By Jim Rapoza  |  Posted 2004-08-02 Print this article Print

When we first reviewed the open-source Bricolage two years ago, we were impressed with its high-end capabilities. As an application built from the ground up to run large, complex and frequently updated content-rich Web sites, we found that Bricolage was well-suited for use even in the largest enterprises and the most active sites.

Version 1.8.1 of Bricolage, released last month, makes the platform even more robust, with new capabilities and fixes to previous weaknesses in the product. Probably even more important for corporate customers, it is now possible to get services and support for Bricolage implementations. David Wheeler, the lead developer for Bricolage, founded Kineticode Inc. to provide implementation, development and support services for Bricolage customers.

As is the case with most Web content management systems, Bricolage administration is done through a Web browser, and the Bricolage administrative interface is among the best weve seen. We could easily figure out what we needed to do to perform just about any task, and we were able to access all necessary notes, versions and workflows. Context-sensitive help was available in nearly every task window. Best of all, Bricolage 1.8.1 worked with every modern Web browser available. (We tested the system using Microsoft Corp.s Internet Explorer, Opera Software ASAs Opera, The Mozilla Foundations Mozilla and Firefox, and and Netscape Communications Corp.s Netscape 7.)

For site administrators, several weaknesses in Bricolage have been addressed in Version 1.8.1. It is now simple to create and manage multiple sites, with all information highly accessible and content easily shared among sites. The applications security model, which in the previous version gave users too much freedom to change their status, also has been improved, with stronger controls over user access and much more granular permissions rights.

Content contributors using Bricolage will benefit from its highly intuitive and attractive Web-based interface, which made it simple in tests to track what we were working on or what needed to be approved before it was published. In addition, several new features greatly eased the task of finding elements and content within the system.

Bricolage is extensible, and most of the customizations we wanted to perform could be done directly from the administration interface. As in previous versions, templates and some customizations require an understanding of HTML::Mason, an open-source development system that works via Perl code embedded in HTML. We found it simple to learn and follow, although there will be a steeper learning curve for some site developers, especially those not familiar with Perl.

Many of the products previous installation woes have been minimized in the new release. However, for those not accustomed to source-based Unix implementations, Bricolage installation can still be a bear. We highly recommend following all the detailed installation instructions step by step.

Bricolage will run on pretty much any flavor of Linux and Unix (including Mac OS X), but it does not run on Windows servers. In addition, Bricolage does not support Apache 2.0, requiring use of the older, 1.3x versions of Apache.

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Jim Rapoza, Chief Technology Analyst, eWEEK.For nearly fifteen years, Jim Rapoza has evaluated products and technologies in almost every technology category for eWEEK. Mr RapozaÔÇÖs current technology focus is on all categories of emerging information technology though he continues to focus on core technology areas that include: content management systems, portal applications, Web publishing tools and security. Mr. Rapoza has coordinated several evaluations at enterprise organizations, including USA Today and The Prudential, to measure the capability of products and services under real-world conditions and against real-world criteria. Jim Rapoza's award-winning weekly column, Tech Directions, delves into all areas of technologies and the challenges of managing and deploying technology today.

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