Like many other open-source applications, Magnolia 2.0 has inherent benefits, such as broad platform support (it runs on almost any platform, including Windows, Linux and Mac OS X) and excellent standards support. And, of course, its free.
But there are also important differences that jumped out at us. While most other open-source content management products weve tested are based on PHP or more esoteric languages such as Python or HTML Mason, Magnolia 2.0 is the first that eWEEK Labs has tested that is based on Java server technology. This makes coding for Magnolia much more accessible to many companies and means that Magnolia (which includes a version of the open-source Tomcat application server in its base download) will work with nearly any J2EE (Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition) application server.
But even more significant is the browser-based GUI of Magnolia 2.0, which was released in December. The application not only has one of the most intuitive and simple-to-use interfaces of any open-source Web content management product weve tested, but its also as good as or better than many from low-end and midtier vendors, which heavily emphasize usability.
The Magnolia 2.0 browser interface offers standard GUI features such as right-click menus and interactive tool bars. This made it easy for us to access and manage site content, create and edit users and roles, and open and edit content. For content editing, Magnolia provides a useful in-line, rich-text editor.
But even more impressive is that Magnolia 2.0 can make this interactive GUI and rich-text editor work seamlessly across multiple browsers and platforms, a task that has proved difficult for many commercial vendors. In our tests, the Magnolia interface worked in all The Mozilla Foundations Mozilla-based browsers (including Firefox and Netscape), across all operating systems, and in Microsoft Corp.s Internet Explorer 6.
It took little time to get up and running with Magnolia 2.0, and soon thereafter we were quickly configuring and managing our Web sites. Role-based management in Magnolia is simple but provides detailed options, letting us define the rights of each role for any aspect of the site.
For most sites, the user and role-based management in Magnolia will be sufficient for controlling use of the site. However, the lack of deep workflow and approval models will make it less attractive for some businesses, especially those that need multiple levels of approval before changes can be made to Web content. We were also disappointed in the lack of integrated versioning or document history in Magnolia, making it more difficult to track changes in pages or roll back to older versions of pages.
Content authors in Magnolia can edit content directly from the site by accessing in-line editing options. From here we could enter the rich-text editor, which let us add content and define tags for the content.
Creating and editing page templates in Magnolia 2.0 should be a breeze for any experienced Web developer. The product is fully standards-based, and creating templates simply requires understanding of Cascading Style Sheets and JavaServer Pages. We also greatly appreciated that Web pages in Magnolia can have simple, understandable addresses (for example, www.sitename.com/labs.html), rather than extremely long and confusing numeric-based addresses.
As a fully standards-based product with a modular design, Magnolia 2.0 is very customizable. The product also supports the proposed JSR (Java Specification Request) 170: Content Repository for Java, which increases the extensibility of the product for Java-capable developers.
While the developer capabilities are as extensive as those in almost any Web content management product, Magnolia 2.0s status as a lower-end product clearly shows in its administration features. For the most part, these were adequate, although lacking in the very detailed configuration and management capabilities that higher-end products typically offer. Also, Magnolia doesnt offer integrated reporting or analysis in its interface, although it does support Apache Log4j for detailed log-based reporting.
Obinary AG is the main developer of Magnolia. Obinary, as well as other third-party partners, offers development and support services for Magnolia. For additional information, go to www. magnolia.info.