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Site Executive 3.0 Content Management System
Site Executive 3.0 Content Management System

Site Executive 3.0 promises ease of use, standardization, rapid site implementation, rights- and role-based security, versioning, workflow, and easy custom module implementation. It largely succeeds in these areas. Load balancing and failover are also supported. This version does not have true localization support, but it's planned for future versions. Double-byte characters are supported.

The installation process sets up the required database in your system. CFMX and the target database must be working and communicating properly and DNS must be responding. Parts of the installation process will fail if the server doesn't respond properly. Additional sites may be added within the Web application, but DNS must be handled externally.

Administration and Site Security
It is extremely straightforward to add new users and new user groups or to add permissions to documents and directories. The three permissions sets (read, write, and admin) can be applied to individual content, or recursively starting at any level of the site. The read role may preview unapproved pages and generate history reports. Write permission provides access to all content management features, and admin permission provides additional template, user, and site management functions.

Content Management Interface
The ActiveX WYSIWYG template and page editor is somewhat basic, choosing to encourage ease and stylesheet use over extended functionality. The familiar Office-like dropdowns allow the user to select text, then select a style from the menu. The inability to change text at will encourages standardization across templates but may irritate users who want nonstandard text. The editor also contains an easy-to-use table builder and pop-up windows that stay on top until the user closes them.

There is no ability to paste HTML into the template builder, so the Web designer will have to re-create the templates in the administrator. Also, the body content is not surrounded by the template in the interface, requiring the user to close the editing screen to preview the content within the template. Uploading images must be done with the editor closed, so if an expected image is missing, the user must complete several steps in order to upload the image.

The system allows separate stylesheets for the template and page content, encouraging standardization by limiting style differences in the page content. Only the default stylesheet can add new styles, and these cascade to other stylesheets. The stylesheet builder does not handle link styles, which are handled per template. Applied styles will not override link colors, making it virtually impossible to enable links in more than one color per template. Figure 1 shows the template builder displaying several content modules and the styles dropdown, and Figure 2 shows the page content editor with an "open and on top" module customization form.

Versioning and Workflow
Each time the user saves changes to a template or to page content, a new version is created. This becomes the editable version, with other versions being archived. An archived version can be reinstated by selecting it from the Versions dropdown. This will archive the current version and copy the selected archive version into a new editable version.

The approval workflow is set by the administrator and may be set per site, per directory, per page, or per template. Workflow is normally set recursively, applying site-wide workflow rules, which can be overridden per item. An unlimited number of ordered approval steps can be implemented, with final publication by the original author. The reporting tool lists what is ready for approval or publication.

Features and Modules
Custom 404 pages can be applied by server, by site, and by directory, recursively or individually. Some modules, such as the HTML Passthrough and Object Inclusion, are available by page for the inclusion of static HTML pages, media files, and multimedia files. Site Map, Trail of Breadcrumbs, and Email a Friend are available by template, and some modules are available at both levels. The Flash presentation module takes advantage of some of CFMX's Flash integration, and a site search module is also included.

The custom form builder allows administrators to create a wide variety of forms, the results of which can be e-mailed or exported in delimited text, Excel, or XML file formats. The exports can be downloaded by the user or processed by a custom module. Despite the Site Map and DHTML menu modules, there is no easily implemented standard sidebar menu. Lack of automatic updates in the DHTML module requires the administrator to individually add new content links.

The custom module API allows structured module insertion while allowing technical users to create any CFMX-supported functionality. Custom modules are registered at startup and on demand, with functionality much like custom tags. The API allows access to existing data and modules, easily handling versioned and approved data. However, there is a learning curve for creating complex modules.

Should You Buy It?
In essence, Site Executive 3.0 protects against site inconsistency at the expense of ease in creating a site with complex design. Some of these problems could be alleviated with custom modules. Some administration functions are easy to use, but others are difficult to understand or implement. Since administrative functions are largely for more technical users, this isn't a big problem. Easy access to approved version data makes custom extensions easy once you've gotten over the initial hump. As with all software, the purchase decision depends on the needs of the user. Site Executive 3.0 seems appropriate where there is significant disparity between the skill levels of administrators and content managers, and where fine style control is required.

Vitals
Site Executive 3.0
Systems Alliance, Inc.
34 Loveton Circle, Suite 102
Sparks, MD 21152
Phone: 410 584-0595, ext. 222
Toll Free: 877 797-8554
Fax: 410 584-0594
Web: www.siteexecutive.com

Specs:
CFMX only
Platform: Windows 2000, Red Hat Linux 7.2, Solaris 2.5.1, Windows 2003 support planned
Databases: SQL 2000, Oracle 8i/9i

Pricing: Pricing per server with flexible bulk licensing. Starting price is $35,000 with average multiserver installation at $70,000. VAR programs and educational/nonprofit pricing disocounts are available.

Test Environment:
Dell PowerEdge 1650, Pentium 3 1.13GHz processor, Windows 2000 Server OS, 512mb RAM, SQL 2000 on same server

About Jennifer Larkin
Jennifer Larkin is the manager of the Bay Area ColdFusion User Group and a coauthor of ColdFusion 5.0 Certified Developer Study Guide. She is currently developing a ColdFusion intranet application for the city of San Francisco.

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