This is the third article in my series comparing Sitefinity 3.x to 4 (Beta). Today I want to take a brief walk-through the new Sitefinity Administration, with a screenshot-heavy look at what's new, different, and improved in the coming version 4.0
A New Look
Right of the bat, you can immediately see a difference in Sitefinity, with a focus on clean, sleek but simple detail. There is also a useful password recovery tool now built into the interface. This is a welcome addition, but does require that you have your SMTP settings configured for retrieval.
After logging in you're taken to the Dashboard, which is not yet complete as of the current version (Beta 2 as of this post). However it does give you links to some excellent resources for getting started, as well a nice rundown of the new features, which I'll be covering in more detail on future posts.
I will be taking a closer look at the Sitefinity Pages Administration in a future post, walking step by step through the new features, but already you can see a much cleaner (and faster!) implementation. The SiteMap is now front and center, with advanced sorting and searching options to make it easier to find what you need to work on, as well as a Action Menu giving you one-click access to common actions.
Editing pages is now snappier and powerful, with a updated Toolbox Menu for selecting controls (now referred to as Widgets) featuring icons for a better look and user experience. But there is so much more, including a new Layout Editor, which allows you to build new layouts (such as two or three columns) without the need for a separate master page!
We'll take a closer look at how this works, as well as a wealth of new features in a future post on Pages. For now, here's a quick preview of the Page Editor.
Content (Formerly Modules)
One of the biggest changes from Sitefinity 3.x to 4.0 is regarding Modules. In addition to renaming them under the term "Content", their implementation has been rebuilt so that it's faster and easier than ever to extend existing modules or create new ones.
You no longer have to reference an extensive list of base classes or implement custom permissions as you did in 3.x. With Sitefinity 4, new modules can even be created by dropping a UserControl on an Admin page, with no internal wiring or complex integration!
We'll take a closer look at how easy it is to build a module in a future post, as well as a walk-through the different modules and how they compare to their 3.x counterparts. For now, here's a teaser look at the News and Images modules, notice the much cleaner look and layout.
Another significant improvement in the new Sitefinity 4 is its robust and comprehensive classification tools. Where Sitefinity 3.x kept separate category and tag lists for each provider or module, Sitefinity 4 now unites these all into a global list of classifications under which content can be listed!
This means you can now tag any item of any type (page, news item, blog post, even an image) with a single tag or category and relate all of these items together. Imagine tag clouds that link EVERYTHING in your site together, or automatically showing a list of related images or news items at the end of a blog post. The possibilities are endless thanks to the new classification system in Sitefinity 4!
Templates and Layout Editor
Of all the improvements made over Sitefinity 3.x, the new Templates upgrade is by far my favorite. This component has been overhauled in 4.0, making it more powerful and useful than ever before. You still develop templates as standard master pages, you are now able to use a layout editor to build multiple templates on the fly from a single master page. This means you can define a one, two, or three column layout template without the need to define three separate master pages!
We'll take a closer look at the layout editor in my post on Sitefinity Pages, coming later this week.
The Administration Tab in Sitefinity 3.x has been upgraded as well, continuing the goal of a simpler and more streamlined experience. All the previous tools are available, such as user management and permissions, syndication (RSS Feeds), and File Manager. However, there are some nifty new features available, including the long awaited configuration settings manager, which lets you update Sitefinity settings without editing the web.config file!
We'll take a closer look at the Administration section soon as well, but here's a few screen shots to pique your interest in the meantime.
The Feeds manager sports a cleaner look, but more importantly, now gives you the ability to choose the feed type (RSS or ATOM).
The file manager is pretty much similar to 3.x, although I have noticed it performs much faster and just "feels" better in the new Admin interface.
Users, Roles, and Permissions
Users and permissions are still here, with the same clean look and helpful filter options.
This is the one I think everyone has been waiting for: the new Settings Manager means you no longer need to edit Sitefinity settings in the web.config file! All editable settings are now stored in local XML files, including managing the items in the Toolbox!
One of the neatest features new to Sitefinity 4.0 is the ability to integrate with Google Analytics. This is something 3.x users have been wanting for a while, so I'm excited to see it implemented so well! Gabe Sumner has already written a brief article about Sitefinity integration with Google Analytics, including a preview project you can download and play with!
Backend Pages - Editing Sitefinity WITH Sitefinity!
One of the more exciting features available to 4.0 that should be a welcome change for 3.x users is the ability to use the Sitefinity Administration to edit itself. That is, you can use the Page Editor in Sitefinity to actually edit the Pages in the Sitefinity Administration Backend!
This means you can easily add new pages, features, sections, even modules or anything you might need simply by creating a new page and adding your custom content. Adding a module can now be as simple as adding a custom backend page and dropping in a custom UserControl!
Of course, this feature should be limited to specific users, and thankfully the new Permissions management in Sitefinity is very robust and granular. We'll take a look at that in a future post as well.
Sitefinity 4.0 represents a remarkable and significant step forward in Content Management. You still keep the simplicity and flexibility you've come to expect from version 3.x. With version 4, it has been taken to a whole new level, allowing you to do more, do it better, and do it easier than before.
A few things may have undoubtedly changed; however, as we go into the details in future posts, it is clear that it is all for the better, improving the process of fulfilling Telerik's promise to deliver more than expected!