Monday, January 1, 2007

Manage your Web site using the CityDesk content management system


By James Booth

So you want to showcase your work on the Web, but you don't know squat about running a Web site? Neither did I. I was making due with FrontPage, but wasn't really on intimate terms with it. The site was getting pretty large and becoming difficult to manage manually. I knew it was time for a content management system, and that's how I found CityDesk from Fog Creek Software.

What is a CMS (content management system)? Put simply, a content management system is "a software system for organizing and facilitating the collaborative creation of documents and other content." Thanks, Wikipedia. In this case, it's used for managing a Web site, Web content, and editing and constructing articles.

The ZENPRESS system we use to publish the ZATZ magazines began life as a content management system, but has grown far beyond that by this time. It not only manages articles, but all our ads, weekly update mailings, RSS feeds, author pages, and even more. For the Web site I was building personally, ZENPRESS nuclear-level overkill, so I decided to check out CityDesk.

How does a content management system help you publish your work on the Net? Using templates can ensure global continuity, and make it simple to drop in content. A CMS can update and publish your content for you. And the use of scripts, short segments of programming code, can automate many tasks. CityDesk from Fog Creek, seen in Figure A, is just such a CMS.


CityDesk starts up with a nice picture of a city. (click for larger image)

So, why are we talking about CityDesk here in Connected Photographer? The answer is simple: once you take your pictures, many of you will want to put them online. We've discussed doing this with services like Flickr, but if you're going to create a full Web site, you'll need a content management system like CityDesk or ZENPRESS. Since ZENPRESS isn't available to end users, CityDesk is at least a good starting point.

CityDesk overview

CityDesk automates the process of formatting and creating pages, site navigation, and publishing to a server. Layout and appearance only need to be defined once. Afterwards, you can edit, or add and remove articles using the built-in word processor. Publishing changes are done with a single click.

Some of CityDesk's advanced features include the use of scripts and variables, template families, multiple publishing locations, and "Never Publish Before/After" control. With all of this, CityDesk runs on a Windows computer, with nothing required to be on the server. It uses file copy or FTP for file transfer and publishing to the server.