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CMSMS Module Manager and my must–have modules

Category: CMS Made Simple | Last updated: March 2020

CMS Made Simple Module Manager

This explains what the CMS Made Simple Module Manager does and how to find other modules to install. Here are my favourite modules that extend CMSMS into a complete website development kit.

One of the things I like about CMSMS as a site content management system is its modularity.

Its content management functionality is separated into discreet modules. Some of these modules are called Core modules as they are part of the initial installation.

But there are loads of other modules available for download and installation.

Although each module has been written by and maintained by different developers, there is a certain amount of consistency across the modules. So, once you have tackled one module, it’s safe to assume that others are similar.

The CMSMS code repository is where module developers upload their modules to and from where web site developers download from. And, although CMSMS does not have the huge numbers of modules like WordPress for example, there are still a fair number available.

But, I have found that, apart from the initial set of modules (the Core) that are included in a CMSMS installation, there are not that many more needed in your web development toolkit

When you visit the CMSMS code repository, you are presented with a huge list of all the modules, segmented alphabetically. It is not at all easy to know which module does what and whether it is safe for the current version of your web site, useful to your web site or whether it is the latest version.

Use at your own risk
This is the Notice that is displayed atop the Module Manager screen

Before you install any additional CMSMS module, you must be very careful and take the following precautions:

  • Do not install initially on a live web site; install on a test version (either on your PC or remotely on a test web server) and check it out thoroughly
  • Take a full backup of your web site database and site files beforehand.
  • Make sure you take a look at the module’s help information before downloading.
  • Perhaps visit the CMSMS forums and search for the module to see if there are any discussions related to it.
  • Check for the module dependencies – does it need another module to be installed?
  • Is the module marked as stale or deprecated in the code repository - it may still work on your CMSMS version but don't take any chances

Module Manager

This is a core module and it is what you use to manage the other modules. It is found in the CMSMS admin area under the Site Admin section. It displays a tabbed screen.

CMSMS Module Manager

The Installed tab lists all the modules installed in your CMSMS system, giving the module name, its version, whether it has any dependencies (other modules), plus Help (which shows parameter options  for the module).

Core modules

The Core modules are indicated with their name in green and a little yellow icon next to it.

And these are:

  • Admin Search
  • CMSContentManager
  • CmsJobManager
  • CMSMailer (not automatically installed so shown in red but also deprecated)
  • DesignManager
  • FileManager
  • MenuManager (deprecated)
  • MicroTiny
  • ModuleManager
  • Navigator
  • News
  • Search

What does a red module name mean?

Where a module name is shown in red, this means the module code has been downloaded from the CMSMS code repository into your site’s web space but has not been activated for use within the CMSMS admin area.

In which case, you are able to either install it or remove the code altogether.

What does an amber module name mean?

Where a module name is shown in amber, this means the module code has been installed but is deprecated. It will also have a little red arrow icon next to it, too.

One of the older core modules, Menu Manager, will be showing like this in Module Manager. It has been superceded by the Navigator module in version 2.x but is included for the sake of legacy installations.

My must-have modules

In addition to the core modules listed above, here is my list of modules that I regularly install and use in my websites:

  • Gallery
  • TinyMCE
  • CustomGS
  • CGBetterForms
  • Captcha
  • Utilities

What do these do?

Gallery

This is for presenting images, either individually or as part of a static or automatic slideshow.

It comes with a variety of image templates which, of course, can be copied and customised.  It also enables you to set up your own gallery templates.

CMSMS Gallery template list

It is easy for web site editors to maintain the galleries and insert them into content pages or news items as required, including specifying which of the gallery templates to apply.

TinyMCE

This is an alternative to core module MicroTiny and (in my opinion) it's a better option for WYSIWYG editing throughout the CMSMS admin areas.

In my own installations, this is the content editor of choice. I can customise the toolbars and add in my specific CSS classes to help my website editors to style images properly.

The screen shot image below shows the TinyMCE configuration page for setting up the CSS classes to be available to your website editors.

CMSMS TinyMCE - Edit classes

CustomGS

A great little module. You can set up your own additional “global” fields – these are fields that can be applied anywhere on the website.  

I use it to set up things like social platform links to the web site owner’s assets (e.g. Facebook page, Twitter, Linkedin), the email address to be used throughout the site, Google Analytics snippet code, Share This snippet code etc

CMSMS CustomGS custom fields

And, because these things are held and maintained in one place, if, say the email address changes, then you only need to amend it in 1 place and the new value is available throughout the site wherever the CustomGS tag for email address has been used. A big time saver.

CGBetterForms

This is the forms creation module. It needs another module, CGExtensions, to operate.

I used to use FormBuilder, which is still available on the CMSMS code repository and is being maintained by its developer.

However, I switched to using CGBetterForms as it is more intuitive and has better testing facilities. 

Incidentally, when you go to the CMSMS code site and look on the "C" page, you will see there are a number of modules beginning with "CG".  These have all been developed by one developer Robert Campbell (aka calguy1000) who is on the CMSMS Development Team and actively provides technical support on the CMSMS forums.

Captcha

This is used within either CGBetterForms or FormBuilder and is for securing your forms with a captcha image.  

It also allows you to choose which captcha method to use, including the popular Google re-captcha method.  I now use this.  So, you can enter your security strings that Google gives you into this module.

Utilities

This contains a number of little tricks.  Unlike the above modules, it does not have a section in the CMSMS admin area.  So, to find out what it contains, you have to look inside its Help page by clicking its Help link in Module Manager / Installed Modules tab.

At the top of the Help page, it lists its contents i.e. a list of tags / smarty functions. Each of these has a section within the Help page further down.

I have used just 2 of these: editContentTabs (to change the order of some fields in ContentManager) and cssMinifier (to strip out white space in my CSS files).

Other useful modules

In addition to the core and my must-have modules, there are some others which I have deployed on some sites and have been very useful:

  • SnippetMgr
  • LinkMgr
  • UserGuide2

SnippetMgr

I found this module only recently. In fact, whilst I was writing these articles on CMSMS.

It is used for storing commonly used snippets of code, which may include CMSMS tags, javascript code, html etc. Each of these snippets has its own unique name and so can be included anywhere in the site by using the snippet tag together with the snippet name.

So, I have used it to store my article disclaimer notice and my article authored-by code.

But it does more. It also stores user defined tag code (UDTs).  

At the moment, UDTs have their own section in the CMSMS admin section under Extensions. But, I think future versions of CMSMS may remove this UDT section in favour of storing them in separate external files. So the SnippetMgr module would be a replacement repository for these.

LinkMgr

This is another little gem I discovered recently whilst doing a site for a client.

The website editor needed to enter a number of business names and their corresponding links to their websites and show them as a table on the site page.

Although they use TinyMCE as the content editor with table editing facilities enabled, there was no practical way for the resultant table to be styled properly. So, the table was just a 2-column grid and did not look very nice.

Enter LinkMgr. This allowed me to provide a custom template for a properly styled table. The website editor just had to enter the business names and link URLs. Job done!

UserGuide2

I have not yet incorporated this module but I can see a good use for it in my clients’ sites.

As part of my web development process, I provide what I call special tags which help the client when editing their own content.

For example, my special tags are shortcuts to display a fully-formed “mailto” link or the global telephone number or the link to their facebook page etc.

In the past, I have documented my special tags in a separate User Guide pdf file.

In the initial days of editing their content, the client remembers to refer to this. But over time forgets about it. And, I may also forget exactly what a special tag comprises and have to open up the UDT for it as a refresher.

Well, this UserGuide2 module would save messing around with this as the information would be part of the CMSMS admin section. So, I shall be using this in the future. 

Additional Information

The information and screen shots contained in this article have been taken from CMSMS version 2.2.13 but should apply to any 2.x installation.

Here are some links to sections in the CMSMS website that should be helpful or of interest:

And if you need to engage with the support forums to get assistance for any module, it is helpful to include a list of modules and their version that make up your CMSMS installation. This is very easy to do.

In Site Admin / System Information section, there is a button at top of page called View Text Report - this provides a version list so that you can copy into your forum postings.

Conclusion

The core installation of a CMSMS version 2.x set of modules can be extended with just a few additional modules to provide a powerful and flexible website development kit.

Each module follows a standard so once you have worked how to configure one module, then setting up other modules is easier.

Christine CollenBy Christine Collen

 

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