Oct 20, 2012

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Review of Aspeli’s Professional Plone 4 Development

I owe PACKT a review of this book, so here it is.

First: I liked it. Second: I appreciate Aspeli writing it. Third: Like many others, I couldn’t wait for it to come out. Fourth: I know that it was a TON OF WORK and PROBABLY NOT WORTH THE MONEY to write it. So why write a Plone book? A few reasons (other than money):

  • It’s good for you
  • It’s good for the community
  • It’s good for Plone

So if you care about Plone: please go buy both an electronic and paper version of this book RIGHT NOW [0]. While you are at it, please pick up a copy of Plone 3.3 Site Administration. It’s quite good, and I hear the author is a swell guy who would appreciate your generosity [1] [2].

What I like

First let me cover what I ABSOLUTELY LOVE about this book.

buildout:eggs

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Aspeli correctly addresses one of my biggest pet peeves (concerns) about what I believe to be an ANTI-PATTERN in almost every Plone buildout: buildout:eggs (referring to the eggs parameter of the buildout section; it does not exist, other than as a convenient variable setting).

If you know me, you know I’ve spoken about this before and whilst I’ve moved on from harping on it I will say this: with most software that uses ini-style configuration files when you set a parameter you expect something to happen. But since Buildout is more complicated than the average software that uses ini-style configuration, that expectation is not always met.

Add-ons

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Did you see? You might have missed it. No mention of Products WHAT-SO-EVER. “Product” was a term that Zope2 used for Python libraries that enhanced the functionality of Zope2, and it stuck. Now, it should die in favor of a term everyone else in the world is familiar with (in this context): add-on. Well played, Aspeli. Well played.

The Review

I will now talk about each chapter briefly. This will be TL;DR-style, but I hope you’ll get a nice idea for why this book is so great. Every imaginable detail for each section is covered in the book in painstaking detail by Aspeli. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask them in the comments.

Chapter 1: Plone in Context

In which we learn what, why & when Plone is, plus a bit more. My favorite sub-section is: Plone-the-application and Plone-the-framework, in which Aspeli describes the phenomenon of Plone the application being used by some folks as a generic Python web framework. Plone’s strengh and indeed its raison d’etre (reason to exist) is to provide a fully-featured CMS web application suitable for immediate use, or use immediately after a few simple customizations. So if you try to use it as a web framework, you may not get exactly what you expect (because it was not designed to be used that way).

Chapter 2: Introduction to the Case Study

In which we learn how a professional may execute a typical website project with Plone. This is a nice little chapter with some great details about the fictional project that will be executed throughout the remainder of the book: requirements, mockups, and information architecture are the highlights here; as well as the necessary CMS details like users, groups, and content types.

Chapter 3: The Development Environment

In which we learn about how to setup an environment in which you can customize Plone to suit your needs. TL;DR: fairly typical Python development environment [3] with additional Plone details covered: Buildout recipes, development libraries, and more.

Chapter 4: Basics of Customization

In which we learn about the technical architecture of Plone: ZODB, GenericSetup, Zope2 CMF, Zope Component Architecture, and more (!). And the best way to implement your requirements within that architecture.

Chapter 5: Developing a Site Strategy

In which we learn about how to bundle your customizations into a Python package for general use.

Chapter 6: Security and Workflow

In which we learn about how Plone implements generic web application features and how you can customize that implementation.

Chapter 7: Using Add-ons

In which we learn about how to add additional Python libraries to Plone to provide additional features.

Chapter 8: Creating a Custom Theme

In which we learn about Plone’s new theming engine: Diazo.

Chapter 9: Nine Core Concepts of Zope Programming

In which learn a bit more about the technical architecture of Plone. If you love this chapter (as many do), you might also enjoy: http://developer.plone.org/reference_manuals/old/zope_secrets/index.html.

Chapter 10: Custom Content Types

In which we learn about Plone’s new content type framework: Dexterity.

Chapter 11: Standalone Views and Forms

In which we learn about a topic that would be first, if Plone were a generic website framework: how to build forms.

Chapter 12: Relational Databases

In which we learn about how to integrate a relational database into your CMS application. Since Plone relies heavily on the ZODB, none is included by default.

Chapter 13: Users and their Permissions

In which we learn about another topic that would be covered first if Plone were a generic website framework: authentication and authorization.

Chapter 14: Dynamic User Interfaces with jQuery

In which we learn about using jQuery in Plone.

Chapter 15: Summary and Potential Enhancements

In which we learn about next steps. You’ve just built and delivered a CMS application for your client. What will they ask you for next? And how will you implement it.

Conclusion

I hope you have enjoyed this review; and I hope you’ll consider purchasing a copy of Aspeli’s book for your next Plone project.

Like this article? Consider a gittip. You may also want to follow me on twitter.

[0]Disclaimer: I was given a copy of both versions in exchange for this review.
[1]Seriously though, whilst PACKT literally forces you to include a software version number in your title, Plone 3.3 Site Administration is still relevant to today’s Plone. I expect it will be relevant through at least Plone 5.
[2]The financial details of (at least) my contract for writing a book with PACKT CLEARLY FAVORED PACKT. That said, I think they are a great organization and I am proud to be a PACKT author. But according to my statements, I still need to earn about $1K more in royalties before I have paid back my advance. Notice what I just said there: earn in royalties i.e. I have to sell enough books in order to get PACKT to pay out enough money to meet the terms of the contract. I won’t pretend to have any idea why PACKT does what it does with its contracts, except to say that I assume they expect to make money. I’ll also assume everything is on the up and up. But unfortunately sometimes the “up and up” can look like this: http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20121018/01054720744/hollywood-accounting-how-19-million-movie-makes-150-million-still-isnt-profitable.shtml.
[3]$ pip install Plone support may be available soon which may blow the lid off the Python popularity shack (raise the level of interest from generic Python developers interested in Python CMS applications).

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