Book review: Plone 3 Intranets

One of the latest Plone books from Packt Publishing is Plone 3 Intranets (Design, build, and deploy a reliable, full-featured, and secure Plone-based enterprise intranet easily from scratch) by Víctor Fernández de Alba. Packt sent me a copy and asked me to review it.

My first observation: since I’ve been developing Plone sites for a couple of years now, I’m not really part of the targeted audience. The book is meant for people without Plone experience and the reader doesn’t need any programming or CMS knowledge.

As a result the book starts with an introduction to Plone (and Python) and guides the reader through the installation of an instance. While the unified installer is demonstrated, the book also shows buildout. The latter may seem unnecessary for the target audience, but later chapters also use buildout, for instance to install add-on products.

Chapters three through eight are devoted to core concepts of Plone: managing content, configuration, users, groups, workflow, security, and so on. These chapters give the reader a good overview of what Plone has to offer for intranets. The author also suggests a number of third party products to add even more functionality (see the table of contents for details).

Chapter ten is where the book surprised me a bit. Suddenly the author starts developing a product himself. This wasn’t exactly what I had suspected given the target audience. Chapter eleven switches back to using the available functionality (like content rules, WebDAV and external editing). Yet in chapter twelve there’s more code: subjects like TAL, METAL, viewlets, acquisition and resource registries are briefly explained.

The last chapter is devoted to deploying the intranet. It demonstrates Apache configurations, but also discusses the usage of a ZEO server/client setup, load balancing and caching.

Verdict

It’s hard for me to put myself in the shoes of someone unknown with programming, Plone or even a CMS, so I might underestimate the target audience of this book. However, I feel that the chapters about creating a custom product and theme (chapters ten and twelve) might not be suitable for them and leave them with a lot of questions. On the other hand, the author has experience training non-technical end-users and so let’s give him the benefit of the doubt.

By the way, don’t let the fact that the book is based on Plone 3 scare you: the author frequently points out where it differs from Plone 4, which has recently been released.

Overall Plone 3 Intranets is a good introduction and a really nice overview of the broad functionality Plone has to offer. After reading the book you should probably be able to get a nice intranet up and running with the practical tips and examples in the book.