Friday, July 6, 2007

EPiServer 5 CMS - First impressions

A couple of weeks ago I wanted to check out how the new EPiServer 5 looked, so I downloaded a free trial version of the RC2.
It comes in two flavors. There's the traditional installer that installs the Manager which allows you to setup new EPiServer websites with a default look & feel, but on top of that there's also a new Visual Studio integration available that I instantly knew I just had to try out.

The install itself was very (!) easy and without any problems or hickups I had a lot of new features in my visual studio.
For instance I now had the possibility of creating a new EPiServer Project which I instantly did.
This template created blank episerver website, db, etc. for me ready to use.
It's really clear to see that with this new release the clever guys at EPiServer has been focussing a lot on improving the quality of life for all the developers out there who use it as an every day tool to make websites.
At the same EPiServer is now even tighter coupled with the newest Microsoft technologies, basing their CMS on standard ASP.NET 2.0 things like Master pages and ASP.NET User/Role configuration. They've also done a tremendous job of integrationg Workflow Foundation into the core functionality - and to this date this seems like one of the best usages of WWF I've seen so far.

Seen from a developer perspective the new SDK makes me think of EPiServer as a huge toolbox that gives me a lot of tools to efficiently create cool websites and webfunctionality in a standard ASP.NET way, while taking care of a lot of the tedious details. But from an Editor / Administrator perspective you still get the well-known intuitive webbased interface for administrering and editing the website. Cool.

The editor and administrator interface hasn't changed all that much since last version and the entrypoint is still the "famous" right-click menu for logged-in editors. It seems to me like the Editor interface hasn't gotten all that much work done except for a paint-job and perhaps some improved versioning/comparison features (however I could be mistaking, having never been a real-life editor :-) ). Thats okay, though. Rome wasn't build in a day and I certainly prefer the improved SDK and architectural changes.
Yes, I am the kind of guy who cares more about whats under the hood of my car, than the color, shape and sexiness of it's exterior. However it still wouldn't hurt to give a bit of attention to improve the (already good) usability for editors and administrators in a future version. Perhaps AJAX is a good approach here.

While I'm at it, here's another few things for my wishlist for future versions: WCF support for easier data / functionality access and a couple of nice fully-featured demo-sites / templates for the SDK. It could be nice to a couple of ready-to-go samples as VS Templates.

All-in-all I'm very impressed with the RC2 version of EPiServer 5 and I can't wait to play around with it some more. Don't be surprised if a couple of modules start appearing on this blog for free download in the near future. EPiServer continues to be a powerful workhorse in the CMS world, not as flashy and shiny as some competitors but intuitive, strong and flexible.

1 comment:

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