Most current installations of the cm3 Acora CMS admin application range between 5.0.x and 5.3.x. The latest packaged version has a number of subtle but important improvements. This article doesn't describe every new feature and improvement in the system, but it introduces some of the more interesting ones.
I haven't discussed the latest version of the cm3 Acora CMS "White Site" in this article, only the CMS administration console in its default format. The latest White Site has a vast array of features and improvements over early website applications. Installation of the latest White Site also opens up a number of additional options and features in the CMS administration console, so please feel free to ask for more info.
It's possible to install the most recent administrative console (and therefore make use of the features outlined in this article) without upgrading the front end of your website.
Beware! A long article with technical information lies ahead!
New Container Tree
Overall Look and Feel Tweaks, and Subtle Usability Improvements
Improved Article/Container Editing Functions
Version Compare & Revert
Upgraded Mailout Manager Including Open/Click Reporting
Improved Cache Management
Improved User Management and Email Handling
Forms / Surveys Manager
Lots and Lots (and Lots!) of Other Modules & Updates
Also... Heaps of New Developer Features
1. It's Fast
Compared to early version 5 installations, this admin system is speedy, zippy, quick, and zoomy. You'll notice that it loads a lot more quickly when you log in and all the main pages are much more responsive. A large number of code optimisations have been introduced, and we'll be adding more in the next version.
In addition to a speedier admin system, a new database index optimisation module speeds up front end websites too. We've seen this optimisation speed up a complex website under heavy load over an extended test period (i.e. not just individual page loads) by a factor of up to 900%. The optimisation module can be reverse engineered to apply to older cm3 Acora CMS websites. Feel free to ask for further info.
2. New Container Tree
Thanks to a "load on demand" feature and a code overhaul, the container browsing tree is now lightning fast compared to older models. You'll also find that it's more sensitive to container changes (edits and updates) and shows a visual indication of each container's published status.
3. Overall Look and Feel Tweaks, and Subtle Usability Improvements
It's all a bit neater, a bit tidier, and a bit easier to read. Although we haven't yet introduced any of the elements of the full admin interface re-design (coming soon to a cinema near you), you'll notice pleasant minor updates throughout the system - and some major ones too. Stuff is easier to click on, easier to see, and overall just works a bit better.
4. Improved Article/Container Editing Functions
Heaps of improvements have been made to the process of managing and editing articles and containers, more than we can outline here.
A few cool updates on the edit form are listed below:
- Look for the floating helper toolbar in the top, right of the container/article edit screen:
- Quick Preview gives you an approximation of how your page will look without needing you to save the article/container - Keep the quick preview open in a separate window after launching it to see your updates as you go, this is a "must use" function
- Spell Check all fields in the article/container in a single pass. Spell checking of individual fields is also available at the field level
- Jump to the save/publish functions at the bottom of the form
- Management buttons have been added to the edit form, no need to jump back to the container summary view
- Publishing and workflow options are now available directly from the edit form
- Overall layout improvements of the edit form
- Improvements and new features for the CMS visual editor
Meanwhile in the "back room", we've made a start an entirely new approach to general web page content maintenance that is based on inline page editing (directly within the website) and drag-and-drop page-by-page management of modules. The aim is to simplify and improve day to day web page editing for authors who don't usually access other parts of the CMS such as administrative and template design tools. The January CMS release hasn't included any of those updates, but you'll see substantial steps in this direction in the next model.
5. Version Compare & Revert
View the current working version of your article/container and the published version with a side-by-side comparison tool, available both from the container summary view and the edit form.
These functions are very simple precursors to the fully automated version tracking, comparison, and management module that is coming in the July 2010 CMS release.
6. Upgraded Mailout Manager Including Open/Click Reporting
Most of the improvements to the mailout management system are under the hood, designed for speed and robustness.
One new feature that you'll notice straight away is an automatically generated report for each of your mailouts that shows:
- Number of times your mailout was opened
- Number of times links were clicked
- Total versus unique opens
- Total versus unique link clicks
- And under the hood the system is tracking data that will enable even more reports in the next CMS version, such as traffic over time, traffic by mailout and period, and mailout success comparisons
7. Improved Cache Management
Previous versions of the CMS sometimes had problems managing the content cache for larger websites. The new cache system is faster and more robust, making it possible to update or delete sections of the cache or the entire cache even when a site is under load.
The cache improvements also speed up your front end website.
8. Improved User Management and Email Handling
The user management interface has been updated with a host of improvements.
One of the most prominent updates is an enhanced connection between email addresses on user records and subscriber accounts. New admin reports simplify the cross referencing of users and subscribers, making email subscriptions in particular much easier to manage - especially in membership based websites.
Additionally, a new advanced user profile form module for the CMS White Site is available to customers who wish to upgrade their front end website.
A prototype system is available - and will be released in the next CMS version - for advanced user database segmentation using metadata from user records (such as preferences, location, professional details, in fact any data stored against users). Primarily for use in emailing users/members, the system can also be used for statistical analysis and advanced user exports.
9. Forms / Surveys Manager
Previously known as the surveys module, the forms / surveys manager has been completely overhauled. Rapidly growing in popularity as an enterprise forms manager, this module will certainly receive even more attention in future CMS releases.
- New question types and response options, including advanced matrix questions with dynamically populated "other" options for radio, multi-select, and dropdown fields
- New form sub-templates and layout options, "skinnable" using CSS, attractive starting point layouts provided
- Improved form preview mode
- Upgraded form submission reports
- Aggregated reports and export to spreadsheet for surveys
- Access to individual form submissions for those using the module to publish communications and workflow forms (as opposed to surveys)
- Separate reports for dev / live / archived surveys to simplify management for those with many forms
- Remote survey publishing capability for "pushing" surveys to your website network (not just your local site) from a central source - lightbox popup option included
- Survey/form scheduling, hidden forms, password protected forms, and other publishing options
10. Lots and Lots (and Lots!) of Other Modules & Updates
Keep in mind that we're only discussing changes and updates for off-the-shelf administrative system features in this article. The CMS White Site also includes a series of new features and upgrades, and modules can easily be created, extended, or otherwise customised for your website.
- New HTML / MS Word document import feature - Bring documents automatically into website pages or create an entire section of a site from one large document
- Upgraded link checker module - Index and visually analyse the quality of both internal and external links on pages, within containers/articles, and within CMS templates
- Improved visibility of email from/to addresses on form events and blogs templates
- Improved personalisation of email events through use of the CMS API / macro language
- New test mode capability for form and email events, ideal for developing or testing websites without needing to change delivery addresses
- Mark / collect content and publish or update several articles/containers at once
- Upgraded shop & order management module with improved summary reporting, integration with events bookings and membership management functions, export orders from dynamically generated reports to MYOB or CSV, and more
- Overhauled events calendar, including public and private events, new management interface
- Improved discussion forums management system
- Greatly improved ability to include custom modules in the CMS admin interface
- Greatly improved customisation capability for any admin page through the use of "page plugins"
- Glossary management and linking module
- Content transfer module, automatically push content to other versioning installations for remote publishing based on flexible business rules
- Tokens module, create re-usable content tokens that can be updated centrally without the need to re-publish every page they appear within
- A growing set of user tutorials and help videos (get in touch for access)
- Website and database management features to improve performance and robustness - CMS health check system, automatic web server application pool monitoring, dynamic database backups management, configuration and licensing visibility
Also... Heaps CMS New Developer Features
Here are just a few of the coolest:
- Syntax highlighting for CMS code
- A full API / command reference for the CMS macro language inside the admin
- Upgraded "find & replace" module, now with improved logging and regular expressions
- Improved template handling functions - search/filter, recently updated template report, better template categorisation
- Upgraded database translation tools, transfer quickly and easily between database types
- Improved CMS data transfer tools, great for managing workflow between dev / staging / production servers
- New field design options for content types, and improved content type management form
- Template element and content type "copy" function, you won't know how you worked without it!
That's Just the Admin System, What About Your Website?
I've only discussed the off-the-shelf features of the cm3 Acora CMS admin system in this article. I hope that's useful if you're considering installing the new admin system in your existing website. The White Site (the technology that goes behind your actual website and the features in it) has also been upgraded in the latest release package with a huge range of new features.
Drop me a line if you'd like to know more about the White Site.
Who's Using It?
The current version is already in use by these customers, as well as others:
What's Coming Next?
The next CMS release is scheduled for July 2010, and I've mentioned a few of the "coming soon" features throughout this article. We're still writing things on and scrubbing things off the features whiteboard so I don't want to make any promises that the software engineers can't keep. You'll get these things for sure:
- Full automatic versioning management system for content and templates, to augment the existing versioning and backup tools
- A substantial step forward toward our new drag-and-drop / inline content management interface
- A new URL redirections module
- An image gallery module
- The usual collection of updates and improvements across the board, ranging from minor to major improvements
Please send me your feedback! We thrive on it, and there's still time to make a difference to what'll appear in the next CMS version.
Of course I'd also love to hear from you if you're keen to upgrade your existing cm3 Acora CMS based website.