With the release of version 2.0 this month, the free, open-source Plone has taken what was already probably the best option in Web publishing portals and made it the clear leader in this field (as well as an eWEEK Labs Analysts Choice honoree). Plone 2.0 includes important new features that greatly improve the administration, usability and flexibility of the Plone platform. Plone is based on the Zope application server and Zopes content management framework. Plone 2.0 runs on most operating systems, including Linux, Mac OS X, Unix and Windows. We found installation on these platforms was easier than installing most client applications.A GUI-based controller is available on Windows installations of Plone that made it simple to launch Plone and view its status. However, this controller is not currently available on Mac OS X or Linux. Users of Plone will welcome the many usability enhancements in Version 2.0. Context-sensitive menus make it much easier to add content to the Plone site and to access publishing workflows. We also liked the new collaboration features that made it simple to define which users and groups we could share content with. Plone 2.0 includes the new Epoz WYSIWYG editor. With this rich-text editor, users can easily create rich content without knowing HTML, and the editor works on both Internet Explorer and Mozilla/Netscape browsers, although getting it to work on our site required a little bit of scripting. Other usability features include better descriptive tool tips on mouse-overs and a very nice feature to turn any search result into an RSS (Rich Site Summary) feed. In addition, Plone 2.0 can switch page style sheets on the fly, which can be useful for delivering content to different platforms and devices. Plone is based on the Python scripting language, but site designers and developers can do a great deal of customization and development without knowing Python. Version 2.0 also has very good standards support and broad international support. Still, like many open-source applications, Plone does not compete as well as commercial offerings when it comes to customer support. Although we found it easy to get information to customize and manage our Plone sites, we did have to search multiple Web sites and forums. For most companies, this kind of help-hunting would fall a bit short of conventional 24-by-7 support. eWEEK Labs Director Jim Rapoza can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis about productivity and business solutions.
User and group administration in Plone has also seen some welcome enhancements. Version 2.0 makes it possible to manage users, groups, and groups within groups, and have rights and roles inherited within each. We also liked Version 2.0s new ability to configure Plone to work with outside authentication systems such as Active Directory or LDAP directories.