Content Management

Keep track of updates to your web site documents with this Mason application.
Staging Files

Once a file appears to work correctly on the staging server, you must move it to the production server. To do this, select one or more files within a directory with the checkboxes on the left-hand side of the file table. Then, click on the “trigger” button at the bottom of the page. The files will be copied over to the production server, instantly making them the “current” copies of the web site.

You can trigger all the files in a directory by clicking on the “check all” checkbox at the bottom of the page, next to the trigger button. This is particularly useful when you have created a new directory and want to use all of the items at once.

If someone happens to modify the production version of a file, it is possible to “reverse-trigger” the file. This copies the file from the production server onto the staging server. This is a potentially dangerous operation, and should not be treated lightly; as a result, Mason-CM asks for explicit confirmation before allowing such an operation.

Spell Checking

Once you have the basic Mason-CM functionality working, you may want to try some of the optional features that it includes. Perhaps the most interesting feature is the spell checker, which is a Mason component that uses ispell to check the spelling of the document. The Mason spell checker ignores HTML tags, so you need not worry about having to add “href” to the dictionary.

To enable spell checking, uncomment the “ispell”, “main_dict” and “supp_dict” keys in the %cm_config, defined in cmConfig. They are commented out by default; on my Linux system, I was able to uncomment them without making any modifications:

ispell      => '/usr/bin/ispell',
main_dict => '/usr/lib/ispell/english.hash',
supp_dict => "$CM_DATA/suppDict",

Once you have defined these keys, the Mason-CM editor will automatically include a “spell check” checkbox. This means that every time you click on “save”, “save and render” or “save and exit,” the document will be spell-checked. If a word in the document is misspelled, a small JavaScript program allows you to choose an alternate, ignore the misspelling, or add the word to a dictionary. Everyone on a Mason-CM system shares a dictionary, meaning that if one user adds a word to the dictionary, everyone else will gain from it. (This also means that if one user accidentally adds a misspelled word to the dictionary, everyone will suffer, so be careful!)

Version Control

Mason-CM also supports the use of RCS for version control. This requires mason.pl to import the RCS module along with Image::Size, URI::Escape, and File::PathConvert. Following that, define (or uncomment) the following lines from cmConfig:

rcs_bin => "/usr/bin",
rcs_files => "$CM_DATA/archive",

Once Mason-CM sees that these values are defined, it adds a “version label” text field to the top of the editing page. If you enter a version label when the document is saved to disk, then RCS will automatically be used to keep both the older version of the file and the newer one.

Moreover, activating version control means that the file list will include a “versions” label. Clicking on this brings up a list of the document version history, and provides a nice interface to diff and the ability to check out older versions. Version control is almost a necessity when working on larger web sites, since bugs can creep in almost anytime, and it's often more important to use a stable, older version than an unstable, newer version with more features.

In addition to spell checking and RCS, Mason-CM includes a number of other features: users can upload files via HTTP and FTP, and administrators can restrict user access on a per-directory basis. Because Mason is written in a straightforward dialect of Perl, it shouldn't be difficult to add other features, such as the ability to stage to other computers (rather than other directories) and HTML validation before staging.

Conclusion

Mason may be a powerful tool for creating web sites, but Mason-CM displays the versatility of this tool. Mason-CM demonstrates that Mason components may be used to create a tool that doesn't directly affect the content produced on the Web. I am very impressed with the variety of tools Mason-CM offers, and while I won't be giving up GNU Emacs as my editor of choice in the near future, I do expect to use Mason-CM on a number of my clients' sites—both those that use Mason for content generation, and those that use simpler, less-advanced tools.

Resources

Reuven M. Lerner (reuven@lerner.co.il) owns a consulting firm specializing in web and Internet technologies, based in Modi'in, Israel. As you read this, he should (finally) be done writing Core Perl, to be published by Prentice-Hall. You can reach him via e-mail at reuven@lerner.co.il, or at the ATF home page, http://www.lerner.co.il/atf/.

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