Sense/Net 6.0 Beta 4
The open source Enterprise CMS and Portal product Sense/Net 6.0 (news, site) has just entered its Beta 4 release. Major improvements were made on the application and portal layers, including further work on the experimental technology Sense/Net calls the Web Application Model and the Workspace framework. We poked around a bit. Here's what we dug up.

New in Sense/Net 6.0 Beta 4

In the previous Beta release, Sense/Net was focusing on making the CMS .NET developer-friendly by introducing the new WebDAV support and upgraded interface, among other features.

A little before that, we were pleased to hear that Sense/Net is playing with others in the CMIS sandbox. Sense/Net’s CMIS prototype was implemented on Sense/Net 6.0 with their Content Repository featuring a CMIS-compliant interface.

The beta 4 release changes include:

  • Sense/Net Web Application Model improved
  • WebDAV functionality moved to SenseNet.Portal Layer
  • Sense/Net 6.0 now uses ExtJS 3.0 instead of ExtJS 2.2
  • Ext-base changed to jQuery
  • The binary fieldcontrol now has an “upload to binary property” feature
  • New context-based portlets introduced for Workspaces and the Web Application Model

What is the Sense/Net Web Application Model?

For starters, the Sense/Net team refer to this as both the Smart Application Model and the Web Application Model. Don’t get confused, they are part of the same thing.

The Web Application model is a new feature of Sense/Net 6.0. Its function is to control the way content is rendered or manipulated in the browser. In a typical ASP.NET scenario, a single URL would refer to a page -- typically called a Web Form in ASP.NET lingo. This page would have programming logic associated with it, either as a code-behind or a code-behind plus a number of other layers. 

With the Sense/Net 6.0 application model, a URL is the address of a content item. The presentation or manipulation of this content item is handled by what they now call a SmartApplication. Content items are required to have content type definitions, and the SmartApplications can be associated with the specific content type.

In other words, with the latest version Sense/Net developers create classes of pages instead of individual pages. A class of pages can be understood as the set of all content items which will be rendered or manipulated by the associated SmartApplication.

According to the company, a by product of the new approach is cleaner and more search engine optimized (SEO) URLs. An older Sense/Net URL might have looked like this:

With the latest version one gets a much cleaner URL like this:

Supporting clean URLs is not ground breaking stuff. But we're sure it's a welcome change for existing customers and a common checkbox for those evaluating the product. Note that existing customers will need to have a URL change management scheme in place if they move over to the new URL scheme.

What is a Workspace?

Sense/Net refers to a “workspace” as a small portal area allocated for users to share their ideas, work collaboratively on documents and other content types stored in the Content Repository.

The concept should be familiar to CMSWire readers or anyone who's used SharePoint, Alfresco Share or just about any current document collaboration product. This is your personal or group dashboard, common elements here are documents, chats, calendars, tasks, etc.

The Sense/Net Workspace concept is based on the Web Application model implemented in the previous release.

sense net workspace.png

As with all new releases -- open source or not -- especially those still in beta, before installing, make sure you know the prerequisites and requirements, and do your testing in a non-production environment. For additional information, see the Sense/Net forum and read the wiki.

Looks Nice, But Reserved for the Brave

Sense/Net has promised in the past that the goal is not to break the existing functionality with every new release. This is good news for administrators and just good behavior in general.

The vendor gives a fair warning though, saying that the new Web Application Model is still considered experimental technology -- don't expect to plug this in without hiccups.

In the Web Application Model and the Workspace framework, you can expect a myriad of changes still to come, from namespace names, class names and locations, class interfaces and content handlers, to content type names, content type hierarchy, configuration and demo structure paths. As is usually the case, the associated documentation trails rather far behind these shifts.

So while the latest developments might catch your eye, most of you should give Sense/Net some time to calm their coding fingers and finish up the beta cycle. However, for the early adopters and contributers, beta 4 looks like an intriguing playground. If you're rooting around in there, do share your thoughts here.