Mambo 4.5.1 Review

Written by Administrator


Do you remember the announcement about a Mambo 4.6 release in may? Mambo 4.6 was heavily developed and should introduce some really exciting features. During the development process the Dev Team suddenly decided to stop 4.6's development for awhile and compile an interim solution: Mambo 4.5.1. Finally this turned out to be the best decision ever! Why? Read on and see all the new features of Mambo 4.5.1.

The new admin layout
Compared to Mambo 4.5 the administration backend has made a big step ahead. The design of the backend has been changed to a more professional looking, blue and orange colored style. The usability also has been improved. The toolbar icons now are a little bit larger, which makes it easier to access them, the dropdown menu got a little bit brighter and a new tab system is indroduced with 4.5.1.

A look under the surface reveals even more. The whole administration is now powered by a separate template engine. This engine allows you to create a whole new backend layout. The template system is similar to the frontend engine and uses modules, which can be placed in certain module positions. So we can await new admin templates and as a very powerfull addition backend only modules. This backend modules can provide editors and administrators with additional informations.

The new menu system

One of the most important functions in Mambo is the Menu Manager. While it was a kind of hidden in the 'Site' menu in older versions, the Menu Manager now got a separate menu.You control the whole structure of your Mambo website through these menus. Therefore Mambo 4.5.1 comes with a new powerfull feature: the ability to create an unlimited number of independend menus. This is a big step ahead against 4.5, where you only had 2 menus. These menus can easily be added to your website thought corresponding modules. Now it is possible, to have top, main and bottom menus, which are completely independend and can be fully controlled through the backend.

Copy function and Trash Manager

As you can see in the screenshot above, Mambo has a new function in the toolbar: Copy! This function is available nearly everywhere in the backend administration. Using it, you can easily copy content items, categories and sections. But this is not enough. You can also copy a menu structure and even modules. Especially the possibility to copy modules is a very powerfully function. This way you can easily use modules multiple times and on different locations.

Another new toolbar feature is the Trash Manager. The delete function now does not instantly remove your items from the database, but they are stored in the Trash Manager first. So it is nearly impossible to accidentally delete important content.

Content Item Editing
With Mambo 4.5.1 the Development Team choosed RTE to be Mambo's standard editor. Sadly this editor is much less powerfull then the old HtmlArea2 editor. No image manager, no full screen editing, only basic html support and the most significant problem: no support for Mambo's image and pagebreak bots. The RTE editor was choosen, as it provides better crossbrowser support. But if you ask me, it would be easier if 25% Non-IE users would install RTE than to let 75% IE users install HtmlArea2 manually.

As you can see above the layout of the edit screen has been changed to a 2 column layout. This again is no real pleasure. Editing is only possible for people with screen resultions of 1042 x 768 and above. On 800x600 you have to scroll horizontally. Also the editor boxes did get very small and writing longer texts like this one is no real fun.

But there are also some new and powerfull features in the item editing screen. WIth more than 15 parameters you now are able to decide how a certain content item should look like. This gives you a great variety of possibilites. You can have a news section without content rating and a review section, where can allow public rating on the article for example.

Hidden Improvements
A little bit hidden inside the large number of settings in the Global Configuration screen are two interesting and new features. The Mail settings and the Cache settings. Finally the old email function in Mambo has been replaced. Many had reported Mambo emails being caught by spam filters. These problems should now be gone as Mambo 4.5.1 integrated the popular phpMailer class. In the Global Configuration you now can decide how you would like to send out emails (php, sendmail or SMTP).

Especially interesting for larger websites is the new cache function in Mambo 4.5.1. The cache stores all informations, which are requested by your users for a certain amount of time. If a website is requested twice in this time period Mambo now serves the cached website and does not perform a database query again. This leads to much lesser database load and much faster delivery of the content.

Under the surface
A view under the surface shows even more improvements. The old miniXML parser has been replaced by the faster and more flexible DOMIT. The php XML parser is used for the installation routines and the newsfeed component for example. It also gives 3rd party developers the possibility to easily implement XML functions to their programs.

And excatly these 3rd party developers will be more than lucky about two further improvements: the new Mambot API and the new parameter system. The whole Mambot API has been recoded for 4.5.1 and does now provide two different types of bots. The content bots are very similar to the old Mambo system, as they can perform actions on content items. The search bots can hook into Mambo's search routine. This way developers now can provide fully integrated search functions for their components.

The new parameter system mainly aims module developers. It enables developers to define which parameters their module has. The user in the backend will be able set parameters in a generated form with descriptions and help texts. It looks exactly like the parameters used on content items.

Even a critics like me is impressed! I did not await such a huge step forward in such a short time. Where were all the like version numbers preparing us for the new version?

With Mambo 4.5.1 we do make a much smoother step. Only a few modules have to be updated to the new parameter system. Everything else still will run with 4.5.1. 3rd party developers can use this version to prepare for the upcoming version of Mambo, which will lead us to 4.6 and 5.0.

Although multilanguage support is still missing and the content item editing needs improvement, Mambo 4.5.1 is definitely a milestone in Mambo's development. And even more has been done for Mambo's success. With Mambo 4.5.1 the first time large manuals covering all aspects of Mambo have been released. This is the base to make Mambo the worlds leading Open Source CMS. Congratulations.


Copyright 2004