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Microsoft releases beefed-up content manager

Microsoft has released the first beta of CMS (Content Management Server) 2002, which features support for XML-based Web services, improved content authoring, and tighter integration with Visual Studio .net programming environment and support for ASP .net.

One of the technical highlights of the new release is the authoring connector for Office XP, which allows users to generate and contribute content for a Web site from within the suite of Office applications.

"This [authoring connector] lets users create content from Word, and so from the File menu publish it directly to the content management system and into their workflow, and then on to the Web site. We think it is a more streamlined process," said Chris Ramsey, lead product manager for Microsoft's CMS.

The upcoming product's support for Web services makes it possible for users to expose content and functions of the server as Web services. This makes it simpler for users to integrate Web sites and content residing on other server-based applications regardless of the programming language used to build them.

For instance, corporate accounts can now build more distributed solutions that can span their own users but also tie in the company's business partners through software built on open standards, company officials said.

"We have added a wizard so users can, more easily, add any content being managed in the product. So if they want to expose content to other applications, regardless of what platform those apps are on or what language it has been built in, they can," Ramsey said.

Also in the area of interoperability, Microsoft has built in XML-based content and publishing and storage capabilities through its XML Placeholder Control feature that allows developers to build native XML support into a Web site or publishing environment.

The new server has also been woven together with the company's Application Center Server, which will make it easier to deploy Web sites. Corporate users can now deploy a Web site directly from a development server, testing server, and into its production server, Ramsey said.

As a way to speed up the development of mission-critical Web-based applications using CMS, Microsoft has gone for tighter integration of the server with Visual Studio .net, allowing developers to use Visual Studio as the developer client for CMS.

"So, again from the File menu, developers can create Content Management Server projects. It should greatly reduce the amount of coding developers normally do, and gets them into a drag-and-drop environment for assembling the Web site," Ramsey said.

Another new feature is the sub-administrator role, which gives the product the ability to do distributed administration from a single CMS server. This allows users to manage multiple Web sites from within a single server more effectively, or to manage widely distributed Web sites spanning boundaries of several organisations within a company, Microsoft officials claimed

Microsoft has also introduced CMS Controls, which are objects that encapsulate bread-and-butter-level functions typically found in Web sites. This also allows developers to just drag and drop features into templates instead of having to create those functions by hand.

A significant evolution is upgrading the product's architecture to ASP .net by working in the company's .net framework, which reduces the amount of code needed to build applications and services. The product still supports ASP, however.

Microsoft has also added support for handling a variety of source-code management systems that allows users to pursue a best-of-breed tools strategy. The new support is integrated into the CMS environment, company officials said.

Developers can download the beta version of Content management Server 2002 now from www.microsoft.com/cmserver.

The finished version of the product is slated for release at the end of autumn.
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