ocPortal (news, site) has been incubating version 4.2 of its Web CMS for some nine months now. Finally out, what delights does it offer?

Swapping the Source

British company ocProducts started out selling its ocPortal CMS as a commercial product, but has spent the last two years transitioning to an open-source model. The new approach started with Version 4.0 which launched back in August 2008. Since then, there have been lots of regular updates, but this is the first big "feature" update release.

Shopping, Social, Standards

Naturally, it packs in a large number of new features and improvements. High on the list is the addition of a shopping cart and store feature, and syndication to social sites including Facebook and Twitter.

ocPortal's aim for global domination is assisted by true multi-lingual support enabling translation of content, forum posts and so on.

Also added is support for newer standards including parts of HTML5, Dublin Core, OpenSearch and other microformats that represent the future of the Web. This paves the way for much smarter web browsers and SEO to degrees that many users haven't even imagined yet, making ocPortal one of the most markup-friendly CMSs available today. (They have an interesting post on the subject here).

Intelligent Summary System

An intelligent summary system is also worth a mention. Give it a link to some text and an approximate article length, and it analyzes the text, looking for punctuation to intelligently decide where to truncate.

This is useful for theme developers as they can design a fixed-width box (i.e., "recent blog posts") and trust the algorithm to intelligently fill it with the right amount of text.


The content management zone is highly intuitive

The Fix Is In

Of interest to WCM implementers are improved templates and CSS, making the code easier to follow and understand. Search friendly URLs allow tags to be used in links instead of meaningless numerics while there are also new Flash and Java based uploaders. Add to this Google Sitemap generation and XML import/export which speeds up archiving and can be done from the Admin's panel.

Improvements have been made to help tidy up image galleries, blogs and news content. Memory usage has been reduced and performance increased to reduce the stress on hardware while there is additional support for web standards and Web 3.0 (Semantic Web) features.

What ocPortal Is and Is Not

Interestingly, the product site does have a page explaining what ocPortal is not, rather than the usual "we can do it all" fluff. Read this to ensure you know what the product can't do for you, the most salient point being "We make ocPortal as powerful and flexible as we possibly can, but we understand real-world limitations – and we provide commercial services when they are needed."

The company offers community-based forum support, but personal support is paid for in advance via its "Experts by the hour" scheme. This is accessed by pre-buying a set number of hours. Existing users will also want to note that the release mentions that 4.1 themes may need some conversion to work with 4.2.

With so many web content management systems already out there, what is it that makes ocPortal stand out? Creative Director Allen Ellis offers this, "Since it's roots in early 2004, ocPortal has always aimed to provide website owners with a wide variety of out-of-the-box features, while remaining extremely modular and developer-friendly."