full archive to Sitecore, or they can use the new WebDAV functions to transfer one or more files via typical Windows file move scenarios.
Sitecore CMS v6.2 -- Native Image Editor
In Sitecore's WebDAV case, the assets can be uploaded to the CMS media library, and from there content managers can embed those files into editable content elements. The company's use of WebDAV here is pretty straightforward, and frankly speaking, given the broad utility of such a function, we’re surprised they didn't get around to it earlier.
Also, keep in mind that if you want to use WebDAV, you’ll need to configure your browsers and the IIS following the mandatory client configuration instructions provided by the vendor. The provided v6.2 documentation contains the details.
MS Word Integration, with Some Limitations
This release brings a new Microsoft Word Field type to the fundamental Sitecore architecture. In Sitecore each content type is made up of one or more Fields. Typical field types include Image, Text, Rich Text, Link, Lookup, Etc. The new Word field type will function as another type of rich text field, but will allow content managers to edit the field's content using MS Word 2007.
There are some limitations though. First is that this functionality will only work with Internet Explorer. It's also important to note that the HTML generated by MS Word will not be valid XHTML (shocker!) and will need to be cleaned up by adding custom processors to the <word.parseDocx> pipeline.
Sitecore CMS v6.2 -- Editing a Native Word Field Type (Internet Explorer 7+ Only)
In addition, don’t count on your advanced formatting in MS Word like tables, columns, cross references, page background colors, etc. to come out correctly. Sitecore acknowledges that this is one of the current product limitations.
A Few other Tidbits
As others in the industry have done, with this release Sitecore improved its installer. There’s now a new "simple" installation mode available for default settings, with MS SQL Server as the underlying database. Note that, for now, the installer does not support SQLite.
With a number of changes in APIs, the Template Builder and various configs -- it looks like the release will be equally fun for developers. The data layer of the Analytics API, for example, has been changed to support OMS on Oracle. Thus, removing the built-in support for LINQ, since LINQ to SQL is not supported for Oracle database.
Developers should also note that there are 4 changes described as "breaking API changes". These are related to the analytics API, the experimental LINQ API and one configuration call. Administrators should note changes to the web.config's security configuration. We strongly recommend all parties closely review the release notes before starting an upgrade.
And, as always, let us know in the comments what you think about this latest release from Sitecore.