Alfresco rolls Web 2.0 features into CMS upgrade

The company's open-source CMS software now mimics Web functionality, assigns URLs to some objects, and includes a new search feature that includes Web content

Alfresco Software is taking cues from the so-called Web 2.0 craze with the release of the latest version of its open-source CMS (content management software).

Alfresco's 2.1 version assigns URLs to such objects as documents, which enables other technologies to come into play, such as AJAX (asynchronous JavaScript and Extensible Markup Language), said John Newton, Alfresco's CTO.

In one example that mimics new functionality seen on some Web sites, Afresco's 2.1 software can display a pop-up preview window of documents returned after a search, Newton said.

Alfresco also added a search feature. Alfresco's CMS is delivered through a Web browser, and now users can add an "Alfresco" search in the drop-down search menu, similar to how they may already have Web search engines selected, such as those from Google or Yahoo.

The feature helps return a mesh of internal content with Web content during searches, Newton said. It's based on OpenSearch, an API that allows the aggregation and syndication of searches in Firefox 2.0 and Internet Explorer 7.0.

Alfresco has also integrated 2.1 into Microsoft's Office productivity software via a plug-in. Users see an Alfresco window within Office where they can manage their own documents and workflows.

Another new feature allows bloggers to write, edit, and upload blog posts to WordPress and TypePad sites from Alfresco.

A Mediawiki module -- a software package for managing user-created content in sites like Wikipedia -- has also been added to allow for content management of wikis, Newton said.

A list of other new features and changes for the 2.1 release is available on Alfresco's wiki.

Alfresco's software is free, and the company makes money through support contracts. Organizations typically experiment with Alfresco for a while and then buy a support contract when they want to use the CMS in a production environment, said Ian Howells, chief marketing officer. Mostly Fortune 1000 companies currently have support contracts.

Alfresco clients include the U.S. Department for Homeland Security, the Federal Aviation Administration, and NASA, Newton said.