Rapid Content Management
By Anand Narayanaswamy
Many companies and individuals nowadays develop powerful Content Management Systems (CMS) for the benefit of end users. Every application has its own advantages and disadvantages, and you should make your choice after considering your requirements and evaluating a product s strengths and weaknesses. The main thrust should be given to the installation phase as it is an essential ingredient to get you started. If there are few steps involved, you can start building your Web site quickly. mojoPortal (http://www.mojoportal.com) is a powerful ASP.NET-based application developed using C# by Joe Audette and it enables you to create a Web site within a short period of time by incorporating rich features.
Figure 1: The home page of mojoPortal.
When Joe approached me with a request to review the product, I thought it would be a simple application. But as I began to test drive it, I was amazed to see the effort he put in to produce a high-quality product for the global community. The best feature of the product is that it is available for download free of cost, without any need to pay any kind of license fees. The product is available for both Microsoft s .NET and Mono Frameworks so you can even deploy the product under Linux. Moreover, the vendor also provides source code with the package so you can tweak the site to your requirements if you are a hard-core developer. The vendor s Web site is itself developed using mojoPortal, so you can visit the site to get a feel for the product s capabilities.
I tested mojoPortal on a remote Windows 2003 server loaded with .NET Framework 2.0 and Microsoft SQL Server 2005. By utilizing a separate package (available for download from http://www.mojoportal.com/download.aspx) you can also configure the product to work with MySQL if you prefer to use it as a back-end database. But you should note that the MySQL connector for .NET should be installed in the GAC on the remote server, without which the product doesn t work. However, I noted that the connector is required only for those domains that run the product under medium trust.
An interesting point to note is that the product is also compatible with PostgreSQL and SQLite databases. The vendor provides a separate installation package for running the product under medium trust, along with additional instructions (available upon request). I noticed that some of the core functionalities, such as the installation of third-party WebParts, don t function in a medium trust environment; if you want to use them it is advisable to install the product under full trust.
The initial installation process involves manually unzipping the package, executing database scripts, and updating the web.config file. I d like to see the vendor create a Web-based installer so beginners can install the product without any difficulty. One nice feature of the product is that it can also be installed under Mono on Linux servers. I haven t found any other ASP.NET-based CMS products that can be installed in the Linux environment.
The core feature of the product is that it is XHTML-compliant, with support for workflow management. Using mojoPortal you can create blogs, forums, image galleries, an RSS feed aggregator, and an event calendar simply by following the instructions. You can also create a contact form that enables your users to submit feedback regarding your site. An interesting feature of the product is that you can host multiple sites under one installation and database with the help of host headers. But to use this feature you should either manually create headers on the IIS or use the hosting control panel if the interface provides support for the creation of header names. However, I found that the creation of headers is not required if you host the site using a dedicated IP address.
Figure 2: Create content easily.
An interesting feature of the product is that it enables you to easily customize the user profile system by adding the required properties in the mojoportal.config file. mojoPortal includes a powerful WYSIWYG editor called FCKeditor, which enables you to create content by using various formatting options.
Figure 3: The text editor in action.
The product also ships with a separate file manager, with which you can manage files located on the server without using FTP. The file manager provides the ability to upload files directly to the server, and also supports file versioning. I think the vendor should incorporate automatic zip/unzip capabilities so users can easily extract huge files without uploading them individually. You can easily manage users registered on your site by using the User Profile and Member List page. The product automatically creates BreadCrumbs on each page so you can quickly navigate to each page with the click of a mouse.
Figure 4: The file manager in action.
I found that mojoPortal can easily be customized by using the available skins. You can also change the look and feel of each skin by editing the relevant CSS file. The vendor has provided tableless skins, which enables you to have a uniform look and feel of the site across different browsers. I also tested the product using different browsers it worked exactly as expected. The vendor is currently working to provide more skins with new releases of the product. Moreover, you can also apply different skins for each page on your site. The product also ships with a dynamic HTML cross browser menu system and support for localization.
I am excited to note that the vendor has given adequate importance to security-related aspects. For instance, as an administrator, you can configure the portal to encrypt passwords. You can also implement a registration system that requires an e-mail confirmation from the registered user. I noted that the secure registration feature stores the user s credentials in the database upon registration, but it locks the user s account until they click the link sent in the confirmation e-mail so the user can t log in until the e-mail address is verified.
You can also configure the site to use Secured Sockets Layer (SSL) for either the whole site or individual pages. A core feature of the product is that, with the help of the provided WebPart, you can create your own personalized page titled My Page using the relevant content from the site. The vendor plans to include more powerful functionalities, such as a private messaging system, external POP Email access, Ecommerce module, Newsletters, AdRotator, and much more. You can access the list of features included with the product, as well as the proposed functionalities, at http://www.mojoportal.com/features.aspx.
Figure 5: Personalizing using WebPart.
The product does, however, lack certain features, such as the ability to automatically display publication dates along with the articles. Moreover, you must manually update the home page of your site with the list of recently published articles as the product doesn t incorporate this feature. I hope the vendor will incorporate these features in future versions. The vendor is planning to include e-commerce functionality in the next version of the product. You can browse the detailed road map of the product at http://www.mojoportal.com/roadmap.aspx.
Also, you can view live online demos of the administration interface at http://www.mojoportal.com/demos.aspx, as well as detailed documentation of the product at http://www.mojoportal.com/installation.aspx. I am very happy with the support provided by the vendor through e-mail and all queries received immediate detailed answers. The vendor also maintains a discussion forum at http://www.mojoportal.com/forums.aspx where you can view queries and comments posted by other users.
mojoPortal has rich potential, and is a solid ASP.NET-based Content Management System. Take a test drive I m sure you ll like it.
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.mojoportal.com
Price: Free (http://www.mojoportal.com/license.aspx)