My personal experience developing with the grid has been pretty bad. When it first came out there were a number of bugs and not much documentation and this meant a lot of time faffing around. The code you have to write isn’t pretty and given the choice, I would not develop with the grid, but there’s one big problem; our clients love the grid!
The grid really does allow a lot of freedom to the content editor. This means you have to code for a wide array of uses and this can take a long time. I guess as long as clients keep requesting the grid we will work to build better implementations until we’re grid masters.
Although technically not included in Umbraco, the Forms (previously called Courier Contour) package is maintained by Umbraco HQ and costs 99 euros per domain or is free for Umbraco Gold Partners.
Umbraco Forms allows content editors to create custom forms which can then be placed on the website. The package works well for simple forms and can be extended to do more complicated things. Form submissions are automatically stored in the back office which editors can easily view, which ensures that if an email doesn’t get sent, there’s always a record of the submission.
Personally, I love the Forms package because it cuts down on work for the developer when content editors want to add or remove a field from a form or have it send the email to someone else. While this functionality could be custom-built into Umbraco, it’s not worth the effort. For the price, Umbraco Forms covers a lot of use cases.
The Models Builder is a purely technical feature of Umbraco that developers can utilise to speed up Umbraco development. Umbraco is not a code first CMS (although there are some packages out there which can make it code first), this means that the code has to be written to mirror the data the CMS contains. As a C# developer, this may mean writing models which reflect the data. However, with the Models Builder, this step can be automated meaning at a click of a button, a DLL or some C# files can be generated. Personally, I love this, even if it can be a little buggy.
The open-source aspect
This may be an obvious thing for some people, but I just want to iterate this. Umbraco being open source is a massive feature. Unlike some other CMS platforms (*cough*, Sitecore), I can look at the Umbraco source code and know where the code needs improvement. You may be asking, “Why would I want to see the ugly code?” Well, being able to know where a CMS needs improvement allows me to really get comfortable with the CMS. All software has warts and bugs, but if they’re in plain sight, I can at least improve the code or avoid using it altogether.
Even better, if I find a bug in Umbraco which I can’t avoid, I can find it in the codebase and try to fix it myself, or I can point out the issue to someone else (either the community or Umbraco HQ) who can then fix it for me. This is something I love about Umbraco. In fact, I could probably write another paragraph about how awesome the Umbraco community is, but you really have to experience that yourself.
It’s fair to say that extending Umbraco is a breeze. That’s not to say a little more documentation wouldn’t be handy, but with a little knowledge of how to use the (reasonably well documented) Umbraco surface controller API and a quick and dirty understanding of how the front end works with Angular, you can create new dashboards and sections in Umbraco.
At GrowCreate, we have built integrations into Umbraco with SharePoint, Salesforce, and MS Dynamics. We have even built our own packages such as Pipeline CRM and Iconator. I think being able to extend Umbraco is one of it’s greatest strengths.
The future of Umbraco is bright. And I’m not just saying this because GrowCreate main sale is Umbraco integrations. I genuinely believe it.
Despite packing more features, Umbraco itself seems to be getting faster with every release. And with the release of Umbraco 8 in the coming year (hopefully early 2017), we can expect some tremendous improvements, such as:
You can read up on the status of Umbraco 8 here.
On the ASP.NET side of things, Microsoft appears to be moving towards open-sourcing and making their technologies cross-platform. This includes:
- the release of .NET Core (a newly rebuilt version of .NET which is 100% cross-platform, Umbraco HQ hopes to get Umbraco 9 built on .NET Core which would allow Umbraco websites to be hosted on a Linux server)
- the release of SQL Server 2016 which can be run on Linux (beta now available)
- the release of different types of Windows Servers, including Nano Server which is a massively cut down version of Windows (weighing around 1GB and comes without a GUI) which is perfect for hosting small websites or for building lightweight Docker containers