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Fool-proof web content management SW?

When will we finally get WYSIWYG web content editors for newbies?

Ever since I worked as a Lotus Notes admin, I've been looking at non-proprietary, preferable open-source solutions that let both newbies and power users contribute to knowledge databases. I really like Notes/Domino's support for WYSIWYG editing + support for disconnected mode (replication between client and server), but at the core, it's a proprietary tool, it's quite complicated to understand fully, and its customer support isn't very good.

I spent the past few weeks checking alternatives (different weblog softwares like GreyMatter, LiveJournal, UserLand, etc.; Zope; Twiki/Zwiki, etc.), but so far haven't found usable by non-power users and powerful enough to work on large documents.

I just signed up to participate in the beta testing of CityDesk. Hopefully, it avoids the classic error all those solutions made, and comes with a WYSIWYG, dedicated, OS-specific client so that working on document databases is as simple as working in eg. Word.

Its ubiquitousity notwithstanding, a web client just doesn't measure up with dedicated clients, and typing HTML tags is out of the question for newbies (and even power users when it comes to documents that are 100's of pages long like User's Manual, etc.)

Those curious of seeing what it's like creating contents in Notes can download free trials here:
http://www.notes.net/down.nsf/welcome

Am I the only one frustrated with the dearth of easy-to-use web content mgmt tools?

My ¥.2
FF.

Frederic Faure
Sunday, October 14, 2001

No! You're not the only one. It was this thought exactly that drove the development of CityDesk.

I think you're on target about Windows UIs. For non-trivial document editing tasks, you just can't build a good enough UI with HTML. I'll talk about that soon on Joel on Software.

Joel Spolsky
Sunday, October 14, 2001

I've been using the web interface to various wiki's for so long that I have forgotten about the idea of a dedicated GUI interface.  thanks for the reminder.

however - its just a gui frontend for the same backend server - which is the important part of the concept

Sven Dowideit
Monday, October 15, 2001

Sven Dowideit: "however - its just a gui frontend for the same backend server - which is the important part of the concept"

I agree. I think it'd be a good idea to develop a client application using cross-platform toolkits like wxWindows or GTK (to minimize the cost of porting the app to different OS's), but keep using a web server on the other end so that documents can at least be read from any computer. Considering that at the core, it only takes some kind of replication from client-to-server (eg. WebDAV), I'm surprised  we still haven't seen such framework.

Incidently, I've been playing with UserLand's Radio (free app available from http://radio.userland.com/), but it's proprietary, it doesn't have a real tutorial, and the little info available is clearly meant for savy users in the field (I don't understand half of what Dave Winer talks about on his blog at http://www.scripting.com/). Besides, I don't see myself training all users in my company to work with Radio to contribute to the Intranet.

Can't wait to check out City Desk...

FF.

Frederic Faure
Monday, October 15, 2001

Just a little question :

You say in your Joelonsoftware column that city desk is fully installed on the site manager's desktop PC, and that it transfers full static pages on every basic server.

But you also say that CityDesk has collaborative capabilities. How is this possible ? Do you use some P2P capabilities ? Or another programming tip ? I suppose that co-editors can access to the main desktop machine ? how do you handle this ?

Answer to Fr. Faure : I'm in the same situation.

I tried to run Radio Userland, Manila, greymatter and others so-called cheap CMS products too : Never got started, either setting are too hard to understand, or UI is too bad, or I have to deal with RSS-XML notions I don't want to have to deal with...

I hope City Desk will really provide the first Easy to Use CMS System. CAN'T WAIT ANYMORE !!!

(should I say I applied for Beta testing ? )

Vincent Bénard
Monday, October 15, 2001

The way collaboration works with CityDesk is that you all open the same CityDesk file (using Windows file sharing). The CityDesk file is really a robust multi-user database.

Joel Spolsky
Monday, October 15, 2001

How does CD handle simultaneous edits to the same document or template by different users?

david g
Monday, October 15, 2001

In case of conflict the last person to save wins.

Joel Spolsky
Monday, October 15, 2001

IE actually has a lot built into it that makes for a decent WYSIWYG online editor.  Take a look at the example at
<a href="http://www.aspalliance.com/yusuf/Article10.asp">http://www.aspalliance.com/yusuf/Article10.asp</a>. 

The new IE5.5 has some even more interesting edit-in-place

eKtron also has some nifty products for decent prices ($300-$3000). Their eWebEditPro is based on the IE capabilities, they just include some extras for spell-check and such. 

But even that is too expensive, sometimes, for a personal or non-profit site.  I'm currently working on a very basic system that would use ASP.NET as the basis of a free simple WYSIWYG CMS.  I went that way instead of something Linux based because Linux scares away some people, and I needed a project to play with C#!  If it ever gets close to a public release...

Does City Desk have cascading templates (change a copyright date in the footer, and cascade the change through the site)?  Any plans for future versions of City Desk to support database content?  What's the expected price point?

Looking forward to seeing CityDesk...

Gary Pupurs
Monday, October 15, 2001

Oops, wish I could have edited my previous post. I meant to say in the middle there:

The new IE 5, 5.5 and 6 have some even more interesting edit-in-place features, some extendable via C++, but the basics are controlled with Javascript.  Take a look at the examples here:
http://msdn.microsoft.com/downloads/samples/internet/default.asp
Under the DHTML, IE 5/5.5/6 Demos.  I've found a few other similar links and cobbled together come code from the samples, email me if interesting in more info...

But of course, these are great for 'on the road' editing and part time contributors a far, but the desktop app, properly implemented (as CityDesk likely is) will blow these to pieces in areas of reliability, responsiveness, flexibility, and sheer features.  At least until we get to the point of pushing down real apps over the web, similar to how anti-virus programs are now distributed.

Gary Pupurs
Monday, October 15, 2001

CityDesk has both templates and variables. A template lets you change the look of a whole set of pages in one place. Variables could be used for things like copyright notices throughout a site.

We haven't set an exact price point, but will be in line with shrinkwrapped desktop software like desktop publishing packages. (It's targetted at a very similar market as, say, InDesign or Quark Xpress).

Joel Spolsky
Monday, October 15, 2001

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