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Practical Plone 3: Book Review

Last Friday I got a new book Practical Plone 3: A Beginner's Guide to Building Powerful Websites from Packt Publishing. This is the first Plone book aimed to reach beginners in Plone, who are willing to build websites with Plone 3. It teaches how to deal with Plone and set it up, not involving into programming or dealing with code. Covering everything from installation to site administration basics, content types development, theming with Plone and much more, it can be the perfect webmaster guide for Plone novices.

The book consists of 4 parts. I have already covered half of it - first two parts. So, I would share impressions they have made on me.

Part 1 - Background covers main introductory issues of Plone. Chapter 1 is a short, but well written chapter about Plone, its basic features, community and what Plone is and where it came from. Chapter 2 is all about installing Plone on different platforms. The explanations are really detailed and illustrated enough for anyone new to Plone. I should admit that I always needed help to install Plone on my Linux machine (even though I'm not a newbie to Plone, I have been working with it for more than 2 years). But with this book for the first time I successfully installed the latest Plone 3.2.1 version on my machine. So, for me personally, explanations on Plone installation for Linux were very valuable. Chapter 3 has the fine overview of Plone registration and logging in. All basic Plone site parts, such as logo, portal actions, personal dashboard, portlets and colophon are described here with particular preciseness.

Part 2 - I want to... has general content management issues discussed, such as how to add content to your Plone website, how to store and manage it. General workflow issues together with content rules explained in much details will help you create the necessary secure work environment. Chapters 4 and 5 are about creating web pages, news items, events, links and files within Plone. Although they provide very basic procedures for using a Plone site for keeping the content, it is really well written and suitable for the most newbie user level. Explanations are followed by multiple screenshots, making it very understandable and illustrative. Chapter 6 and 7 do a really good job on the structuring content on your website, displaying the basics of content architecture. Versioning was also described with precise details, thanks to Darci Hanning. As for newcomers to Plone this can be more than enough.

Chapter 8 is a great section on managing users and user groups within Plone. All basic roles and permissions were discussed on the basis of real example for High School members. Such living example really made it easier to grab the idea. What I liked the most is that one example project is discussed in several chapters from different perspective, making a connection between what a reader has already learned and a new material.

Chapter 9 talks in great details about workflow, states and transitions in Plone. At a first glance it seemed to be a bit confusing to get into Plone workflow engine, opening all multiple menus and tabs under portal_workflow in ZMI. This is the chapter I spent more time on than on any other chapters. Workflow has never been an easy issue to deal with, so I followed the provided step-by-step example about custom collaboration workflow creation (on p.161). I must admit that this was not so terrible as it seemed at the beginning. Matt Bowen, who is the author of this chapter, made his best to make such rather confusing issues well-explained and more clear. I would also add information on mapping states to this section too, now it is available in chapter 12 on Configuration. I think it would be better to collect all info about Types menu in one place.

Chapter 10 is a very useful how-to on portlet management in Plone. Everything beginning from default portlet management to creating new types of portlets was described (with TAL Portlet product). Much attention was paid to explaining how to assign portlets to specific objects on site, certain content type or users groups. Chapter 11 includes several examples on enabling rules on your website. Chapter 12 provides information about Plone Site Setup item. But some of it seems to be too much, for example: chapter 8 is devoted to users in groups in Plone, and I would combine information about creating new group and adding group into a group from this chapter to chapter 8. So that all info on user management is in one place.

To sum up, I should say that starting from the very basics, this book shows how to get a good understanding of Plone and use it effectively. The language of the book is rather easy, big amount of illustrative examples, step-by-step instructions and easy-to-follow how-tos make this book a pleasure to read. Overall, the authors have produced a volume that can be recommended for every beginner in Plone.

Reviewer: Olha Pelishok, content manager at Quintagroup

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