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A final look at Erik Rose: Plone 3 for Education

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Erik Rose has written a book about: Plone 3 for Education. Here are my final impressions.

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After my first impressions on the Plone 3 for Education book by Erik Rose, here are my final impressions. I will cover the whole book now. To make it very practical, for each chapter I will recommend which of my colleagues at Zest Software should read it. For some it will just be a reminder of what they already know, but freshening up your knowledge and perhaps picking up some small tips on the go are always good. Note that some have multiple roles, so someone may be listed first as trainer and later as programmer.

Chapter 1: Creating Courses

This is about creative application of the default Plone content types. It explains how to use some features of standard Plone, like collections, large folders and default pages. Recommended for Esther (Partner), Robin (Marketing/Sales), and Angela (Management Assistant).

Chapter 2: Calendaring

The Plone4ArtistsCalendar product is used as a nice way of showing events; this looks like a good solution for sites with lots of events. The chapter teaches best practices for using events and collections. You also get some tips about how best to apply security and permissions. Recommended for Esther (Partner), Robin (Marketing/Sales), and perhaps Mirella (Project Manager), mostly because they may be doing content management on some client sites or on our own site.

Chapter 3: Showcasing Personnel with Faculty/Staff Directory

The add-on product Faculty/Staff Directory can be seen as a departmental website in a box. It uses membrane, remember and relations. It is a versatile product, which could be useful in several occasions. Recommended for Jean-Paul (Partner) and Robin (Marketing/Sales): they should know this product is available; also recommended for the programmers (Mark, Fred, Vincent, me): they should see if this product fits the bill, before making something from scratch. It can also serve as a good example of how to use the membrane and remember products.

Chapter 4: Extending Faculty/Staff Directory

The standard product shown in the previous chapter is now extended using archetypes.schemaextender. Recommended for Mark, Fred and Vincent (programmers): look at this to freshen up your knowledge of archetypes.schemaextender (or for your first look at this).

Chapter 5: Blogs and Forums

This is a look at the out-of-the-box blogging potential of Plone (which may be enough), and at add-on products. Erik calls these "free as in puppies": they are cute, but you should be aware that they come with responsibilities. All add-on products that you may want to add in your site, should first be tested on a copy of that site, including trying to uninstall it. The QuillsEnabled and Scrawl products are introduced for blogging, including using them in combination if needed. For forums the judgement is clear: use Ploneboard. Recommended for Mark as consultant and Fred as consultant/trainer.

Chapter 6: Embedding Audio and Video

For embedding audio and video, Erik recommends collective.flowplayer as the most flexible and trouble-free solution. Plone4ArtistsVideo is mentioned once for podcasting support, but perhaps Plone4ArtistsAudio is meant, as that one is explained. In some cases, for example embedding YouTube videos, you need to write some pure html yourself, so enabling the object and embed tags is explained; I did not notice before that there was an embed-tab button that you can enable in Site Setup, Visual Editor, Toolbar. Again recommended for Mark as consultant and Fred as trainer.

Chapter 7: Creating Forms Fast

I already wrote about this chapter in my first impressions. Recommended for Esther (Partner), Robin (Marketing/Sales), Mark (Consultant), Fred (Trainer). This was a handy chapter for me as well; I just know Mirella has ten times more experience here than I do. :-)

Chapter 8: Styling Your Site

This chapter explains the Zope 2 way versus the Zope 3 way of theming. Depending on which parts of your site you want to style, you will need to learn both ways. You will learn about through-the-web versus development on the file system. You use paster for creating a basic theme product. Erik shows z3c.jbot as the easiest way of overriding templates from Plone's sometimes difficult viewlet and portlet machinery. Recommended for Mirella and Laurens (CSS Specialists) for perhaps a better understanding of why some things need to be done in a certain way.

Chapter 9: Going Live

This is all about buildout, a zeo setup, CacheFu, Squid and Apache. Recommended for the programmers when dealing with Squid instead of the varnish that we mostly use; and a fresh look at the CacheFu settings would not hurt.

Chapter 10: Maintenance, Backups, and Upgrades

The instructions to pack manually give wrong directions, which will have you end up in the ZMI in the Plone Site root, without a Zope Control Panel in sight. Instead you should simply go to Site Setup and then to Maintenance. Other than that, this chapter has no surprises, but if you come working for us as programming sysadmin this is the first chapter you should read.

Conclusion

Plone 3 for Education is a very practical book. It shows you a safe route through Plone land, giving solid advice that will keep you out of the pitfalls of this great CMS.

Disclaimer: I got this book for free from Packt Publishing in exchange for a review. Ordering the book via one of the links in this article will land me some money.