New Day dawns for Web CMS

Day Communique WCM 5.1 impresses with snappy GUI and rich features for business users, easy setup and management for techs
  • Mike Heck (InfoWorld)
  • 05 December, 2008 08:44

Day Software may be best known for its CRX (Content Repository Extreme) Java Content Repository. But after testing the general release of its Communiqué 5.1 (CQ5) modular CMS, I think it's time to get reintroduced to the rest of what the company offers. This notable Web content manager will impress business users with drag-and-drop page design, in-context content editing, and a component library that includes Flash elements, form builders, and Google Gadget support. And it will impress IT with a nice complement of enterprise bells and whistles -- from integrated BPM to hot backup, disaster recovery, and clustering capabilities.

CQ5, like the previous 4.2 version, is a Java application. However, Version 5.1 has even more open associations. It was completely rewritten around Apache Sling -- a Web application framework that Day incubated and then open sourced. The entirely rebuilt client application now incorporates AJAX components for a great user experience, including drag-and-drop content placement.

New components, including ready-to-use forms, really speed the development of Web pages. Also, workflow and tagging have been substantially revised. Workflow now includes a full-fledged BPM engine. Plus, there are numerous infrastructure improvements for anyone looking to deploy CQ5 for an enterprise.

Easy from the start

I really think Day redefined the user experience -- and not just for business users. Web developers and system administrators also get to enjoy the principles of Web 2.0.

Consider CQ5's setup: Just double-click a "quick start" JAR file and everything you need is automatically installed, including a repository, virtual repository services, index and search services, workflow services, security (already configured for LDAP integration or Windows single sign-on), and a Web server. Overall, this process required six minutes -- plus another two minutes to fire up the environment and log into the CQ5 application.

The administration screen is logically arranged, providing quick access to the Web Content Management (WCM) application, user rights settings, group security, workflows, enterprise taxonomy, and tagging.

Like the previous versions, the main section of the user interface presents a hierarchical view of your Web sites and pages within each site. But because the interface is AJAX-enabled, I easily dragged and dropped pages between sections of the site -- and CQ5 ensured the integrity of links. As expected, when I right-clicked on any page, a context-aware menu appeared.

Page Break

The new Content Finder, which appears in the left pane when working on a page, represents an important productivity improvement. Behind the scenes, a complex query runs to show things that you might want to add to the page -- perhaps recently uploaded images or documents that you used in the past. Even more impressive, when I installed connectors for Documentum and SharePoint, assets from these systems also appeared. To situate any of these objects on a page, I just dragged them into place.

In addition to the context-aware menus, you can work on pages through the "sidekick" widget. I found this preferable when developing intricate layouts. That's because the sidekick provides fast access to the many available pre-built components, which range from slideshows to text areas.

I was very pleased with the system's fast response when dragging these components on to pages and then reordering; there was no screen refresh lag. More important, changes were immediately committed to the repository.

Editing content was equally straightforward. You just double-click a text area and a visual editor appears in place. I discovered the same thought and usability when managing the structure and layout of my pages. For example, to revise the design, I simply dragged a different column control onto the page. If you can't find a component in what Day supplies, they're easily developed by those with basic JavaScript and JSP skills.

My site, your site

Perhaps the most important new capability, from a Web 2.0 perspective, is the way CQ5 handles personalization. Every site visitor is potentially a registered user with a unique profile. For example, you could match profile information with tags placed on a page to deliver content tailored to the person's interest.

Taking this further, each site is really a Web 2.0 portal. In my test intranet, I easily allowed each employee to add a Google Gadget to their home page. Because I knew each user's identity based on their log-in, it was easy to give them rights to upload documents or comment on a blog entry.

CQ5 introduces social search -- something that other CMS products usually make you buy from another vendor. I found that anonymous users got very good results. However, when the application compared previous queries of registered users who looked for the same information, the results more accurately reflected their common interests.

Page Break

I also liked the new graphical Workflow Console, which is aimed at the business user. CQ5 ships with a number of business models with professional layouts and easy-to-change properties. Additionally, I had no problem inserting complex steps -- such as timeouts and delegation -- into workflows using the drag-and-drop interface.

To conclude testing, I looked at two important functions for datacenter staff: hot backup and clustering. CQ5 uses Apache Felix OSGi technology to bundle the current state of the system and the entire application. This process let me create the backup (without interrupting users) and have it running on a new server within minutes.

Similarly, setting up a server cluster took nothing more than installing the CQ5 software on another box, marking it as a slave, and referencing the first server; everything was then replicated to the slave without the need for restarts.

Overall, Communiqué 5.1 nicely matches the requirements I look for in a contemporary Web content manager. The only drawback is the convoluted way to create new sites and templates. Instead of working within the main interface, you fire up an Eclipse integrated development environment to edit Java and configuration files -- something that's beyond the skills of business users. Even so, this CMS is worth a serious look.