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Magnolia Decouples the CMS for Developers

Enterprise open source Content Management Specialist (CMS) Magnolia has this week staged its 2012 annual developer and user symposium in the Swiss city of Basel. The firm is currently focused on stirring the CMS market with a new iteration of its tool built for "mobile-first" usage. Magnolia 5.0 currently sits at pre-Alpha developer release status and allows content to be authored and edited through customizable, task-focused apps.

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Aiming to bring the simplicity of mobile apps to the world of enterprise content management, the Magnolia CMS interface works from a central hub where developers and web administrators can choose from a range of tasks relevant to their corporate role and privileges. They are then presented with an intuitive app that guides them through the process, only offering the relevant functionality needed to speed and ease the task.

Magnolia asserts that enterprise CMS vendors have continually been racing to pack more functionality into increasingly bloated, monolithic menus. “These bewildering user interfaces deter the majority of potential users from using the system and contributing to a more meaningful virtual presence. Magnolia 5.0 offers simple, yet powerful, apps focused on tasks that are relevant to the user," according to the company.

The Developer CMS Story

While software application developers who naturally first gravitate towards languages, toolkits, and even GUI-based development environments may not immediately consider use of a CMS technology within their immediate scope, Magnolia contends that there is an argument for programmers to use the core set of services delivered through its app-style interface, which is suited to both mobile and desktop usage.

"Although the content management system is typically seen as a website development tool, Magnolia is seeking to provide the core services of the CMS proposition as a set of tools for developers faced with bringing an increasing number of backend application elements to the Web. This action, essentially, represents a decoupling of the traditional elements of a CMS," said Boris Kraft, CTO and cofounder of Magnolia speaking to Dr Dobb's.

"Also, if you are writing 'content-enriched' applications, then why not use these existing services along with Magnolia 5.0's new user interface to speed the process and remove what most developers see as the more tedious elements of building the finished enterprise app," added Kraft.

How It Works

Magnolia uses the Java-based Vaadin Web application framework for Rich Internet Applications as the base framework for its user interface. On top of this, the software then presents a set of services for developers such as:

  • Data repository controls
  • Data caching controls
  • Publishing framework options
  • Workflow controls
  • More granular elements such as URL rewrite functions

In terms of its form, Magnolia 5 presents three central icons to take users to its trinity of functions: "Apps" to focus on specific tasks that users want to achieve (version 5 also comes with a widget set and framework that will enable anyone to develop customized apps that integrate with Magnolia; "Pulse" updates users on every element being actioned inside the system through an activity feed (version 5 includes content status, comments, content statistics, and a portion of analytics); and "Favorites" to provide access to workspaces through shortcuts to commonly used actions such as adding pages, creating microsites, or adding new content.

Your Mileage May Vary

Magnolia says that both customers and partners have augmented and enhanced modules to sit on top of the core system provided by the company. Currently, around 70 of these modules exist, some of which rank as "Magnolia supported" after the firm has performed a degree of analysis and ratification, while some are completely third-party with a "your mileage may vary" proviso. In terms of onward development, these will now be converted into apps within the next iteration of the system where appropriate.

These modules provide a variety of additional functionalities on top of the CMS's core services such as support for languages and other development frameworks. A recent example of this as previously reported on Dr. Dobb's is Magnolia Blossom, a Spring integration module. It exposes Spring Web MVC-controllers as paragraphs and templates and allows developers to build dialogs using code instead of configuration.

While the developer preview is available now, Magnolia anticipates that the version 5.0 iteration will be released in its full-blown form within the next six months.

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