[Baypiggies] Is plone fo me?

Steve Hindle mech422 at gmail.com
Sat Sep 9 09:08:11 CEST 2006

> that Zope really isn't all that bad.  But from what I've seen so far of
> Plone, by skimming the documentation and attempting to play with it, I
> am starting to get the impression that Plone really is as monolithic as
> I originally thought Zope would be.  I'm hoping to hear otherwise.
Plone is based on a 'product' (plugins) system.  This includes a lot
of the 'core' functionality.  I believe what you are considering
'monolithic' is probably more accurately labeled 'huge' - as in Plone
exposes a huge amount of API functionality, _should you choose to use
it_.   Granted, there is a LOT of stuff there - but you can do really
incredible stuff with just some of the basic facilities.

> What I want to do:
> 1. Get complete control of the main look and feel.  I have implemented a
> Zope page template exactly as I want it.  The template is a finely tuned
> table with perfectly aligned graphics.  Plone seems to want to let me
> plug in bits and pieces to customize aspect of the look, but I need to
> actually control the arrangement of the entire page.  In fact, I don't
> think the final result will look much like a Plone page at all.
This can be accomplished by 'customizing' (overriding) the 'main
template'.  This is the default template used to 'wrap' all content in
your site.  Change this one template - and viola  - your done.  Of
course, now you've butchered your plone, hard coded your styling, and
generally made your life more difficult.   If you expend a little more
effort and also change the CSS file, you'll be in better shape.  Then
again, your design might change over time - by spending a little time
learning about Plone features such as portlets - you'll make your life
even easier.  Plone gives you these options - you can start out by
just 'testing the waters' and get something going quickly, and you can
gradually learn more about it for a huge payoff in productivity.

BTW - the link you provided looks like a pretty typical Plone site.
Rather then supply a totally stock template, I would suggest simply
going into the web interface, and turning off 'topnav' - then add the
'nav portlet' to your 'left_column' - this takes about 2 minutes and
is done totally thru the web _without_ editing code.  If your feeling
more ambitious, you could change the CSS file to render 'top nav' (an
unordered list) as your 'left nav'.  I have no idea how hard that
would be as my CSS-Fu ain't all that.  But by styling the list as
'display:block' you should be able to change the horizontal list into
a vertical list.  Again, this can all be done thru the web with _zero_
code changes.

So that takes care of the nav - you would want to edit the 'header'
page template to include your caligraphy graphics.  Again, you could
embed them with img tags, or do some fancy CSS image replacement -
whichever you prefer.

To be honest, Donna and I do these sorts of sites for clients all the
time - two and three column, left nav, 'brochureware' sites a stable
in this biz....  Plone handles them quite easily.  For instance, if
memory serves me - Donna and I did this:
http://www.esginc.com without major surgery to the main template
(scrollers are 'portlets', IIRC)

> 2. Allow users to add content by editing plain text.  The user should be
> able to select whether the page is a calendar event, a main menu page,
> etc, and automatically add a link to the appropriate list.  (this item
> is why I would look at Plone at all).  I will need to implement my own
> page templates with custom scripting to display certain lists.
'Stock' Plone comes with the 'kupu' editor - it allows your users to
edit documents in plain text with a WYSIWYG interface, or STX, or
HTML.  Content types such a events, documents, etc. are added via a
drop down list on the 'parent' folder.  Portlets are available for
generating all sorts of dynamic lists.  In addition, Plone supports
'smart folders' - which are sort of like 'persistent queries'.  You
create a smart folder and give it a set of 'search criteria' - it then
automatically updates itself as new content is added.  This makes it
trivial to add dynamic lists different things - like 'show me all
documents older then 2 days written by steve'.  These are a _really_
neat feature.

> 3. I want to implement my own custom regular expression substitutions on
> the structured text content.
*Sigh* I don't think plone can do this one from the browser.  You
might need to hack a python script or two for this.  Still - two outta
three (so far) from right inside your browser with no code hacks is
pretty good :-)

> Plone looks like it has more than enough features for me.  I just want
> to start with a clean empty page, not the ridiculously excessive swiss
> army knife of the standard default page.
Thats a little harsh - especially since you've admitted you haven't
looked into it yet.  that 'ridiculously excessive' default template
allows a _lot_ of cool stuff to be implemented in a cross-browser,
standards compliant way.  Not the least of which is its ability to
stay out of your way, while still providing you 'drop-in' component
support with enough CSS hooks to re-arrange the content like a jigsaw
puzzle :-)  Give it a chance - It'll grow on you.

So, In my biased opinion - Plone would probably do quite well for you :-)
It has its fair share of quirks, but if you already know Zope and you
Already know Python - I'd at least play with it a little.  If you have
to do any sort of web work on a regular basis, it can be time very
well spent.


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