Vine Type CMS 1.4
By Anand Narayanaswamy
Web sites powered with Content Management Systems (CMS) are normally managed by databases that run in the background. But you can indeed create and deploy Web sites using a Content Management System without any databases. How? With products like Vine Type, an ASP.NET-based application that provides the ability to add, delete, and edit any number of Web pages without the overhead and hassle of database or scripting language installation.
Figure 1: Vine Type in action.
Designed and developed by Carl Camera of http://www.Vinebranches.com, the CMS makes use of XML files instead of standard databases such as Microsoft SQL Server. Vine Type is one of a few, or perhaps the only, .NET Framework content management solutions that consistently serves up the most recent W3C recommended XHTML-compliant Web pages. The product works with both .NET Framework 1.1 and 2.0 and can be downloaded from http://www.vinetype.com. One of the interesting points to note is that the Web site itself has been created using Vine Type and, hence, you can experience the actual look and feel of the product if you visit the site.
I downloaded personal version 1.4 of the product within two seconds as the installation file is only 82 KB. To install the product, you simply need to place the contents of www and vinetype folders inside the root directory. You should place these two folders separately in order to work with the product. The site can then be accessed using the URL http://localhost/www/default.aspx. You ll have to log in using the administrator password (which you gave inside the vinetype.config file located inside the vinetype folder) to manage the content. I m amazed to see the speed with which I can access and administer the site after the installation. Moreover, the site loads faster than any other Content Management System because there is no necessity to access any heavy databases on the back end.
The product automatically adjusts the navigation links as you add and delete articles and sections. The product comes with built-in support for RSS, Search, and Site Maps. These features enable your visitors to keep track of changes when you make them, and also to have a smooth working experience. The product is fully compatible with W3C Internet Standards and, hence, it will generate valid XHTML Web pages. The product is fully customizable using Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). The core feature of the product is that it provides the base engine to add, delete, and edit content, management of menus, and navigation, and allows the designer plenty of freedom to customize the look and feel of the Web site. Vine Type is more secure than any other Content Management System as you need not have to worry about any possible security issues arising out of scripting languages or database intrusion.
As noted earlier, you should log in using the administrator password in order to post content. As soon as you log in you will be able to see a set of options for managing the content. You can then post your content by selecting the Add New Entry button.
Figure 2: The Vine Type editing panel.
As you can see, the product doesn t contain any heavyweight WYSIWYG text editor for adding and formatting content. The vendor claims that the rich text editors don t generate valid XHTML, which is one of the hallmarks of Vine Type. Instead, it makes use of Markdown text entry to format the content. Markdown provides rich text editing capabilities, including the ability to style text in a number of ways such as adding images, links, headings, nested bulleted and numbered lists, horizontal rules, code blocks, and blockquotes. For instance, if you would like to format text as bold you should enclose it with two asterisks or underscores. In the same way, you can create headings by adding the required number of hashes. If you want to create a third level heading, simply enclose it with three hashes (###).
A comprehensive description regarding the use of Markdown rules can be explored at http://vinetype.com/default.aspx?section=reference/how_to/how_to_style_text. After playing with Vine Type I now feel very comfortable making use of Markdowns rather than selecting the required button from the Toolbar. You can also add Google maps to your site using Vine Type. To decorate your content with images, you should upload the images to the server and then add the required Markdown referencing the required image. It would be great if the vendor provides a facility to display the file names of all images on the appropriate directory on the editor page in a popup window. It will help the users to place the images easily rather than copying the file names.
The main feature of the product is that you can see the effect of a change as soon as you save the content. This will help you preview the content before its publication. To create new sections and subsections, you should give the appropriate priority inside the configuration file and then specify the name of the section or subsection while adding new content. Vine Type also generates Breadcrumbs, which enable you to navigate the site easily (this is a standard feature of every site powered with Vine Type CMS).
To take advantage of the advanced content management features included with the product, you need not install any add-ins, plug-ins, or additional scripts. These features can be configured using the configuration file included with the product. I found it very interesting to work with the product as it is easy to manage all the required settings using a single configuration file rather than locating and editing several files. Vine Type 1.4 also supports Globally Recognized Avatar (Gravatar) and also provides a hot fix to some of the issues noticed in the previous version.
Figure 3: Gravatar in action.
I think the upgrade process is one of the simplest procedures; you simply need to replace the vinetype.dll file and refresh the browser. If you shift your hosting provider, you can copy the files from the old server and drop them into the new server. You don t have to worry about resolving the complicated error messages, which may likely bother you during the shifting process.
Vine Type s framework accommodates more than 100 languages and cultures, persons with special needs, and international internet standards. The product comes with built-in support for search and includes algorithms for checking SPAM comments. I am not aware of any other Content Management System that provides these features in such a simple mechanism. Moreover, you can easily adjust the time zones, and the product is compatible with PDA devices, as well.
There are many interesting features included with the product; you can investigate each one of them at http://www.vinetype.com/default.aspx?section=home/features. You can easily install additional templates available from the downloads section of the vendor s Web site. As of now the vendor provides only one template, but they plan to offer additional templates soon, along with the upcoming versions.
I found it very easy to work with the vendor. They provide excellent support through e-mail; they not only clarify issues, but also provide additional input and references. You can also voice your opinion and post questions about the product at http://aspadvice.com/forums/421/ShowForum.aspx. The vendor is working hard to provide a native .NET 2.0 Executable file for the installation of the product and a host of other interesting features, along with the next version of the product.
From my point of view, Vine Type can be typically employed for the creation of a blog and knowledge base. I would suggest that the vendor implement Forum, Photo Gallery, and Newsletter functionality in the upcoming versions so users can create full-fledged Web sites. You can create robust Web sites using the product if you take advantage of all its features.
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 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.vinetype.com
Price: Vine Type Pro Version 1, Single Installation License, US$20