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Outstanding user-driven publishing

Jan 19, 20044 mins
Enterprise Applications

Thanks for responding to last week’s call for what you want to hear more about in this column. So far it seems that programming tutorials, explanations of protocols and software reviews (especially open source projects) are at the top of your lists. If you haven’t written to us yet, don’t be shy, we want to hear from you.

This week we’ll address one of your desires with software review. This product is not, however, open source, but it is, what word do we need . . . outstanding? terrific? fantabulous?

We came across this gem because we were looking for a way to let non-technical people update a nonprofit school’s Web site. We started out by looking for freeware but all the software we found was either too complicated or didn’t make the process any easier.

What we wanted was something that would let us make Web content updates with a browser, and we wanted to control access using named accounts with passwords and the ability to restrict the content that individual accounts could modify. To add to that, we wanted something that was easy to use and simple to install and had little or no management overhead. Was that too much to ask for?

Apparently so, because we couldn’t find any freeware that fit the bill. So we wound up going to a commercial vendor that had just what we needed. The vendor is, and the product is Page Publisher.

Page Publisher is a collection of Common Gateway Interface modules written in Perl, thus you must have Perl installed (5.004 or better). You can run Page Publisher on Linux, Windows or any other platform that supports Perl.

Putting it to work

The way the product works is simple and elegant. It uses defined regions in HTML pages identified by special Publishing Markup Language (PML) tags. These regions can be plain text fields, multiline boxes, WYSIWYG text (that is, text that supports formatting), links to define http or “mail to” URLs, images, or an image or file chooser (for content already uploaded to the Web server). Read more about PML tags.

Here’s what a simple text region defined in PML looks like:

Here’s some content.

When you load Page Publisher and authenticate using a valid username and password, you are shown a list of the pages you are authorized to edit. Page Publisher reads the page you select, finds the areas identified by PML tags and generates an editing page with a field for each editable item. When you have finished editing, Page Publisher rewrites the page, replacing the modified data.

Page Publisher is easy to install; you copy the distribution files to a subdirectory under the Web server’s root (the company suggests you call it “pp”) and, if you are running Linux, set the file and folder permissions as specified in the documentation. Under Windows the permissions already will be set.

Now open your browser and load the URL of the program named pp.cgi (by default it will be www./pp/pp.cgi). This will run the Page Publisher program in installation mode.

So follow the configuration force, young Jedi, because it is pretty straightforward. . . . yes, the force is strong with you . . . but we digress. . . . This part is really easy, and the Page Publisher manual is well-written.

Now you are ready to use Page Publisher. Just add the PML tags to every area on every page you want registered users to be able to edit, register them via the Page Publisher management interface and assign authorized users. With just a Web browser, the URL of the Page Publisher logon screen, an account name and password, users now can do the work themselves and when they want. You may never again hear, “When will my content be up?”

Page Publisher costs about $100, includes free installation on your Web server and works flawlessly, and support is very good. You can modify any or all of the look and feel, and Interactive offers detailed information on how to re-brand its product to make it look like you own it for resale or deployment purposes.

A great product at a terrific price with excellent documentation.

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Mark Gibbs is an author, journalist, and man of mystery. His writing for Network World is widely considered to be vastly underpaid. For more than 30 years, Gibbs has consulted, lectured, and authored numerous articles and books about networking, information technology, and the social and political issues surrounding them. His complete bio can be found at

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