Wednesday, November 1, 2000

A closer look at Manila and Radio UserLand

BEYOND FRONTIER

By Russ Lipton

In my article, "How UserLand's Frontier can revolutionize content management," elsewhere in this issue of DominoPower, I touched on two other exciting applications from UserLand: Manila and UserLand Radio. In this article, we'll take a more in-depth look at both of them. If you haven't read the Frontier article, you should probably read it first, and when you're done, come back here.

Manila

Manila is an Internet server application that's included as part of the UserLand Frontier content management system. That means it's free (assuming you've paid the $899 to buy Frontier).

Interestingly, you can use Manila itself for informal project management and to support your long-term decision-making process about Frontier. Go ahead and try it. Just visit http://www.editthispage.com and sign up for a free Manila site.

While Manila-capable applications can include most of the calendaring, discussion, and workflow functions available in Notes (with the notable exceptions of replication, Access Control Lists, and ironclad security), you won't want to reinvent the wheel. Instead, use Manila as a dedicated Web publishing application that fills the critical Web publishing niche short of full-blown Domino applications but beyond word processors and HTML-jockey editors.

UserLand is renowned for eating its own dog food. UserLand's own Scripting.com, for example, is fully implemented in Manila. It's pictured in Figure A and can be found at http://www.scripting.com. [This is a great site to read whether you use Frontier or not. - DG]

FIGURE A

The Scripting.com weblog covers the latest Web technical and cultural goodies. (click for larger image)

Don't focus for good or ill on the design of Scripting.com. Manila wisely provides a default design template for its end-user audience (different, as it happens, than the one for Scripting.com). However, a growing number of "themes" (like skins in traditional Windows applications) are available at the touch of a button to replace one look with another.

While Manila doesn't offer the flexibility of the underlying Frontier platform, a wide range of Web-browser accessible options support major-league tweaking of Manila Web sites. Most are end-user capable. This includes look-and-feel (discussion forums can be topical or chronological; a home-page template can be distinguished from the rest of a site, etc) as well as content and structure. Figure B displays a portion of the core template: it's just HTML and can be edited easily.

FIGURE B

Authors can use the default Manila template or build their own. (click for larger image)

Remember that Manila emphasizes a seamless edit-publish model as its default throughout. You can edit in your browser (with steadily improving WYSIWYG features, especially for Internet Explorer) and all changes are posted immediately. ZATZ sites AuthorPower (a central author's resource, at http://www.authorpower.com) and the ZATZ MediaKit (the ZATZ advertising price list, http://mediakit.zatz.com) are both Manila sites.