The SharePoint products and technologies are primarily positioned to be a collaboration platform. However, Internet-facing, content-centric sites are not typically collaborative; rather, they are usually static and provide a read-only view of the content to site visitors. This read-only experience is an obvious difference from how a typical SharePoint site is intended to be used. The addition of WCM solves this problem because it leverages all the capabilities that SharePoint Server 2007 has to offer while implementing a different experience for content consumers of the site. And it does all this while providing a rich and robust platform for content owners to manage the site.
Because a publishing site is just another type of SharePoint site, this chapter will focus only on the publishing aspects of a publishing site. For example, management of permissions, site creation rights, themes, and features are not covered in this chapter because these topics are general topics that are covered in other chapters.
Because WCM is part of SharePoint Server 2007, which is built on top of Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services 3.0, publishing sites have access to all the native features that Windows SharePoint Services and SharePoint Server 2007 provide. These features include lists, the Recycle Bin, integrated workflow, integrated enterprise search, Real Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds, the Web Part framework, pluggable authentication, alerts, versioning, content deployment, audience targeting, and more. In addition to supporting all these features, WCM extends SharePoint Server 2007 by adding a rich Web-based authoring experience for site content owners, as well as extensive hooks into the 2007 Microsoft Office system for an even more robust authoring solution that leverages Microsoft Office Word 2007 and InfoPath 2007.
WCM adds a few additional default security groups that apply directly to managing a content-centric site. For site developers and designers, WCM adds a template mechanism that enables developers to specify a set of templates that content owners can use when creating new pages. These templates are used to enforce the common look and feel of a site, as well as the company branding and navigation tools. Finally, many companies also need to publish their sites for multiple devices (Web browsers, phones, and so on) and in multiple languages. To address these needs, WCM includes a feature called variations, which helps you manage separate versions of your site. Let's take look at each of these areas in more detail.
SharePoint Server 2007 includes five default permission levels (Full Control, Design, Contribute, Read, and Limited Access) and three default permission groups (Members, Owners, and Visitors) with all sites. The Publishing feature builds on this list by adding four new permission levels and five SharePoint groups. A permission level groups granular permission settings into a manageable collection that can be assigned a name and description. These levels are then used by permission groups to assign rights to users (who are members of the group). (Refer to the section "Assigning Security Groups and Permission Levels" later in this chapter for more information.) These additions give site administrators and owners more granular control of delegating capabilities and responsibilities over their content-centric sites than the permission levels and groups built into SharePoint Server offer.
In a content-centric site, it's very important to have a clear separation of the presentation and branding code that implements the global look and feel of the site from the actual site content. This separation not only facilitates the easy and rapid creation of new content, but it also makes the process of rebranding an entire site much easier. The SharePoint Publishing feature fully supports this process of keeping the look and feel of the site separate from the content.
Site branding and design is implemented using ASP.NET 2.0 master pages and page layouts (ASPX pages). The master page is used to define the elements that make up the common branding of a site, such as the header, footer, and navigation tools. Page layouts are used to define the arrangement of the main content part of the page; a page layout is the template for a content page. When combined at runtime, the master page and the page layouts define the look and feel of the requested page.
This combination is managed by the site developers and designers; they will build and provide the various page layouts that content owners can pick from when creating new pages. Page layouts must conform to a content type that derives from the Page content type. The Page content type contains columns such as the name, title, and description of the page, as well as publishing schedule and contact information. Designers designate specific parts of the page layout files as locations where content owners can add and edit content. Each part of a page that contains the editable content is called a field control. Each of these fields is associated with a column defined in the content type the page layout is based on.
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For detailed information on content types, please see Chapter 15, "Managing Content Types."
When a new page is created on the site, the page's content and properties are stored as a new list item within a special SharePoint document library named Pages. When a site collection has the Publishing feature activated, all sites within the collection will have their own Pages document library. Administrators can control who has rights to create and edit pages by managing the permissions on the Pages document library. Because a publishing site usually consists of many sites within a site collection, each site can have unique permissions (or inherit permissions from its parent site), allowing administrators to delegate the content ownership and management to one team for one site while having a completely different permission structure for another site within the collection.
Many organizations don't want to limit use of their content-centric sites to only users with the most common Web browsers. However, creating separate versions of their content for each type of Web browser can be very challenging, as everything must stay synchronized. This is also true for organizations who want to publish their Web site in multiple languages. The Publishing feature solves these problems by introducing a new concept called variations. Variations allow administrators to define multiple versions of a site. SharePoint Server 2007 handles most of the work of keeping the variations of a site synchronized, although some manual tasks will likely be involved, such as translating content from one language to another. Variations will be discussed in greater detail later in this chapter.