For this first blog review I am looking at CityDesk. As mentioned in the introduction to this series of posts, there are certain criteria that I will be measuring each blog package against. Unfortunately for FogCreek software, CityDesk as a blog platform has a mixed bag of results.
All it needs is a Windows box to install the software (sorry Linux/Mac fans!), somewhere to host the site and internet access. The software installs as a desktop package and the resulting blog is made up of static HTML files so any old hosting account will do.
Ease of installation
To set CityDesk up, download the setup program (a Windows .exe) from the CityDesk download page. When the file has downloaded, just double-click and you are away. That’s it. Absolutely painless. I am sure the rest of the packages in this series will not be so forgiving so top-marks so far!
Ease of use
To create my new Blog I simply choose “Create a new citydesk site” and set the location where you would like to store the files.
Once complete a fresh CityDesk site with some example files is ready and waiting to edit.
It’s all very intuitive but the interface feels a little dated and there are some strange UI decisions such as menu items that ought to be buttons but overall easy enough for anyone to use after a short period of familiarisation.
Flexibility of posting formatting
Editing pages (our blog posts) is as simple as typing in your favourite word processor but you can also edit in full html view. Everything is left up to you from design layout to content so flexibility is 100%. You can save, edit and preview in a browser. Once you are happy you can easily upload to your hosting service.
Out of the box there is not any way your visitors can comment .. so no need for comment spam protection or moderation but seems a glaring ommission. I guess this is the downside of offline, static, blog editing. There is no intelligence in the resulting blog so any sort of interactivity is going to come from bolting on your own server-side scripting. Luckily there are free asp/php/cgi scripts out there, FogCreek would have done well to address this closer to home though.
Syndication and feeds
It’s not immediately obvious, nor easy but it is possible to syndicate your site with an RSS feed. A little poking round the website and documentation I found an KB article that tells you how to acheive this with a little help from CityDesks templating system.
No search is available but this is hardly suprising as the system produces static files. You would need to use site: search at google etc. Again you are paying the price of an offline model but third party solutions will probably suffice.
Ping, Trackback and Pingback
There is nothing in the system to help you with this at all. Another problem with the package being a generic CMS and with the offline model I guess.
Categories and Tags
The only way I could see to have any sort of categorisation was to create folders for your pages and use the extra data field boxes that CityDesk provides. Displaying categories would require using a little scripting but most bloggers are not going to bother. If your blog covers a wide variety of topics then CityDesk may well not be worth the hassle but for smaller blogs this might be ok.
As you name each file as you create it the naming convention is yours so the URLs are as friendly as you make them.
Search Engine Friendliness
All the code is yours, it becomes as search engine friendly as your knowledge allows. There is certainly nothing built in that would stop it being friendly out of the box.
Again, you create the templates. On the news page they list third party templates and wizards such as the collection from CityDesk Wizards. The templates are so simple any decent designer should be able to bang out something top-class without too much trouble.
Ability to paste advertising code
Seeing as the package is a glorified HTML editor you can pretty much do what you like where this is concerned. Using the templates and scripting capabilities there are no real limitations to what you might want to do.
Multiple Authors and Multiple Blogs
With the paid version you can have multiple authors and as many blogs as you like. I wouldn’t say this package would be my first choice for launching a blog network but it certainly is possible to handle more than one blog and share the content creation and editing load with a colleague or two.
Developer support, ISP support and Community support
As mentioned above, there seems to be a fair little cottage industry of support for CityDesk and a discussion forum.
Technical support and documentation
There is the knowledge base, the forum and some ok help documents but to be honest, you don’t really need them. Once you make an effort to use the package it is pretty self explainatory. Problems only really come with features you expect to be there rather than using the features that are.
CityDesk is commercial software. Free for first 50 pages, $299 per user for Professional edition version that allows unlimited pages and Contributor Edition Starts at $297 for three users.
API, Blog by email
There is no API support but nor would you expect there to be in an offline application I guess.
All there is is static pages and articles! How you organise your blog is completely up to you.
Type of database
CityDesk uses Access as a content database, everything is included, but the database is only used for content creation. Once the blog is published it exists as static files with no backend intelligence. From a hosting point of view it is a static site so there is no database dependency.
Stats and reporting
There is no site intelligence built in so if you want stats (and you do) then you would have to use your ISP-provided hit reports or an external tool.
Perhaps I have been unfair to poor little CityDesk in this review? In its favour it is a generic website CMS that can be used as a blogging tool. But, I have to judge it on its suitability for blogging and for this it doesn’t score brilliantly. For an amateur hobbyist blogger I would work very well but a professional needs a little more out of their software and lacking the ability to take comments out of the box is a deal-breaker for me.
- CityDesk review
- Movable Type review
- WordPress review
- bBlog review
- DasBlog review
- CommunityServer review
- Drupal review