Publishing Pindar CMS to ASP.NET site – Part 1

Technologies used

Windows Communications Framework (WCF), VB.NET windows forms, SQL server, Oracle, Pindar Catalogue Management System (CMS)

Link to Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Background:

Pindar produce a Catalogue Management System (CMS), that is used by many large catalogue companies to manage, traditionally printed catalogues. Companies such as the large electronic components catalogues and clothes directories.

From a technical perspective, CMS is an Oracle database that holds all the items, prices, page content, layout, pictures, paragraphs, sections, pages, publications and other resources linked to those entities. It handles work flow of the activities that are required to generate catalogue content with authorisation and release concepts, handles multi-lingual translations and the workflow involved in getting that content translated. As you can tell this is an expensive and powerful publication system for the larger catalogue companies.

The Oracle database if fronted by a number of optional components, the most important to us are the CMS manager this is the forms front end to the system and the Quark extensions that allow the pages to be built in Quark and ultimately sent to the printers in postscript files. Essentially the Quark extensions allow the Quark to understand and build the pages from all the elements held in the database, very cool to see. Oh and it works on both Mac and PC, obviously with the publishing heritage.

Delphi

Many years ago I wrote an application in Delphi in my own time that took content exported from CMS tables into excel and then built HTML pages using this information. It read the page layouts and essentially built the page in HMTL in a similar same way that the Quark extension does it in Quark. All be it the subsection of functions that we utilised. One of the major problems was handling the Quark and Stibo (previous catalogue management system) tags that littered the text returned from CMS and this was back when CSS was only something really academic web developers knew existed and was not mature enough to support the complex page make up of a catalogue.
Things turned direction and I never actually used this application and the folder and source code on floppy disks got stuffed on my shelf for another time.

Requirement

Getting the text of the catalogue onto our web pages as text rather than PDFs suddenly went to the top of the list when we bought our Google Mini, and the need to feed it with rich content. I dusted down the Delphi project stripped out the bits I needed and started on a adventure to build an application that would allow the publication of item groups from CMS to our internet site. This was also was the prefect project to add to my experience of Windows Communication Foundation, WCF.

The application had to allow the CMS user to see which item group texts had been updated since they were last published to the web and preview those groups then publishing the new version to the internet.

See how I used MD5 check sums and last modified dates, and schema validations to ensure the content had changed and was valid by following the project.

read Part 2