Content Management Made Easy

When your Web site has complex data needs that call for constant changes and updates, it may be time to consider a content management system such as Ektron's CMS400.NET, which offers sophisticated features that let you create and edit Web content, as well as manage forums, blogs and lots more.
If your business needs a Web site that's more of an application and less of a passive server of images and text, consider Ektron's CMS400.NET. As the name implies, CMS400.NET is a comprehensive content management system (CMS) that effectively manages web sites and their content.

At its core, CMS400.NET lets you construct, store, edit and publish documents to the Web. You can also use it to create online communities through forums, blogging, message boards and polls. In addition, the system posts online calendars, handles memberships and subscriptions, provides timely statistics and alerts visitors to updated information. When you're ready to step up, it delivers.

The Publishing World
Sophisticated content and document management features allow business users and non-technical personnel to write, add and update documents and Web content. To allow for approvals, the system supports workflows and permissions and maintains a complete history of alterations to documents.

When a Web site is integrated with CMS400.NET, individual pages can display log-in buttons for authors. At the press of a log-in button, the program produces fields that accept a name and password for authentication and access. Once you've gained access, each Web page displays green blocks that indicate which parts of the content may be right-clicked and edited.

The text editor is intuitive and easy to understand and use. In fact, it's much like working with a basic low-end word processor. Within the editor you can easily highlight text and add links. The program offers options to add metadata to assist in searches. You can also schedule when items will be published, and when they will be taken down and archived. Multilingual features support a majority of foreign languages, and the program can translate content into most European languages.

Powerful tools organize documents and digital assets so they're easy to find, review and edit. The Content Folder competently stores and offers content that can include Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents, multimedia, images and PDF files. You can easily add content, including images: just browse for images, select them, and then adjust their sizes and add borders and captions. There's also a convenient drag and drop function for importing documents.

Defining the Workflow
After editing, users can choose to publish their work. Depending on the workflow that defines the review and approval process, the document is either published or forwarded to others for inspection. A Work Area lists the status of documents: for example, "Content Awaiting Approval" is for documents that are finished and waiting for approval; "Content Currently Checked Out" means that someone is working on the document. There are also tools that allow you to assign tasks to subordinates and alert them through e-mail that they are being asked to modify content.

The system offers lots of pre-built forms for contacts, polls and feedback surveys, which you can customize by adding fields, check boxes, multi-select lists and calendar items. Field properties may be set to validate data — for example, zipcodes. The system can compile data from forms into a database that can be exported for analysis.

A comprehensive Content History feature displays all past versions of a document and even identifies changes. Restore options allow you to return to an earlier version of a document.

To build a Web community and encourage interaction among visitors, CMS400.NET offers first-rate forum features. Besides threaded discussions and message boards, there's support for membership and authentications to control who has access and can post. Blogging features support diaries, permalinks and calendars.

When content is added or updated, the system can automatically generate an e-mail that alerts subscribers. Web site visitors can register themselves as well as configure e-mail notification preferences. The system also handles subscriptions, Web alerts and RSS feeds.

Real-time statistics show how many people have visited your site, where they came from, the pages that they viewed, top templates, referral pages, site activities and new users. You can run reports by day, week, month and year, or apply your own customized date ranges.

New Version 6.1
Ektron CMS400.NET was recently released in a version 6.1 that offers many new features. Site visitors can now create customized views of a site's pages to display blogs, forums and calendars, as allowed by the site's owner. And content authors can build shared views for all visitors using the same features.

A new broken link checker validates all templates, content, menus, CSS and JavaScript on a recurring schedule or whenever you wish to check. Resulting reports list the source files and pages that contain broken links and serve an "edit from here" button that takes you directly to the problem, which is a big help.

New integrated document management features in the Ektron Explorer allow non-technical users to set up personal portals to manage projects. A convenient new toolbar integrates into Microsoft Office, which allows users to write, edit and interact with the document management system without leaving Word, Excel or PowerPoint — a big plus for Office users, which means just about everyone.

The newest version of the editor offers enhanced support for XML, microformats, unicode and multilingual content, and new built-in math functions support complex formulas and calculations. Ektron says that a customizable 508 & W3C compliance checker now ensures that content is compliant with accessibility standards and restricts the publishing of documents when necessary.

For developers, Ektron offers a second generation application programming interface (API) and new event handler that the company says will simplify development. According to Ektron, developers can carry over custom-developed code and functionality through upgrades without disrupting existing applications.

A new Visual Studio extension to the software development kit better integrates into Visual Studio's template library. When chosen, Ektron claims that a new project and its required files and database are automatically generated. And a plug-in wizard is designed to develop custom functionality and provide a simple means to interact with the event handler.

CMS400.NET doesn't reside in a vacuum. It has considerable competition in the form of Microsoft's content management server and products from other companies. But the system is a viable one that competently manages web sites and their content

Pricing and Availability
Ektron CMS400.NET Version 6.1 is available now. Pricing starts at $8,939 USD for a 10-user, one-URL license with a year of maintenance. This also includes access to all product upgrades and unlimited technical support. If your company lacks the technical expertise to install and configure the system, Ektron offers a network of qualified partners who may be hired for the job. For evaluation, Ektron provides a free downloadable trial and live demonstration.

Wayne N. Kawamoto is a regular contributor to

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