Tootin’ my own horn

So the reason I’ve been so quiet of late is that I’m insanely busy finishing of the new version of my CMS Suite – The Pencilcase (now redubbed, for a variety of really dull reasons, The Pencilneck CMS). We’re releasing Version 4.0 at the end of this month. Version 4! That’s crazy. I can still remember the fevered nights in early 2000 as I cobbled together version 1.0. When I look back at sites running that version (and, amazingly, there are 3 that still run version 1.0), I’m somewhat horrified, and incredibly pleased with how far both the CMS, and I, have come in that time.

But what I’m particularly excited about is the work I’ve been doing around email Newsletter campaign management – a core of our product, and an increasingly popular feature. Nothing that I’m doing is revolutionary, but it’s new to me, and it working better than I’d hoped. In brief, what I’ve done is allowed the creation of a newsletter template in its entirety from within the CMS. A designer (and this tool is designed for our design partners) can come along, create content “Blocks” ( discrete portion of a newsletter), enter the default markup for it (say, a 3-column table), and also write the CSS for that portion. The fun thing is that you can do on-the-fly CSS edits, just by clicking between the “HTML” and the “CSS” tab – no need to save between each edit, just click back and forth, much like the Dreamweaver Design/Code view, to see how it all works.

Once you have your content blocks, you create a layout, then a “Style” – which is the portion of the CSS that will control color, font-size, etc (markup, as opposed to layout) (again all editable on the fly). You can then re-use your content blocks across completely different newsletter with completely different styles (inspiration stolen from Dave’s Zen Garden). I’ve already create a pair of newsletters for one of our beta-tester clients that use the same content blocks, but look radically different, simply because of the stylesheet applied afterwards. Not only was it WAY easier to create a new newsletter template than under our old system, I didn’t ever have to leave the CMS! Woot!

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