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Submission + - [Book Review] CMS Made Simple 1.6

cnymike writes: CMS Made Simple 1.6 — Beginner's Guilde by Sofia Hauschildt, recently publised by Packt Publishing is intended for new users of the open source content management application, CMS Made Simple(CMSMS). True to its title, the book delivers in all respects and provides a solid foundation from which to grow as you explore the rich possibilities of building sites with CMS Made Simple. The author, Sofia Hauschildt is a consultant, programmer and tutor and has a gift for communicating in a very straightforward, readable manner. The technical level of writing never exceeds that which could be easily understood by a neophyte. The book does assume that the reader has some knowledge of HTML and CSS.

I was first introduced to CMS Made Simple 5 years ago. I had a need to begin the developemnt of a CMS based web site and over the years I have explored many products, including WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, Website Baker, e107 and a slew of other open source applications. After trying many, I settled on CMS Made Simple to build many of the sites because of it's ease of installation and operation.

The available documentation for CMSMS has been sparse however. The CMSMS web site has a wiki and user forum, but the wiki is not always up-to-date or complete. The user forum is an option for getting technical problems or other questions answered, but it is not the best place to ask questions if you are truly a neophyte. There is an expectation that you have a certain fundamental understanding of how CMS's work. The developers have clearly stated that CMS Made Simple is geared to web developers and not so much to neophytes who need a lot of hand-holding and who need relatively basic questions answered.

This book is the much needed introduction to CMSMS. The approach taken by the author is exactly the approach needed if you were explaining how to use something to someone who has absolutely no knowledge of it. The learning takes place via the construction of a "case study" web site. You are taught how to install CMSMS and then how to plan your site, beginning with the creation of pages and navigation. The author even takes the time to explain how to customize TinyMCE (the WYSIWYG editor) to the level you need.

The methodology used in this book is straightforward and effective. As each topic is introduced, you are told what you will accomplish. Next, the instructions for accomplishing the task are given with ample use of screenshots when needed. As you work through the task, you are given additional tips and suggestions that help you fully appreciate what you are doing. Once the task has been completed, you are then given a summary of what just happened. Pop quizzes appear throughout the book to test your knowledge of what you were just taught. This type of repetition is one of the reasons the book is so effective. It super-charges the learning process. You learn by doing.

The author goes into surprising detail on many topics that give you a depth of understanding that you otherwise would not get by just trying to learn by yourself. For instance, in Chapter 4 — Design and Layout, the author discusses in a very concise manner how the Smarty template engine works. Various examples of how to harness the power of Smarty are given and before you know it, you've learned a great deal about Smarty that will greatly assist you in ultimately designing your own templates or modifying templates from other sources. Furthermore, an excellent section devoted on how to adapt templates from other platforms to CMSMS gives you the skills needed to accomplish that task. Having this knowledge opens the door to being able to adapt the huge number of templates , both paid and free, to your use on a CMSMS installation.

Core Modules are the essential modules that come with the CMSMS package. You learn about how these modules function and how to modify them in ways that let you adapt them to your specific needs. The author also discusses a number of third-party modules that give you additional features such as a photo Gallery or Newsletter.

Later in the book, more advanced topics are introduced. Some of the topoics include how to make multi-lingual websites, how to translate core and third-party modules into a different language and how to create additional page layout capabilities by using extra page attributes.

Leaving no stone unturned, the book also discusses SEO practices, canonical URL's, how to avoid duplicate page content issues such as when you incorporate printer-only versions of your pages and much more. It is really surprising how much information is packed in to this realtively slim book.

There are many instances of code in the book that you need to type as you work through the exercises. Since there is no CD of these code snippets included with the book, the author has thoughfully made available from the publisher website, a zip archive of the code.

To my knowledge, there currently is no other introduction to using CMS Made Simple. This book should quite frankly be required reading to anyone thinking of building a website with CMSMS. It will greatly accelerate your ability to successfully install, build and deploy a website based on CMSMS. The book is completely efficient in the way the informamtion is presented and will give you a well-rounded perspective on using CMSMS. The book is designed with beginners in mind but even someone who has worked with CMSMS for a few years is likely to discover nuggets in this book that will be beneficial to them. The one thing this book is not, however, is a reference book. It is better to be used as a tutorial.

I have more computer books in my bookshelf than I care to count but this book is what I would consider a top-shelf book. It is easily digested, amazingly comprehensive and the only book you really need to get up and running with CMS Made Simple. The book is available from a variety of sources including Barnes and Noble, Amazon and Packt Publishing.

Review by:
Michael Erb
twitter: merb

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