When the company I work for started building its CMS, a lot of people were really hoping that Zope’s External Editor feature would come under wide use. (External Editor, for those who aren’t familar with it, allow users to edit content with desktop applications and uses WebDAV for downloading/uploading to the server.) Unfortunately, five years later and external editor support is barely visible in the UI. I don’t think any content producer has ever used it, and at this point I don’t think any developer still on staff has used it.
OK, so the fact that there is no access in the UI is probably the most likely reason why it isn’t used. That isn’t the only reason though. External Editor requires a client side component that isn’t installed on anyone’s desktops. The desktop environment is controlled by another divisions desktop support group, and working on getting the external editor client installed sounds like a battle that is more political than technical. (As far as political battles go, it may not even be a hard one, but I think the way most of the software developers and tech producers act, if someone is going to say “let’s have a meeting about that”, they immediately throw up a white flag in defeat.)
But some recent work I’ve done, and some recent requests for functionality has me thinking about External Editor. There are requests for better support of “Rich Media”. The types of things that they want are hard to edit in an HTML forms environment. Pretty much a file upload button is all you have. Then there is the photo gallery creator I built as a Java JApplet. It allows people to drag photos onto a pane to upload them. Mostly all it does is avoid the file upload button, and everyone is claiming it is a huge timesaver.
So, what I’m wondering is if I replace the client side of External Editor with another applet or Web Start application, (maybe using Jython if there is anything tricky in the client code) then i have an auto-installing client. New Content types like Flash can have the .fla contents uploaded and worked on with multiple users on multiple machines. (allowing the CMS to control the content over its life-cycle.)
On the other hand, maybe I’m overthinking things. Possibly the windows based Python installer could be set up with a similar autoinstall system. (I know there is another guy in the tech department with some experience in making and customizing .MSI install archives. Maybe combining the python installer and an External Editor .MSI installer would allow auto-installation with <object> and <embed> tags.) Maybe if the work is done on External Editor and WebDAV support, it still wouldn’t be used.
As you can guess. I’m using this to think out loud. I’m assuming that people who know out CMS system might come across this blog entry and if something stands out negative or positive, they might chime in.