Kentico CMS 2.1
Create Web Sites Rapidly
By Anand Narayanaswamy
Developing a Web site with rich features is easy these days because of the availability of various Content Management Systems (CMS). Although many of them are built using PHP, some of the applications are developed using other technologies such as ASP.NET. Many vendors have started to employ ASP.NET 2.0 by taking advantage of its rich functionalities for the development of CMS applications. Completely built using ASP.NET 2.0, Kentico CMS is one such powerful application. Developed by Kentico Software (based in Czech Republic) and used by several leading companies worldwide, the product contains many intuitive and advanced features that enable Web developers to quickly create and deploy dynamic Web sites.
A trial version of the product is available at http://www.kentico.com/download.aspx. The trial version works for 30 days without any restrictions. Double-click the downloaded file to access a step-by-step installation wizard. It prompts you to create either a new database or select an existing database, one of which is required for installing the product. The installer then executes the required database scripts, creates a Web site with sample data, and establishes the product for you to explore and customize. The whole installation process took around five minutes, and I was able to browse the Web site soon after its completion.
The installation wizard guides you through the process, without any need for intervention on the part of the administrator, so beginners can easily install the product by simply following the instructions displayed on the screen. After the successful installation, you can log in to the page meant for administrators by using the username and password you gave at the time of configuration to manage your site and content.
Figure 1: The default home page.
If you want to use the product on a live Web site you should manually upload all the required project files to a remote Web server compatible with ASP.NET 2.0. After you finish the set up process on the server you can easily import the Web site created on your local machine. The product can be deployed under a shared hosting environment, so you should contact your provider if the default trust level for ASP.NET on the server is set to Medium (as the product only will function under Full trust). This is unfortunate, as certain advanced functionalities may not work under Medium trust, which will prohibit some beginners from using the product.
One of the notable features of the product is that it includes a flexible system for managing the content. While content editors can directly work with the product using the WYSIWYG browser-based administration tool, Web developers can manage the site design, structure, and page templates using Kentico s built-in portal engine. Moreover, they can modify and recompile the whole solution, including server controls, data layer libraries, and the business layer Application Programming Interface (API) if you purchased the source code along with the product. With the help of the product, you can customize workflow, document fields, and metadata. An interesting feature of the product is that you can create content by scheduling it to be published on a specific date.
Figure 2: Editing the default home page.
A unique feature of the product is that you can create content using multiple languages in a single Web site. Kentico has built the portal engine based on Web parts. Hence, if you decide to use your own template for the site, you can create the appropriate page templates using built-in or custom Web parts. I found the product seamlessly integrates with Visual Studio 2005. You can also add custom modules, Web parts, and third-party controls and use them along with the portal engine to build powerful Web sites. I also found the product is search-engine-friendly and supports friendly Uniform Resource Locators (URLs). This will enable your site and the corresponding pages to be indexed by search engines such as Google and Yahoo without any difficulty. A list of all features included with the product can be viewed at http://www.kentico.com/cms-asp-net-features.aspx.
The product contains several modules, such as image gallery, newsletter, online forms, e-commerce, forums, and content staging, as well as standard modules for news and articles. The e-commerce module is new to version 2.1 and supports multiple currencies. It supports PayPal and other gateways, provided you specify the correct information while configuring the module. You can also develop your own modules and integrate them with the product.
Figure 3: Create and deliver newsletters on a fly.
I found it very easy to convert an HTML page template into an ASP.NET page using the built-in portal engine by following the step-by-step instructions included on the user manual supplied with the product. I was amazed to note that you can virtually perform all kinds of manipulations without any need to write complicated code. The product supports Forms and Windows authentication and the vendor has implemented several security measures into the product, including the integration of the ASP.NET 2.0 Membership class in the registration module. Another notable feature is that you can export the entire Web site into a single file and restore it in another installation of the product. This will help those users who regularly shift hosting providers.
You can easily customize roles and set document level permissions using the product. Moreover, you can also grant users permissions for particular modules, documents, or sections inside the site. You can easily create secured site areas that can be accessed only by the registered members of the site. The members can be displayed with personalized navigation and content based on their permissions. For instance, you can display different menu items and content to silver and gold partners in the partners section of your Web site.
With the help of the product, you can decorate your site with dropdown menus, tree menus, CSS list menus, and tab menus to provide a user-friendly interface. Moreover, the product also supports full-text search and is compatible with several Web standards, such as XHTML, table, or CSS layout and W3C s Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). Another notable feature of the product is that you can manage multiple sites in a single installation. I m sure it will help a lot especially if you deploy the product in a shared hosting environment (as you only need to set up the product once for managing several Web sites).
Kentico provides a comprehensive manual with step-by-step explanations, accompanied by relevant screenshots. The content was easy to follow and enabled me to get started with the product quickly. I was also impressed by the simple and elegant manner in which the content was presented. Kentico also provides complete Application Programming Interface (API) and database reference documentation, which can be located from the Start menu.
I d like to see the vendor integrate the documentation with Visual Studio 2005 so developers can access it while working with the product. The vendor provides excellent support through e-mail and a discussion forum (located at http://www.kentico.com/forums/). After reading this brief overview, I recommend you test drive the product to get a complete appreciation of all its powerful features and capabilities.
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 http://ASPAlliance.com. He runs http://www.Learnxpress.com, http://Dotnetalbum.com, and http://Csharpfaq.com. Anand is the author of Community Server Quickly (Packt Publishing). You can explore more information about the book at http://www.communityserverbook.com. Find out more about him at http://www.visualanand.net or e-mail him at mailto:[email protected].
Web Site: http://www.kentico.com
Price: Standard Edition, US$299; Professional Edition, US$599; Professional Edition, US$999