I did a presentation at IT Forum, at Barcelona, on the future of CMS and SPS shortly after the release of CMS SP2. I wanted to spend some time writing about the next version as well as highlighting great CMS resources for CMS developers and IT administrators.
Based on feedback from you, partners and analysts, we are building CMS functionality on top of Wndows SharePoint Services (WSS) “v3”. CMS and SPS, along with a lot of other great functionality, will be one integrated set of technologies built on top of WSS “v3”. The Office Server investments built on top of WSS “v3” are codenamed Office “12” SharePoint Servers. The broad investment areas include ECM, Search, Portal, Collab, BI and Forms. We’re careful not to say SPS “12” or CMS 2007, because packaging and licensing decisions have not been made. While these technologies will be technically integrated (same development, deployment and end-user experience), we have not made decisions on how these will be packaged. As a current customer, rest assured that you will get what you have today.
I’d like to expand on what this specifically means for CMS 2002 customers. (Keep in mind, this is a subset of the ECM investments we are making in Office “12” SharePoint Servers.) You will no longer have to deploy two different WSS and CMS solutions; CMS functionality will be built on top of WSS allowing you to deploy a single WCM and Collaborative solution. Also, you gain a lot of other benefits b/c it’s built on WSS: Web Parts, Lists, Document Libraries, Templates, Workflow :-), RSS, et cetera.
Let’s examine the different experiences for different CMS 2002 roles in the Office “12” timeframe:
End-User/Subscriber (no change)
The end user, or the subscriber, doesn’t notice a difference. The web page at the end of the day is rendered in DHTML. Depending on how you develop the “templates”, it will support any browser and/or any device. You can make it look however you want it to look.
Also, for those of you who are SharePoint and CMS developers, I want to point out that end-users will only see what they have access to. WSS “v3” has security trimming. This is a feature that is out-of-the-box for CMS 2002 and will continue to be out-of-the-box in the Office “12” timeframe.
Content Contributor (gets better)
In Office “12”, there are two primary ways for someone to author content just like in CMS 2002: via the web browser and by using a rich client, like Word. From a web browser perspective, the edit control is richer than the out-of-the-box control in CMS 2002. It has features like spell-checking, table formatting, styling and the ability for content contributors to author and use “reusable” HTML fragments – a commonly requested feature. Is it better than the Telerik control? I’m not sure how the Telerik control will progress in the Office “12” timeframe.
Rich Client Authoring – this is a much more flexible feature in the Office “12” timeframe. Out of the box, we will convert a variety of file formats to HTML (docx, wordml, xml) and provide the flexibility for customers and partners to develop their own converters. So, for example, if someone develops a PDF converter, they can enable content contributors to convert a PDF to an HTML page. These converters are registered on the server and depending on how they are registered (to a content type or extension), the appropriate option will surface in the document library. So, for example, if I register a docx converter for all docx files, then “Convert to Page” or something like that will be an option available in the drop down next to the doc in the SharePoint library. Imagine a scenario where you collaborate on a case study and then want to publish it – you can now do that all very seamlessly. Another added benefit is that the system tracks where it’s been published from and if it’s changed from the source. So, for example, if you go to a page that has been authored using Word, for example, it will tell you that it’s been published from word and will allow you to republish from the original doc OR change the page directly. Now everytime you go back to the web page, it will tell you it’s different from the word doc. There isn’t an out-of-the-box feature to update the word doc from the web page, but you can republish the word doc to the web page if you wanted to.
Template Designer (new role)
In CMS 2002, developers develop templates using Visual Studio. In Office “12”, we’ve effectively introduced a new role allowing non-developers to create “templates” (known as Page Layouts in Office “12”) using FrontPage “12”. Template designers can add controls, web parts and placeholder controls (known as field controls).
Side note: Master pages can be applied to a site by a non-technical person. You can also check a box so that all the subsites inherit the same master page. This makes branding very easy and exposes a developer feature (master pages) to non-developers.
Developer (more focused)
Developers develop the custom field controls (think custom placeholder controls), controls (server or user controls) and web parts. They don’t have to worry about design anymore.
IT Pro (gets better)
We’ve added several great features making it easier for the IT Pro. For starters, there are no client installs needed for any of the roles. The edit control is a DHTML control unlike CMS 2002 which is an activex control. Also, site manager functionality is now web-based. So if you want to add a new administrator, they don’t have to install site manager.
We’ve also done a lot of work with deployment. Through a web-based UI, IT Pros can schedule deployments. You can schedule deployments, publish to multiple web server farms if you wanted to and you can provide your content contributors to effectively “instantly deploy” certain pages. For example, if there’s a specific article that needs to get published “now”, you can set that up. It’s an out of the box feature.
Some of the new Features
I’d like to specifically call out certain features. I’m going to start by saying that we will have a more complete API – for example, you will be able to programmatically set security settings.
Workflow (gets much better)
In CMS 2002, we have 1-2 step approval that is implicit based on channel security settings. There are several samples available on http://www.gotdotnet.com and several great partners that provide integrated workflow functionality. In fact, Skelta provides free workflow “lite”.
In Office “12”, workflow is extensible. Parameterized workflow templates are available out of the box. So if you want to create a mult-step serial or parallel workflow, you can just use one of the out-of-the-box workflow templates. Additionally, you can create your own workflow with FrontPage “12”. This workflow functionality is built on top of Windows Workflow Foundation (WF) for which WSS “v3” is the host.
Office “12” Enterprise Search will be integrated with CMS functionality in Office “12”. We’re making a lot of investments in search and this will be available out of the box.
One of the customer asks from our global customers was out-of-the-box multilingual support. CMS 2002 supports unicode and is very extensible. Customers created localized versions of the web author console. In Office “12”, we provide more out of the box multi-lingual publishing capabilities.
Besides support unicode and being built on the WSS multi-lingual infrastructure (different sites in different languages), we’re going to have a feature that allows you to have multiple sites in different languages. For example, if you have a section of your site called Press Releases and you want to have Press Releases in different languages (Spanish and French), you can define a source and multiple targets. By defining a source and multiple targets, the system will keep the pages in sync between the source and the different targets. This works one way (source -> target) and respects workflow on the different targets. So for example, if I add a new press release in the English section (source), after it’s approved, it will create the same pages in the Spanish and French sections. Of course, it will respect the workflow policy… more than likely, it will have to get translated and approved. We don’t provide out of the box translation, but I’m quite certain translation partners will integrate seamlessly here in the future. Needless to say, the page can be declined so it’s not added to the section… or it can be approved without translation. Above and beyond this, we also will ship controls that will allow end-users to switch easily between the different sections. This feature can also be used to have a “mobile section”.
Built on WSS “v3”
By being built on WSS “v3”, a lot of features are exposed. A few examples include:
1)single item security. What this means for CMS functionality is that you can now secure a single page – something you can’t do out of the box with CMS 2002 today.
2) recycle bin. If someone deletes a page, or a resource, it can easily be restored.
3) RSS – lists in WSS “v3” are RSS enabled. B/c pages are stored in a SharePoint List, you can expose a RSS feed for your CMS pages.
4) page layouts (“templates”) can have workflow – Page Layouts are stored in a list… so you can apply a workflow to them and have them part of an approval process if you want
5) Web Parts
Integrated Office “12” SharePoint Servers
I briefly mentioned that we are investing in ECM, Portal, Collab, Search, BI and Forms features in Office “12” SharePoint Servers. Again, these investments will be -technically- integrated providing the same development, deployment and end-user experiences. So from a technology standpoint, the next version of CMS functionality will be integrated with a whole set of other technologies allowing you to deploy an end-to-end solution. For example, ECM consists of Document Management and Records Management functionality as well.
So what do I do now?
The Beta 1 program is closed so you can’t join it now. You should wait for Beta 2 which will be more broadly available in the Spring 2006 timeframe (a few months from now).
In the mean time, if you are a CMS 2002 customer today, take a look at the Reusability Whitepaper as well as my posting on start getting ready for Office “12”. You should also contact your account manager/Microsoft representitive for more information on the futures of CMS. If you don’t know who he/she is, feel free to ask me. I’ll continue posting more and you’ll continue seeing more information in the Beta 2 timeframe. I would also subscribe to the following blogs:
1) Office “12” WCM team – Gerhard Schobbe, GPM of the CMS team, is posting!
2) Stefan Gossner – he’s posted a ton of SP2 info recently
3) Mark Harrison – always a great read
4) Angus Logan – former CMS MVP, author, recently joined MSFT.
5) Andrew Connell – CMS MVP and author