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Original article appeared at:
Serverwatch @ Internet.com

Zope -- Open source groupware server for content and portal management

Zope has many unique properties that set it apart in the groupware market. The first characteristic is its target market. The server is aimed at enterprises looking for a groupware server to enable them to create Web-based applications. Zope works so well in these situations that it's practically an app server functioning like a groupware server.

Another key attribute of Zope is that it's open source. Thus, enterprises can simply download the source code and modify Zope as they see fit. If an enterprise needs Zope to do a specific task, a good programmer can tweak it enough so that paying another company a large amount of money to have their programmers do the work and then paying for a custom license of the software isn't necessary.

Zope's basic interface is like that of a simple file manager. Most people are accustomed to the GUI file managers that have been around with MacOS as well as DOS and Windows. On top of this splendid file manager interface, Zope is Web-based. This leads to more usability, as most users get scared even thinking about command-line applications, or even hard-to-use GUI applications. With a Web interface, users tend to feel like they already know what's going on, as it seems like they are simply "surfing the web."

Zope not only breaks ranks with groupware servers by being free to use, it also flees from the norm in terms of setup. While most large Web-based applications require three layers, the Web server, the app server, and the database server, Zope is used in a single system. This makes management, as well as initial cost, much less-expensive because there is only one machine to deal with, not a set of three different machines to micro-manage and control.

Above all these attributes, however, is Zope's compatibility. It works with pretty much all of the common protocols including SQL, ODBC, XML, DOM, FTP, HTTP, FastCGI, XML-RPC, and SOAP. Zope can work on almost any client browser, as well as systems ranging from 32-bit Windows (95, 98, NT, and 2000), to Unix, Linux, BSD Variants, and the lesser-known Sparc Solaris.

Zope's major drawback is that, like other freeware packages, its documentation is lacking in its current form. Documentation is virtually all user-supplied, and anyone can become a member of the "Zope Community" via the online resources such as mailing lists and user groups.

Fortunately, all of this documentation resides in a central location at http://www.zope.org/Documentation. This repository houses almost anything anyone would need to know about Zope: how to use it, how to manage it, and how not to crash it. However effective this may be, having to go to the Zope.org Web site to get any meaningful help can sometimes be a less than efficient solution.

Overall, Zope is a great program for the price, but just like all other free programs, help is difficult to find, and somewhat inadequate. Because of the inability to find decent help for sys admins, Zope may be a difficult sell for deployment in some enterprises. In other enterprises, Zope's benefits may outweigh drawbacks the for some companies not willing spend money on three different application layers.

Pros: - Inexpensive, - Customizable, - Compatible

Cons: - Lack of documentation, - Not well-known

Version Reviewed: 2.3.0
Reviewed by: M.A. Dockter
Last Updated: 2/5/01
Date of Original Review: 2/5/01

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