emagiC CMS.Net v1.3
Build Web Sites, Intranets, and Portals
By Anand Narayanaswamy
emagiC CMS.Net is a 100% .NET Framework 2.0-based CMS for building Web sites, intranets, and portals. It combines the best of content management with site and portal management.
Over the last several years there has been a huge increase in ASP-based CMS applications. CMS applications simplify the work of end users by giving them all the essential tools required for building a robust Web site. End-users are always on the lookout for a lightweight product that can provide all the functionalities involved with Web site development. Currently, CMS vendors are moving toward the ASP.NET technology; emagiC CMS.Net is one of the first systems built completely on the Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0.
emagiC CMS.Net supports SQL Server 2000, SQL Server 2005 (including its Express edition), and MSDE as a back-end database. An evaluation version of the product can be downloaded from the Emagine Web site (http://www.emagiccms.com). After completing the registration form an e-mail with download instructions for the product and the documentation will be automatically delivered to your inbox.
The evaluation copy is fully functional and ships with a demonstration Web site with sample data (see Figure 1). To install the product you must extract the files to a drive on your hard disk. You also need to create a new Web site with the demo host header names emagiccmsdemo and emagiccmsdemoadmin using IIS. The first name is used to browse to the demonstration Web site; the second is used to browse to the administration interface, which will look like Figure 2. For your browser to recognize the demo host header names, you must add them to the local host s file of your computer inside the system32\drivers\etc folder. This step is not needed in a real production environment where the host header names will be replaced by the licensed domain names of your Web site.
Figure 1: The fully functional evaluation copy.
Figure 2: The administration interface.
I tested the product on a Windows Server 2003 system with .NET Framework 2.0 and SQL Server 2005 Developer Edition. I found that the default Windows 2003 security settings prohibit you from properly running the administration part of the application. I resolved the issue by adding the specific URL to the trusted zone using Internet Explorer. This product is exclusively designed to work with Windows 2003 and it may not work properly with other operating systems. I found it very difficult to configure the application with Windows XP professional. Once the product is properly installed, even novice users can modify the Web site using its user-friendly administration interface.
For better performance I recommend you isolate the application into a separate pool. The product uses the ASP.NET State service to manage session state, so this service should be configured to start automatically when booting the server. Also, SQL Server is supported for session state management. The evaluation version comes with a demonstration SQL Server database file. You must restore this file using either SQL Server 2000 or 2005 before attempting to run the application.
The product takes advantage of the rich features of .NET Framework 2.0. The portal framework ships with a fully documented API to manipulate the content of the CMS. This enables users to deploy the application for both small- and large-scale projects. The product only supports Internet Explorer to access the administration interface. However, Web sites developed using the product can be accessed using any browser.
An important point to note is that for each type of content there is a module to manage it. The product ships with such standard modules as side menu, sitemap, image gallery, document gallery, and mail form. You can also add advanced optional modules, such as structured content based on the XForms standard and XML feed. You can also build your own modules and plug them into the application. emagiC CMS.Net can be used in several project environments, such as for building extranet sites, intranet sites, and portal sites. An interesting feature of this product is that you can seamlessly integrate third-party applications with the content management system through simple inheritance from the classes shipped with the product.
Other features of the product include a WYSIWYG editor, virtual staging, content versioning, link control, content life cycle, distributed editing, scalable architecture, community creation, scheduled content delivery, support for multiple languages, task lists, statistics, support for Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), and much more. You can find more information regarding all the features included with the product at http://www.emagiccms.com/emagiC_xforms/overview.asp?pageId=534&cat=2.
The administration interface has been divided into several areas. On the left-hand side you ll find the navigation trees for page management (Sitemap), content management (Dataparts), and general management tasks, such as documents, images, modules, skins, stylesheets, users, and community configuration. The right side displays the content. Administrators can directly edit the content using the built-in WYSIWYG editor (see Figure 3), which will load when you click on the Edit link on the smart tag. Each content container contains a smart tag at the extreme right side, which you can use to modify the content. You can also preview the page using the View option. You can also edit the content directly from the right-side pane by selecting the specific menu item. The built-in text editor comes with support for major fonts, symbols, styles, and much more. Moreover, the editor provides support for multiple languages.
Figure 3: Edit the content using the built-in WYSIWYG editor.
The documentation for emagiC CMS.Net can be downloaded from the URL you receive after initial registration. It has been split into two parts: a General User Manual (aimed at non-technical end-users) and a Technical Manual (aimed at Web development companies). The technical manual provides all the required information for product installation. The vendor provides excellent support through e-mail and live chat and all technical queries are answered within one working day. I was really amazed by the speed of their support department. The vendor assisted me through live chat by giving step-by-step instructions when I faced some issues during the installation of the product, which helped me fix all the problems within a few minutes. You can also post queries to their discussion forum, which they maintain on their Web site, as well as refer to the online knowledge base at any time (in case you require support during non-business hours).
No doubt, if used properly, emagiC CMS.Net can yield rich dividends for your requirements as it contains rich features. I suggest you refer to the product documentation to explore all the details. This product is one of the first of its kind to be released after the release of .NET Framework 2.0, and I hope version 2 adds more features to this great product. (At the time of this writing, the vendor was slated to release version 2 of this product by the end of March 2006.)
Anand Narayanaswamy, a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP), works as an independent consultant and runs NetAns Technologies (http://www.netans.com), which provides Web hosting services based in Trivandrum, India. Anand also works as a technical editor lead for ASPAlliance.com. He runs Learnxpress.com (http://www.learnxpress.com), Dotnetalbum.com (http://www.dotnetalbum.com), and Csharpfaq.com (http://www.csharpfaq.com). Find out more about him at http://www.visualanand.net or e-mail him at mailto:[email protected].
Web Site: http://www.emagiccms.com
Price: Plans start at US$1,915