TYPO3: Enterprise CMS

0 comments | Posted: 20 March 06 in Books, by Nathan Smith

TYPO3: Enterprise Content Management When I bought the book TYPO3: Enterprise Content Management last month, I knew it would be quite a task to fully absorb all the information contained therein, something that I am actually still attempting to do. Nevertheless, I am of the opinion that the best time to write a book review is while the material is still fresh in your mind, so here it goes. First off, I don’t think I’ve ever felt as inspired by a book’s introduction, especially not one this technically oriented.

The intro was written by Kasper Skårhøj, the creator of the TYPO3 CMS. In it, he describes his own struggle between seeking after worldly wealth or serving God with his talent. He also describes his transformation from designer to PHP programmer, and how he began to see “intelligent design” reflected in the endless lines of code. If that much precision is necessary, then surely the world around us is not a random, haphazard accident. Through this revelation, he felt from God that he should give away TYPO3 free to the masses, under the GPL.

I applaud Kasper for making (what no doubt was) a very difficult decision, especially considering that rival enterprise managment systems are usually quite pricey. For instance, Vignette sells a basic, bundled version of their web portal and CMS software starting at $125,000 USD. To pass up that kind of money shows quite a bit of faith and commitment to trusting in the Lord.

That being said, the actual text of this book had its ups and downs. However, this is not the fault of the authors: Werner Altmann, René Fritz and Daniel Hinderink, because they are experts in their field. Rather, it is due to TYPO3’s “legacy” code that there are many different ways to administer the platform.

Clearly evident is the sheer flexibility of the system. It gives a large amount of control to the back-end user, so much so that web standards minded folk (such as myself) might feel a little uneasy. For instance, check out the following code example, used to create a red, 400 pixel wide, centered, horizontal line…

<table width="400" border="0" cellspacing="0" cellpadding="0" align="center"><tr><td bgcolor="#FF0000"><img src="img/spacer.gif" alt="spacer.gif" width="100%" height="1"></td></tr></table>

Not to worry though, as many of these features can be turned off, or disabled altogether, allowing the admin to reign in the possibility of overly creative content writers. On the other hand, there are several instances in which the authors talk about CSS being the preferred way of page layout now. For more on that, read the official TempVoila tutorial on Futuristic Template Building. They also advocate using UTF-8 character encoding, versus the older ISO 8859-1.

As far as literary style, the book maintains a sense of humor, threatening to “tar and feather” people using antiquated coding methods. Bear in mind though, that it is a translation from the original version which was authored in German. Not surprisingly, many of the websites out there using TYPO3 are based out of Europe, but here are a few nice looking sites that are written in English…

Nevermind their code, as many of these sites have not yet made the jump to TYPO3 version 4, which promises to be much more streamlined, user-friendly, and standards compliant. It is also extremely open-source focused, allowing users to upload OpenOffice documents, for transformation into regular HTML articles. It also supports importing of Microsoft Word and Excel XML files, and easy integration of multimedia like Flash, as seen at the Web Enabled Church.

This book even includes a chapter on what a CMS really is, and how it can help cut operating costs for your church or business. At the far end of the spectrum, it includes developer instructions for templating and writing new plugins, using the extension API and the builder assistant called Kickstarter. I could go on, but this review is already getting lengthy. Let me just say that if you are looking for a robust CMS that won’t break the bank, TYPO3 might be a good place to start.

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