I deliberately don’t write about things of a technical nature (except maybe my technical ability on the football pitch) but I’m going to change my policy and go a little bit more technical. Don’t panic, I’m not going to write thousands of words about the latest wireless protocol or argue the Linux vs. Microsoft point. I’m just going to inject a small amount of technical content from time to time. Like now.
Ever since the initial version 1 of the product came out, I’ve been using CityDesk. It’s a content management tool written by Joel Spolsky’s company Fog Creek Software. Joel is a bit of a software management guru and, through reading his articles, I’ve massively improved as a software developer over the years. His famous “Joel Test” of rating a development team served as a wake-up call to me and my team when we read it and as a result we now run at about 9/10 (which is pretty good really). Anyway, he’s a guy who knows about software and with the release of the first version of CityDesk I just had to have a look.
I’ve been using it for about 18 months now, version 2 of the product has just been released and basically it’s a superb piece of software. I’m one of these guys who doesn’t buy software. Most of the software I’m running on my laptop as we speak has come from my MSDN subscription that I get from work (i.e. virtually every piece of Microsoft software). I’ve used software downloaded from various file-sharing systems, downloaded cracks and other shameful deeds in the past and I’m suitably ashamed, but these days I just use what I can get for free. My main exception has been anti-virus software, which I happen to think is worth the money. However, CityDesk is another exception. I bought the home edition (with a 500 page limit) which was $99, then when an offer to upgrade to the professional, unrestricted version for a further $100 came along I jumped at it.
I used to be a web designer and I’ve tried virtually everything there is out there and nothing comes close to CityDesk in terms of power, flexibility and ease of updating your site. The scripting may seem limited at first sight, but with a bit of imagination you can achieve virtually anything you want. Take my site for example. When I write a new article I simply type in the content in the window you see on your right. I then save, hit publish and magically it creates my index, archives, rss feed and adds all the rest of the pages. It also uses the templates I’ve already defined to create the final look of the site. CityDesk then publishes them to my server and it’s all done. Yet all I had to do was type the body of the entry into a window, click a button that says ‘Publish’ and relax.
Once you’ve set up your templates you need never think about them again. You just concentrate on the content, the main window is a tree view of your entire site – ideal for management. But you’re not just restricted to publishing weblogs with it. You can create HTML help with it, I’ve used it to actually write software (the code behind a DHTML dialog to be precise) and of course create any kind of web site you like. But once the site is set up you can give it to anyone, even with no understanding of web site design or just rudimentary computer skills and they can continue to update the site – it really is that easy to use.
I can’t recommend CityDesk highly enough. Once you realise what it can and can’t do (the scripting could be more powerful) and look at the competition out there you can see just what a class product it is. Okay, that’s enough praise for now. But I’ll finish by saying that if CityDesk had been around when I got paid for creating and managing web sites my job would have been a lot easier and I’d have spent a fraction of the time I did on it (although being paid by the hour, maybe it was just as well).