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NQcontent V2 from NetQuest

NQcontent V2 from NetQuest

Every day it seems as if another content management system (CMS) is popping up on the horizon, many of them built using ColdFusion.

Typically, these CMSs contain the same type of functionality. They:

  • Allow users who don't know HTML to add and edit content easily
  • Display content using a template system and integrated style sheets
  • Create user accounts and assign security permissions allowing certain users to perform only certain tasks
  • Allow content to be indexed and subsequently searched by the user
  • Modify system settings that control certain functionality of the site
  • Perform workflow and/or versioning control over content

    Covering the Basics
    NQcontent performs all this functionality with aplomb. The Articles Management content is displayed in a hierarchical tree format, with unlimited nodes and levels. Available options are displayed with DHTML - which only works properly in Internet Explorer - making selections quick and easy. The navigation within multi-page forms could be a little clearer, especially when required fields are on another page.

    At review time, the only form validation within the administrator uses ColdFusion's built-in server-side validation, but that will change soon. As with most CMSs, content can be edited using the popular Ektron editor that allows a text area field in Internet Explorer to act as an HTML authoring tool.

    The security permissions are pretty granular, assigning individual users to one or more groups, and permissions are assigned on a group basis. Groups can be assigned permissions to one of dozens of available actions, allowing for fine-tuned security settings.

    The Systems section of the administrator allows for management of application variables, content types, search indexes, and system settings.

    Above and Beyond
    While NQcontent is similar to other CMSs, it is the additional features that really set it apart. Like ColdFusion, NQcontent runs not only on Windows NT, but also on Unix and Linux. It supports Oracle as well as Microsoft SQL Server, making NQcontent a viable solution for enterprises that have not jumped on the Microsoft bandwagon.

    Both the Professional and Enterprise editions of NQcontent will run on the Professional editions of both ColdFusion 5 and ColdFusion MX. If you are using Oracle, however, you will need ColdFusion Enterprise.

    NQcontent also comes with several modules that allow developers and administrators alike the ability to manage files, data, and forms via the administrator interface.

    Manage Files Remotely
    Often, the only access you have to a Web site you are developing is via ColdFusion's Remote Development Services (RDS). Anyone who has ever tried to perform file operations over RDS or tried to copy multiple or large files knows how limiting it can be. NQcontent's built-in File Manager resembles a Web-based version of Windows Explorer. From it you can create, rename, and delete directories and create, rename, edit, delete, and upload files. Since the back end of the manager uses CFDIRECTORY and CFFILE tags, certain operations are not available, such as deleting a directory before deleting the files within it.

    This is a simple, yet useful tool that will allow you to more easily manage your Web site. The only directories and files that are accessible by this tool are within the default Web root, however, so virtual directories and file stores outside of your Web root will not be accessible.

    Manage Your Data
    The backbone of any ColdFusion Web site is certainly its database. Typically, database management is completely separate from your development environment, using tools such as those that come with Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle. If you want to have a graphical interface to the database you don't have many other options. NQcontent's database administration module contains graphical interfaces to database tables and records that are similar to those provided by Quest software in their Oracle database tool TOAD, one of the best on the market.

    The database and table data is stored by NQcontent as metadata. You add a table to NQcontent by specifying the data source and table name. NQcontent will then import the column names, and you can modify attributes as well as view, edit, update, and delete rows from tables. You can also specify advanced information such as permissions, triggers, and SQL scripts that should be run at specified times.

    The import functionality does not determine table keys and identities, so they must be set separately. One drawback with the tool is that it does not allow the metadata to store more than one primary key column for any table, making workarounds necessary for tables that use combination keys - one or more columns that, combined, create a unique row identifier.

    When tables are added to NQcontent, their columns are available to use when creating content such as articles and forms. User-friendly aliases can be assigned to table and column names and these aliases will be displayed throughout the NQcontent administrator. This allows administrators unfamiliar with the database-naming convention to be able to tell what data they are working with.

    Advanced developers, or those with good database skills, might find the interface a bit cumbersome. It is certainly quicker and easier to use a database management application as opposed to using one built within a Web page. If you do not include your Web site's tables in the administrator, those tables and fields will not be available to use in the content administrator. However, if you want nontechnical administrators to access database data, using this tool will certainly save you a lot of time and effort. Most CMS systems do not even offer this flexibility.

    Build Forms Effortlessly
    Many companies that offer solutions based around CMSs will often charge the client extra to build basic forms, such as Contact Us or Comments. NQcontent comes with a forms administrator module that allows junior ColdFusion developers and even power users to create forms whose submission results can be e-mailed and/or inserted into a database, all without touching any code.

    Form fields can be created from scratch or imported from an existing database table defined in the database module. When you add a field to a form, you can specify attributes such as the field type (text box, text area, checkbox, etc.), specify values for multiple options, and set default values. You can even set design options such as where the field labels display and the width of the fields. This functionality will save the time of advanced developers and save money on labor costs.

    By using just the GUI forms interface, the form validation is a little limiting. At review time, the only included form validation was performed by ColdFusion's built-in server-side processing, using hidden form fields with suffixes such as _required to ensure that required fields are filled in. Patches have since been applied to include basic JavaScript form-field validation and more advanced JavaScript validation support will be included in version 3.0.

    Intermediate and advanced ColdFusion developers can enhance the server-side form validation with their own code using some of the included NQcontent custom tags. This allows more in-depth forms to be created and validated and also allows forms built using the interface to update database records as well as create them.

    But Wait, There's More
    The Professional edition comes with all of the functionality listed above, as well as some additional administration and management features. The Enterprise edition also contains workflow, content versioning, and a more granular security model that assigns roles as well as groups to specific users. NQcontent also offers add-on products such as Forums, E-commerce extensions, Visitors Guest Book, Forms, and Banner and Polls Managers.

    Overall, this is a good CMS that will be used by all levels of users, from nontechnical administrators who are only editing content, to advanced developers managing databases and customized forms. If you are thinking about working with a CMS system, NQcontent is definitely one to take a closer look at.

    SIDEBAR

    Vitals: NQcontent V2
    NetQuest
    8 Duncannon Street, Strand
    London WC2N 4JF
    Tel: +44 20 7484 5028
    Fax: +44 20 7484 5128
    [email protected]
    www.nqcontent.com

    Test Environment:
    HP Pavillon zt1180, 1.2GHz P-III, ColdFusion MX, 512MB RAM, Windows XP Professional, MS SQL Server 2000
    Pricing: NQcontent pricing is based on the number of Content Contributors, and starts from $25,000 or $40,000 for the Enterprise Version; both include unlimited database connectors.

    Product Snapshot
    Target audience: Medium to large organizations looking to create corporate Web sites, portals, content syndication, or e-commerce sites.

    Pros:

  • Multiple platform support
  • Simple to install and deploy
  • Easy for nontechnical administrators to modify content
  • Advanced features for developer use
  • The ability to create forms and manage files and data

    Cons:

  • Lack of JavaScript or advanced form error validation (at review time)

    Client platform:
    System operators must use IE 5.x + on PC
    Server OS: Windows 2000, Red Hat Linux 7.2, Sun Solaris 8
    ColdFusion: Versions 5.0 or MX
    Database support: MS SQL Server, Oracle

  • More Stories By Selene Bainum

    Selene Bainum is a software architect at INPUT.  She has been a ColdFusion and SQL developer for over 10 years and runs www.webtricks.com.

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