Dynamicweb Software has just released the beta version of the new Dynamicweb 7 CMS. I have been looking at this version, and find it very exciting. Here you can find my personal notes from my own walkthrough.
New user interface
The main focus for this release is to improve the user interface in the administration area. The current release of the Dynamicweb CMS product is a bit outdated as the user interface design was originally created in 2001. The new user interface is much more smooth and modern and smells a lot like Microsoft CRM and Outlook. The best example of this is the accordion at the bottom to the left. This accordion contains shortcuts to the file manager, pages administration, modules, ecommerce and the new management center. These functions are not really new – they were there before. But now they are in a fancy accordion….
The question is: is it just changes to the HTML and CSS or are there some real improvements to the processes involved in maintaining and developing a website?
Improvements for the editors/authors
Luckily, it’s not just CSS. There are real proces improvements here and there.
At the bottom of every page in the administration area, you will notice a small bar containing relevant information about the page you are editing. Admitted, it is a very small change, but it is still a clever improvement. With this small bar, you can access relevant information – like the id and the title of the page – fast and efficient. This improves the efficiency of editors and authors (and developers…)
If you have worked with the current version of Dynamicweb, you know that if you want to sort pages, you’ll have to click-click-click to sort a page from the bottom to the top. That actually goes for both paragraphs and pages. This has been solved in the next version. Here, you drag and drop the pages and the paragraphs. However, when sorting pages, you have to open up a special function on a new page to sort pages – why not just drag and drop directly from the navigation?
Front end editing
The release notes claims that there are improvements to the front end editing feature. This is an existing feature in Dynamicweb, and I haven’t been able to find the improvements. Admittedly, a new icon has been made available and clicking this icon gives you immediate access to edit your page in front end. So it has become a bit faster to access the front end editing feature. But I think that’s it… I’m not sure that the front end editing feature is that useful, because you still have to log in to the administration area first. Am I missing something here?
The ribbon bar
In my opinion the real improvement is the ribbon bar. You know the ribbon bar from Microsft Office, and the major improvement here is that all relevant actions are available directly from the context you’re working with. So if you’re working with a new page, you can get easy access to global elements, creating new paragraphs, viewing draft and publishing information and so on. And as a part of the work with the new ribbon bar, the team behind the new version has also decided to eliminate or hide some of the existing functions, so that creating a new page can be done more quickly. Which is a good thing!
The ribbon bar also exposes the possibility of putting a page into draft mode. You could also do this before – but it wasn’t easy. Because of the ribbon bar it becomes very easy to use the draft functionality – like approving, rejecting and comparing changes. However, there is one major drawback: it is not that easy to see that a page has unpublished content. Although there is a warning at the bottom of the page, it isn’t very clear and I have already made this stupid error: Change some content, and then go frantically looking for my changes – only to realize that my changes weren’t published yet.
The ribbon bar is also working for you when it comes to inserting new modules into a paragraph. Instead of having to open up a new window in order to insert the module, you just hit ‘Module’ and a list of available modules will be listed in the existing window.
Working with text
New exciting functionality has been added in order to improve the way you insert text into your website. Dynamicweb 7 includes a new spell checker, and it also includes integration to Google Translate.
The new spell checker is available directly from the visual editor. You can click the spell checker icon, and it will scan the entire text in the visual editor. Currently, the spell checker works with the following languages:
I have been very eager to see the new Google Translate integration. However, I haven’t been able to find this feature. Maybe it wasn’t a part of this release?
The new version includes the ability to validate pages directly from within Dynamicweb 7. It does that by integrating to W3C. It’s a cool feature, but I wonder how many will actually use this feature? It’s a bit of a nerdy feature, and probably aimed at developers? Currently, the feature is available from the paragraph list which implies that you validate each page as you create it. But will that be the usual workflow? Or would it be better if you (as a webmaster/developer) could request a periodic validation update?
Normally, you would create a language area containing different page templates. Whenever you needed to create a new page, you just copied the relevant page template from the page template language area.
This approach has been conceptualized in Dynamicweb 7. Here, you have the option of saving an existing page as a page template. When you do that, the page is copied into a page structure called “page templates” at the bottom of the navigation. When you create new pages, you now have the option of creating a blank page or choosing between existing page templates. This is a nice feature, and it will make it a lot easier for editors to work with new pages.
Meta data suggestions
The new Dynamicweb 7 includes auto suggestion of meta data based on the content of the page. You see these suggestions at the bottom of the paragraph list. This is a nice feature as it makes it easier to maintain meta data.
That’s it for now. I will be back with more personal notes.