MCMS Connector for SharePoint Technologies is a free download from Microsoft that enables you to integrate Microsoft Content Management Server (MCMS) 2002 and Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server (SPS) 2003. It covers three main areas of integration:
- Publish WSS/SPS document library content to MCMS sites
- Publish MCMS content within SPS portals
- SPS Search with MCMS
The Connector package includes a readme file with a hyperlink buried in a paragraph to download the installation document from Microsoft web site. I rather see the document included in the package as it contains a few surprises. The installation document is 28 pages long! Yes, for once I am whining about too much documentation. The most important thing to note is you need to have MCMS and SPS in one box if you want to author SPS document library content in MCMS sites. This is not going to happen in production, and severely limits the usefulness of the Connector. There are some caveats when both servers are installed in one box, some of which are addressed in the installation document. If your MCMS sites use Forms Authentication, you need to change them to Windows Authentication as Forms Authentication is not supported by the Connector when both servers are installed in one box.
The document goes on to tell you the installation sequence, basically the Connector needs to be last. If you are installing everything from scratch, you need to create a SPS portal before you install the Connector. The Connector includes three SPS web parts (packaged up in a CAB file) to facilitate publishing MCMS content within SPS portals. There is no mention on how to install them. If you are familiar with SPS, the command line utility to run is:
C:\Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\
web server extensions\60\BIN\stsadm.exe
-filename "C:\Program Files\MCMS Connector
for SharePoint Technologies\WSS\Bin\CmsWebParts.cab"
-url http://<portal server name>
To create the content source in SPS for search, you need to run the following command line utility:
C:\Program Files\MCMS Connector for SharePoint Technologies\WSS\Bin\searchsetup.exe
-url "<MCMS Site Url>"
-portalurl http://<portal server name>/
The content source will be created under non-portal content. No search scopes are allowed.
Publish WSS/SPS document library content to MCMS sites
The SharePoint Document Placeholder allows authors to publish WSS/SPS document library content to MCMS sites.
When authors click on the placeholder, it launches a Placeholder Properties dialog.
This dialog allows you to select a document from a portal site and document library. A second dialog then offers you a selection of styles to render the document.
If the document is an InfoPath or WordML document, you can render it as inline content though no sample is included. Otherwise, the document is rendered as a hyperlink with the optional document properties displayed below it.
- Flexible, customizable and XML-based.
- The placeholder control is tied to a default Style Sheet Catalog catalog.xml. It tells the placeholder what rendering styles are available for selection for different types of documents. To limit the selection available to the authors, you can build a custom catalog and assign it to the placeholder through the placeholder control property
- Rendering styles are achieved through XSL stylesheets. New rendering styles can be added by building custom stylesheets.
- InfoPath documents enable XML-based content authoring and can be rendered as inline content.
- Programmatic access to placeholder content and document properties through placeholder API properties
- Instead of storing a reference to the WSS/SPS document, a separate physical copy is stored in MCMS. Although this provides the user option of whether you want to keep the placeholder document in sync with the source document in WSS/SPS, the separate storage is not efficient and can be error prone. I would think keeping the documents in sync is the norm rather than rarity here. A command line utility called WssDocumentUpdater is provided to synchronize the placeholder documents with the source. (Unlike Content Integration Pack, the predecessor of the Connector,
WssDocumentUpdater does not change the state of the document posting and therefore does not require posting re-approval when the document posting is updated.) Users are advised to schedule this document update utility to run at regular intervals. A log is generated each time WssDocumentUpdater is run. Unless you are on top of the log files on every run, errors during synchronization can easily be overlooked leaving the placeholder documents out-of-date.
- Right now, if I am an MCMS author, I need to go to SPS to upload a document and then back to MCMS to select it. For non-technical authors, the learning curve may be a bit steep and the experience undesirable. As much as I admire the capability of SPS, it is not exactly the most UI friendly product. It would be nice if the Connector provides the capability to upload a document to WSS/SPS within a MCMS environment. By the way, if anyone knows the real difference between Areas and Topics in SPS, please let me know
- Out-of-the-box stylesheets are not pretty.
- Like Single Attachment Placeholder, each Document Placeholder stores one document only. Unlike HTML Placeholders, it cannot be used to hyperlink a word in the middle of a sentence to a document, for example.
Publish MCMS content within SPS portals
Three SPS web parts are included in the Connector. They are:
- MCMS Page Listing Web Part: It displays a list of MCMS pages in a particular channel. This Web Part has three views, including a summary view, a list view, and a detailed list view. You can also create up to three customizable views.
- MCMS Pages Waiting for Approval Web Part: It displays a list of all submitted pages that are waiting for your approval.
- MCMS Pages in Production Web Part: It displays a list of all MCMS web pages that you authored and that are unpublished.
Sample templates with navigation controls and CSS style sheets are also provided that has the same look and feel of a SPS site. The idea is when you are managing content in a SPS site, you will be able to author MCMS content in an environment that looks identical to your SPS site, thus creating the impression that you are still in the SPS site.
- Seamless user experience for SPS content contributors.
- Ability to create custom views for Page Listing Web Part.
- No sample provided on how to create custom MCMS Web Parts.
SPS Search with MCMS
There are primarily three controls provided to enable SPS search on a MCMS site:
SearchInputControl: It renders an input textbox to accept a search term. Optional properties search are shown when the control is set to Advanced mode.
SearchResultControl: It submits the search term to the SPS search engine and renders the search results.
SearchMetaTagGenerator: It generates meta tags for a MCMS page.
- Easy to use.
- Allows MCMS Page Properties (through
SearchMetaTagGenerator), SPS Document Properties or any other custom properties (through custom scripting and command line utility SearchPropertiesSetup) to be indexed and included in the search.
- The UI of the search results needs improvement. Total number of matches is not shown. And who would have thought, not me anyway, that the right arrow pointing to the "Showing Items …" is a next page link.
- Mostly not customizable. For example, the layout of the search results grid is not customizable. You cannot hide or add a column.
It will be interesting to see how these two products MCMS and SPS develop in the future as SPS begins to encompass more content authoring capabilities. The star component of the Connector is the SharePoint Document Placeholder. While I question the underlying architecture of storing a separate copy of the WSS/SPS document in SPS, I do admire its XML authoring capability and the customizable stylesheets for rendering documents. It comes with a handicap though. Both MCMS and SPS needs to be installed in one box, an unrealistic expectation in my opinion.
The let down has to be the Search controls. The fact that they are not customizable to the extent mentioned above makes them not usable in most situations. To make matters worse, I am not aware of any sample search codes posted by Microsoft so developers can write their own. Having said that the Connector is free for download. Well, you can't have everything for free.
[Updated 2005.04.27] Since this review, I have written several articles on MCMS SharePoint integration. They can be used standalone or to complement the MCMS Connector.