[HLUG] Document management/publishing website suggestions

Julian Robbins joolsr at fastmail.fm
Sun Mar 1 22:24:21 UTC 2009

Paul Stenning wrote:
> Can anyone give me some pointers please?
Hi Paul

Just for interest, I've been giving some more thought about your
Document publishing requirements system. If you wanted, most of it can
be done out of the box with Plone. I think it all could be done but may
require a couple of extra Plone Add ons (Products ) too, as one or two
areas as below would take a bit more thinking about.
> A client has asked me to quote for a website with the following 
> requirements:
>     1. A membership system where members are set up by the admin. There 
> will be about 10-12 members.
No problems here
>     2. Members can upload documents as PDF files together with a typed 
> abstract/summary. They can be put in one of several predefined categories.
Just use a std Plone file content type which allows a detailed
description to be added too. Both the file descriptor, and the contents
of the PDF file itself would be completely searchable too, out of the box.
>     3. Newly uploaded documents require approval by three other members.
I think this could be done. Plone has a very flexible Workflow system,
where you can define your own states and transitions. The three members
makes this harder though and would require some thinking about ..
>     4. Once approved the document together with the abstract, author 
> details etc are available on the website for anyone to download.
Yes, would be published on the web automatically, once approved. The
authors details are again all available out of the box..
>     5. Any changes to the document require the approval process to be 
> repeated. Until that is completed the old version remains available.
Yes, Plone 3.1 has Staging Support, aka Working Copy Support, where a
document will remain published, even though work is going on behind the
scenes to replace it at the same time. Of course you can do this
manually with copying and deleting, but it gets messy - this is a really
nice inbuilt feature to Plone.
>     6. A mailing list system which automatically emails visitors who 
> have registered whenever a new document is published. Also emails to 
> members when a new document is uploaded.
I'm sure this could be done, but can't quite think how for the first bit
at the mo.
Using 'Content Rules' gives you some powerful features for sending
emails, logging defined actions, etc etc. Again, this is using a built
in bit of Plone so it makes life quite easy .
>     7. PHP/MySQL based preferred (will be on an Apache server so no ASP!).
Well, no. But Plone is much easier than it used to be to get setup with
the Unified Installer. By installing Plone with the Unified Installer,
now will build the correct Python version, Zope and Plone and all the
other dependencies from source itself. Sounds scary but isnt .. It also
means you can take your full dev environment and with a simple text
file, ie the Buildout, fully replicate your site, templates, and
complete setup elsewhere. This is quite advanced but its nice to know
its possible.

You do really need your own server, or at least root access to a decent
server to install Plone. That said you can install on Windows too, with
the same installer, so you wouldn't need particular hosting then. But
PHP/Mysql hosting is quite different to Plone hosting it has to be admitted

Plone usually requires a Apache proxy in front too, but it can act as
its own web server too if required.
> Does anyone have any suggestions for existing software that can do at 
> least some of this? It would need some sort of template system to 
> customise the look-and-feel. Free open source is preferred of course, 
> but if it needs to be commercial then that's OK.
Templates with Plone are IMHO complicated - perhaps not complicated -
but just quite different to PHP ones. Immensely powerful though. On the
other hand, you can get a long way just changing css .. Plone uses only
XHTML and CSS, no tables or anything else much. Very standards compliant
too. There's also some Plone templates freely available too.
> I'm not looking for someone to create this from scratch for me. However 
> if you already have something that does most of what I need and can be 
> adapted then I'd be interested in discussing it.
Plone can do most things really ... but it isnt a small CMS. It's a good
tool to get used to though as you really can use it for many tasks, not
just web publishing - its just as good as a fully blown Intranet or
Document Repository for example.
> If there's nothing suitable out there then I'll create it myself, 
> probably as extensions to a CMS like Website Baker.
I haven't come across this one myself - sounds interesting.
> Ohh, it all needs to be done by the end of May...
Not too bad, I guess ....

Hope this is useful to you.


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