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concrete5 Beginner's Guide Paperback – March 18, 2011
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About the Author
Remo Laubacher grew up in Central Switzerland in a small village surrounded by lots of mountains and natural beauty. He started working with computers several years ago. After doing various computer related work, he focused on ERP and Oracle development but always kept his know how about web technologies up to date. A bit later, he ended up having a BSc in Business Administration but still works as an ERP and web developer and consultant.
He is an owner at Ortic where he does his ERP and Oracle related business but also works at mesch.ch where he discovered Concrete5 as the perfect tool for their web related projects. He has published some tutorials on codeblog.ch.
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If you're seriously considering using Concrete 5 then you need this book. It covers all the basics you'll need to install, configure and maintain a C5 site. It also covers creating new, as well as customizing existing templates, themes, blocks and packages.
The content of the book is mostly code listings focused around example tasks such as 'customizing an existing template', 'integrating a jquery lightbox into C5'. Some explanation of the code is provided, but if you can read PHP, you'll find the text redundant. The code listings themselves are small, focused on the immediate problem and work without issues, which is great. This is the book's greatest strength and is the only reason I would recommend it.
The book has two major shortcomings. First, as another reviewer noted, no time was spent explaining how C5 actually works: what it's application flow is, how pages are composed, in what order resources are requested and processed, where permissions kick in, what objects are available, what magic variables (like $c) are available to you in different contexts. For now, you'll need to dive into the C5 core code and learn through trial and error (to this end, Chapter 5 tells you how to list the available constants and functions). If you've worked with other CMSes, you know that this discussion of 'how it works' is *essential* to any CMS book**. This is one reason I give the book 3 stars.
Second, the presentation is, I am sorry to say, downright annoying. Loud section headers shout 'Time for Action', 'What just happened?' or 'Have a go hero'. Whitespace in code listings is inconsistent, indentation in XML listings is a mess, file names are sometimes capitalized in text even though they are all lowercase in code. Pop quizzes are not numbered in the text, but they are numbered in the answers at the end! All this makes for a noisy reading experience. The quality of printing and binding is well below expectations for a book that costs $45. I hope there is a second edition and it improves things.
In summary, you should buy this book and you will find it useful, but after you've spent some time with it, you'll realize it could have been so much more.
** Examples from my experience: The Definitive Guide to Drupal has a section on 'How Drupal Works', Umbraco's User Guide has a chapter on 'The Umbraco Approach' and Professional Plone Development has 'Nine Core Concepts in Zope Programming'.
This manual gets the designer up to speed quickly, presenting the information in a concise and flowing manor. As one progresses through the book, one quickly gains an understanding of how to control this very in depth CMS. You really should have a fair understanding of HTML and CSS. Reasonable familiarity with PHP and Java script will get you quickly up to speed in using Concrete 5.
The book does need an update to the current release as the control panel was substantially changed in version 5.6. The material presented, however, is right-on and accurate.
This book is a "Must Have" if you are planning to develop Concrete 5 websites.
What Concrete5 lacks is documentation to understand the system and use the various capabilities to extend and enhance the base system to address specific client needs. On-line documentation is helpful, but either focuses on the user interface or the application API: the middle range of strategy is only lightly addressed. User forums are very helpful, but again, require the user to have sufficient understanding to ask the right questions.
Remo is one of the standout developer in the C5 world. He's combined some articles released previously online along with new material to create the only book, thus far, which addresses the intermediate developer working with C5.
The style of the book is distinctive, as other reviewers suggest. There is not a lot of why, but a lot of how. What you have are a series of steps which lead you more deeply into the product. Initial steps cover the user interface which is quite powerful -- a lot can be accomplished without programming. The latter half of the book involves enhancing and creating "blocks" -- the fundamental user interface module in C5.
This clearly is not a "one stop shop." The more knowledge of HTML, CSS, PHP, and MVC, the better off you'll be in understanding the "why." But, this also is a tremendous time-saver for anyone wanting to go more deeply into the product. And, it's really the only documentation available which addresses appropriate strategies in C5 in a fairly comprehensive way.
If you want to program in C5, you'll want this on your bookshelf.