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New XML-based Apache content management system released

In this XML Developer tip, Ed Tittel examines Apache's new version of its full-blown open source content management system (CMS) named Lenya.

The Open Source Apache Project is probably best known for its Apache Web Server implementation, still one of the most widely used Web server platforms in the world. But there's a lot more to this project than just a Web server. Apache Cocoon for example is a Web development framework built around a pipeline model, where all kinds of processing is enabled by linking up pre-defined processing components that handle input and produce output into a pipeline sequence.

In late February Apache released a new version (1.2.2) of its full-blown Open Source Content Management System (CMS) named Lenya. The release includes lots of interesting features and capabilities, including support for several WYSIWIG browser-based editor, scheduling, version management/revision control, multiple staging areas, workflow controls and even a built-in search engine. In fact, Lenya is built on top of Cocoon, as well as other components in the Apache Software Stack (in an earlier incarnation during development of the initial code base in Switzerland, the platform was known as the Wyona CMS).

Lenya includes the Bitflux and Kupu editors as part of its release files, thereby enabling most modern Web browsers to function as content creation and management tools. A special-purpose forms editor is also included for quick and dirty forms creation or editing. Lenya includes built-in page level access and concurrency controls so that individual pages (documents) being edited are locked for write access to avoid potential "multiple update" problems. As any page (document) is updated, a new version is created, and it's possible to roll back to earlier versions at any time.

Lenya's workflow management is based on simple XML to define workflows, and supports standard one -- and two-stage workflow models ready for use. It's also possible to generate e-mail notification for pending approvals to help automate and speed work through the system, and related events -- such as publishing or deactivating pages (documents) -- are easy to schedule. Lenya offers separate repositories for authoring, staging and live pages (documents). Lenya also logs all workflow steps to build an automated audit trail.

Lenya offers other interesting or significant capabilities and features:
  • Pages (documents) may be authored in numerous languages without impacting site structure. The user interface is already localized for Spanish, Italian, German, French and English.
  • Layout capabilities include the ability to share content, business logic and cloning of existing publications to create new ones. XHTML- and cascading style sheet-based templating makes it easy for authors to create content, and designers to create page styles. The built-in navigation framework includes hierarchical menus, breadcrumb paths and multitabbed displays; tools to aid site map construction help make that job easy.
  • Site management tools abound, including high-level move, copy, rename, archive and delete operations on individual pages (documents) or entire site parts, inside an explorer-like view of site contents. Every page (document) includes tabs to access meta data, assets, workflow status, revision information and other versions, access controls and scheduling information. This includes support for Dublin Core meta data, as well as easy add-ins for other meta data standards. All kind of link and asset management tools make it easy to keep track of page status, and linked or referenced items related to the page (document).
  • Security controls include a per-page option to use SSL and page-level access controls, as well as function-level permissions to govern content creation, changes, deletes and administrative controls. Lenya users may be required to authenticate with some Lightweight Directory Access Protocol server and incoming IP addresses for users may be checked and restricted.

All in all, Lenya has a lot to offer to organizations that may need a CMS, but where budgetary concerns may eliminate commercial options (or at least make them hard to swallow). It's certainly worth checking into, and should appeal to many small to medium-sized outfits with existing XML document technology investment, or seeking better ways to manage Web sites or other document repositories.

Ed Tittel is a full-time writer and trainer whose interests include XML and development topics, along with IT Certification and information security topics. E-mail Ed at etittel@techtarget.com with comments, questions, or suggested topics or tools for review.

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