22 September 2006

Symphony: Setting a New Standard

Symphony is a web publishing system based on web standards. By using standards, you are investing in technologies that work now and will be sure to work in the future. Web development has often relied on proprietary technologies that work only with particular applications. There was a time when websites recommended that the website was best viewed with the latest version of Internet Explorer. Many more browsers are being used.

Over the last number of years, many have been discovering the benefits of working with web standards as recommended by the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) who have developed standards and technologies that make the web work: XHTML, CSS, XML and XSLT.

Others have built open source scripting languages, such as PHP, and relational databases, such as MySQL, that help to make websites dynamic. A database-driven website design allows a web site to use a page design template to generate pages dynamically by retrieving content from information stored in a database. The benefit is the ability to separate the structure of the information from the presentation of that information. The information can then be presented in many different ways, and pages can be generated efficiently with far less effort. Using a content management system means that the owners of a website, those who are generating the content, are able to manage their own site without needing to have a lot of technical knowledge about how it all works.

The Symphony Publishing System

Symphony is a web publishing system that is built on using standards: XHTML, CSS, XML and XSLT using open source technologies to access information stored in a database through PHP and MySQL. What is unique about Symphony as a content management system is its ability to transform the information of the web, XML, into many different document structures, XHTML. So, it is possible to take information from any site that contains information stored in XML and transform this information into content that can be presented in unique ways on your site. If a site complies with web standards and contains well-formed XHTML pages, this information can be gleaned and provided as links from your site.

More and more sites are offering information in RSS or XML. Popular sites, such as flickr support RSS, allowing you to take this XML information and display it in news readers or even on your own site. Photos uploaded to flickr can instantly appear on your home page, for instance. There are many more untapped possibilities.

Also, Symphony allows customization of the administrative system as well as the publicly viewable areas of your site. The system features the ability to create an almost unlimited number of sections, categories and custom fields for various types of information input, including the uploading of photographs and files, all stored on the server, efficiently accessible through a database and seamlessly presented on your public site as RSS, XML and XHTML. The flexibility of the templating system is beyond anything else I have encountered.

The Symphony development team at Twentyone Degrees, in Brisbane, Australia, are also a very knowledgable and helpful group of individuals who have a vision to add another standard to the web designers repertoire, XSLT, further extending the ability of designers and developers to make the World Wide Web a better place. The support I have received from them has been well worth my investment.

Symphony free for all!

As of tomorrow, though, no one need complain that the application is not worth the investment of time and money (which, in my opinion, was very inexpensive). September 21, 2006, Symphony 1.5 will be offered to the world for free.