Breaking the 5th Wall

Ektron Synergy Dev Track - Day 1

08 Nov 2012

I'm attending Ektron Synergy this week for work and I've decided to publish my notes from the Developer track.

Beyond the Workarea

First up we have "Beyond the Workarea" by Ken McAndrew from C-SPAN. Ken talked about the reasons a company might want to go outside of the Ektron Workarea, and gave a bit of demo of their custom UI. The talk didn't go into any code, instead focusing on basic concepts. The big technical take-aways for me were some smartform limitations he enumerated and an updated version of the code from Bill Cava's Ektron Content Types Webinar.

The two smartform limitations had to do with specific field limitations, first is that PageBuilder pages can't be selected for a content resource. Kind of lame but not really surprising considering the normal mode for displaying a smartform was designed with XSLT in mind. Even though PageBuilder pages are represented as XML internally, there's not really a way to display them with XSLT, and the Ektron ContentBlock control would choke on them.

The other limitation had to do with date fields which can hold time information but the smartform can't handle time. So, if you create a custom UI to insert dates, be aware that anyone saving that smartform in the workarea will overwrite the time to 12AM.

Ektron Best Practices

Next we have the Ektron Best Practices talk by Bill Cava. This talk was very good at last years Synergy. This year's talk contained a good amount of the same information which is a little disappointing but not entirely unexpected. Bill pushed using smartforms, which is what we've already found to be very good advice in general. Some things that were new for this year (as far as my recollection goes anyway) included a few suggestions about when to use various features and APIs.

SmartForm Fields vs MetaData

Just like last year Bill really pushed using SmartForms for most content. At NAU we've very much found that to be the case. This year he added some information about when to use a SmartForm field vs. when to put information into the Content MetaData. Just as a general rule of thumb, use a SmartForm field when the information is going to be displayed on the page. Metadata would be a better choice for relating in other pieces of content. This is advice we're following at work, so it's nice to see that we're on the right track.

While talking about modeling data in SmartForms, he mentioned the book Content Strategy for Mobile as being a good resource for thinking about how to break down content, and that it was good for more than just mobile.

ContentManager vs SeachManager

Bill also went over the differences between the ContentManager and the SearchManager in the new Ektron Framework API. This seemed to be mostly stuff one might guess. The ContentManager has some simple filters that are limited to the properties of ContentData, but has up-to-date and accurate information coming directly from the database. SearchManager, on the other hand, has a more expressive way of quering for data, but might not contain the latest, or latest version, of content.

Three-Tier Architecture & Templated Controls

Coming up soon is an Ektron MinSite install that creates a basic Web Application project using a multi-tier architecture. Starting out it should just be available through the Synergy site, but will later be one of the default installation options.

Related to that, the old Ektron server controls won't work with a 3-tier solution, but v8.6 introduced templated Ektron controls which now do. As an added benefit, developers can now specify the output of the control just like any other templated control (e.g. ListView, Repeater).

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