[Plone-UI] Enhancing developer usability of Plone

Todd R. Johnson Todd.R.Johnson at uth.tmc.edu
Sun Apr 29 16:17:37 UTC 2007

I am interested in exploring changes to Plone's UI that would enhance
developer usability by making it easier to determine which template is
responsible for a page's look. The basic idea is to embed controls on the
pages that take a user to the template used to render the page or page
element. The idea comes from DotCMS (see dotcms.org), which has very easy
through-the-web controls for creating new custom content types (including
relations), and for easily editing templates for the page and other page
elements. I was able to learn how to create a custom content type,
dynamically pull in contents of that type, and format the content in about
two hours. It took me about two weeks to learn to do the same in Plone. The
difference in developer ease of use comes from three different aspects.
First, dotCMS is  simpler than Plone in terms of flexibility, security and
workflow--it does much less, but what it does do it does well. Second, the
conceptual model behind dotCMS is very easy to pick up: page templates are
html with macros and containers. Containers can hold one or more content
items and can either be static or dynamic. Dynamic containers pull in
content of a single type and have three templates to format the content: a
preloop template, a template applied to each item, and a postloop template.
Third, the DotCMS UI makes it very easy to add, find, and edit templates,
containers, and custom content types. The UI for buildling templates also
brings up a window to allow the user to insert attributes of each content
type, so there is no need to remember the names of all those attributes. 

It should be possible to do at least some of this for Plone. As a first step
I would like to modify Plone to provide links to the page templates from
page views. Unfortunately, I've not been able to find a way to do this.
template/absolute_url returns the root of the plone site for the default
templates or templates in the custom folder. Is there a way to get the URL
to the template in the ZMI? Or is there another more general solution that
could reveal the template URL without changing each template to include a


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