Monday, 23 August, 2004
I've been converting my old Random Notes entries to CityDesk, starting from the first entries that I made back in October 2000. So far I've converted all of the entries through September 2002, which puts me at an average of about one month per day since I started the project on July 26. At that rate I should have everything converted by the middle of next month.
I'm reasonably happy with CityDesk, but not completely happy. The good far outweighs the bad, especially when compared with the way I was maintaining my site, but the program is missing some features and has some quirks that make it less than ideal. In no particular order, those are:
- The WYSIWYG editor lacks table support. This isn't a huge drawback, now that I have a style sheet for the site layout, but every once in a while I want to create a table. The only way to do that is to go into the HTML view and construct the table the hard way. No big deal, except then I have to be very careful not to modify the table when I switch back to WYSIWYG mode.
- The CityScript scripting language is wonky in the extreme. There are powerful constructs for selecting articles and placing them on pages, including different parts of an article (title, date, teaser, sidebar, etc.), but the language uses some very weird notation that is reminiscent of Lisp. The language has some limitations, too, like the inability to include variable references inside of variables (basically included code blocks), that make the language very frustrating to use. It's unfortunate that the designers decided they needed to create a whole new language for this. I think they should have implemented a subset of a more traditional language (like VBScript perhaps) and spent their time writing functions that make the system more powerful. The lack of any kind of string manipulation severely limits what can be done, the inability to use the Keywords field to create an index being a case in point.
- There are many minor user interface issues that make it impossible to use the program without touching the mouse. In addition, some things that should be on context menus (right-click menus) or as Alt+ key shortcuts aren't there. In particular, the command to insert a picture should have a shortcut key, and inserting a link should be on the context menu. There's no keyboard command (at least, I can't find one) to change from the Normal (WYSIWYG) view to the HTML view--something that I find myself having to do all too often when I'm converting entries from FrontPage.
- Publishing the site takes an inordinately long time. When I click on the Publish button, CityDesk appears to generate each and every article, whether or not it's changed since the last time I published. As you can imagine, this takes an increasingly long time as I continue to add articles to the database. I can understand the program having to check each entry in the database to see if it's changed, but I fail to understand why it needs to regenerate every article every time. A simple disk cache of generated articles would speed things considerably. The program only uploads changed articles to the Web site, so there's obviously logic in there to determine what's changed. As it stands, it takes several minutes whenever I want to upload a new article, and that's only going to get worse.
CityDesk is a good replacement for the way I was maintaining my Web site previously, and I'll keep using it for the near term. I'm in the market for something better, though. Maybe their version 3.0 will address enough of the shortcomings to make me want to upgrade. If you have any suggestions of programs I should try, please let me know.