Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Feature Review of NetCommunity v5.5

There isn't an established release date for NetCommunity v5.5 but I think we're getting close! It's an exciting upgrade and probably one of the bigger ones the NetCommunity product has seen. I'm personlly pretty excited about the API changes but this release is going to have lots of other non-API features in it.

Steve MacLaughlin just did a blog post on some of the new items we can expect to see in v5.5. It's a pretty big list and includes some notables like eCards (Michael Sola is happy!), Social Networking, Friendly URLs, Floating CSS Window and many more.

Read Steve's blog for the full list.

Friday, July 11, 2008

New Blog URL: customizingNetCommunity.com

Well I have taken the blog to the big leagues. I shelled out the $10 required by Blogger to give the blog it's own url!
The new url is customizingNetCommunity.com
hopefully everything has propagated,
The old url should redirect you to the new one

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Review: The NetCommunity Open Platform

Yesterday Blackbaud released The NetCommunity Open Platform (NCOP). It’s a comprehensive resource for developers that provides details about the NetCommunity API and other tools needed to get started creating custom parts.

It’s been pointed out in the past but is worth pointing out again that the NetCommunity API has been open although largely unsupported for some time now. As the NetCommunity product has matured so has the capabilities of its API. The NCOP represents a continuing effort by Blackbaud to formalize resources available to developers that want to build custom parts in NetCommunity. Before Labs and the NCOP developers had to rely upon on trial and error, other developers, a few limited tools released by Blackbaud and more recently on Blackbaud User Society in order to learn how to build custom parts.

Thanks to Michael Andrews and his team at Blackbaud for putting this resource together. It’s one of the better API documentations I have seen.

The NCOP also outlined some of the upcoming API changes for v5.5 which is slated for release soon. There is a lot of new stuff in there and as a developer I’m pretty excited about what I’ll be able to do when v5.5 is released.

For the non-technical readers this is where you can stop and send this link to your developer because we’re going to get in the weeds for a bit. Steve MacLaughlin has posted some more info in his blog about NCOP for those interested.

It looks like they have completely re-vamped the way the API is implemented. For those of you that just had visions of re-doing all of your current custom parts to work with this new model, relax! The good folks at Blackbaud still support the old API model so all your current stuff will still work. It also looks like they are going to just tag the old code with an ‘Obsolete’ warning when you build your project in Visual Studio. Backwards compatibility is key!

The new model will provide the foundation for more structured future growth of the API. There are now basically two properties you need to worry about that have everything under them, API and Content. The API property is used to access the platform methods, services and settings. The Content property is used to access the content of your custom part. You can read through the details on the v5.5 changes here.

The last component of the v5.5 changes I want to hit on is the formal addition of Custom Sever Controls. This is basically the ability to re-use some of the components of NetCommunity that already exist. This might include an ImageSelectButton that pops up the ImageLibrary and lets you choose an image to insert. It might also be PageLink selector or even a QueryPicker. As I understand it there were ways (unsupported) to accomplish some of this in the past but now that it’s in the API it’ll be much easier to do. What’s better than writing code that writes code? Writing code that re-uses code!

Those are the highlights I think. I have not had an opportunity to get my hands on the new 5.5 API so once I do I’ll probably be able to provide some better specifics on all the new features.

That’s it for this post. I know I keep promising another screen cast, those take a lot of time to create and I’m swamped right now but hopefully soon!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The NetCommunity Open Platform

Labs was just updated by Michael Andrews to include info on The NetCommunity Open Platform.
I'm going to finish reviewing it tonight and hope to put out a review tomorrow. So far it looks interesting and I'm liking what I'm seeing.
Here's the link