Thursday, October 26, 2006

What?! Another Open Source CMS?

When I talk to people about Alfresco, I can tell what they're thinking: how on earth can the world need another free open source CMS?

I can understand why, but here's what they're missing. Just about every CMS you've seen before is a web CMS. They are there to manage web content. Whether you're using it for a web site or your intranet, they're all for building content-driven web sites. Joomla, Drupal, Typo3, Ez Publish are all primarily about web pages: news, profiles, forums, and so on.

Alfresco is completely different. As an enterprise CMS, it exists to manage enterprise content.

Think of the enterprise content you use every day. At Packt, I'm working with sales records, book proposal documents, chapter drafts, guideline documents, and contracts every single day.

And boy is it awkward. It's all in shared folders. Shared files and folders are extremely hard to work with. The fact is that most of us can't manage our own My Documents folder and Desktops properly... much less store files in a place that will make sense to anybody else.

Something needs to manage this content, and if I'm stuck with shared folders it's not going to be me!

Alfresco, and Enterprise Content Management Systems in general, provide a solution to this.

When I was reading Munwar's drafts, I was overwhelmed by how useful Alfresco could be in Packt... and in any business that relies on sharing documents and files between staff members.

Here are just a few of the things I saw covered in the book (relatively early too... it gets much more powerful towards the end):
  • Make shared folders smart drop files into a big catch all folder, and have Alfresco figure out the best place to put it... based on rules that you can define
  • Smart versioning... never worry about manually backing up a shared file every time you make a tiny change. Alfresco can keep track of versions automatically, allowing you to look back at earlier versions whenever you want.
  • Search content... so you can find the stuff you need, wherever it is.
So this is not just another variant on Joomla!, Drupal, or Typo3. It's a completely new beast. And it's one you should seriously consider learning about, if you or your clients struggle to keep their shared digital content organized, findable, and managed.

PS With Alfresco 1.4 (which our book covers), Alfresco can act as a web CMS as well as an enterprise CMS. So maybe it is another Joomla!, but Java. Check out samaxes' description of Alfresco, much more in depth than mine.

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