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Looking for a Portal?

Portals are the latest buzz word in the Web Application World, and with good reason. They can provide a one-stop layout of all the information a person might need in an easy-to-use customizable interface. Portals provide the foundation and "plumbing" for your application so that you can concentrate on the parts of the application that support your business needs and leave the "common" stuff like security, layout, menus, and other common user interface functions to the portal framework. But what are your options when selecting a portal framework?

One option is to start with a commercial portal like Oracle Portal or Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server. They offer a lot of out-of-the-box functionality, but the biggest potential challenges with commercial portals are the licensing expense and the fact that they are typically designed for the masses, and never quite fit what your company is doing. Experience shows that most companies want to tweak the out-of-the-box functionality in one way or another. Commercial portals are not always flexible in the directions a company needs because they are typically sealed black boxes and the source code needed for modifications is not available.

Open source portal frameworks are better from the standpoint that the source code is usually available, however, open source licensing can be an issue because any changes you make to the infrastructure are now owned by the open source project, which is less than ideal for your company. Lack of support is another problem with these frameworks as they are supported by the community, instead of by a single professional organization.

It would be ideal to build your own portal framework—one you would own and control—but this is a very time intensive task that requires a high degree of skill to architect and build. Celeritas has developed many web applications in all kinds of different technologies, and we know what it takes to build such a portal infrastructure, which is exactly what we did for our CWPortal product. We set out to build a set of foundational components that would accelerate the development of our customers' applications without restricting them. CWPortal combines the best ideas and concepts of all the web portal frameworks on the market and integrates them into a custom set of core components that can be re-used from project to project and can serve as the foundation for future web projects.

Most portals on the market have the disadvantage that they are a sealed box product and can't be stretched or modified to meet customers' needs. By using the core pieces of CWPortal, we can build just about any kind of solution for a customer with no limitations. Since we own the code, we can modify and customize it as needed. For example, a current client using the CWPortal technology wanted users to be able to assign delegates. For example, a Vice President who manages a division wants to delegate tasks to his assistant, who could then act as the Vice President within the application and assist in some of the data analysis. Commercial applications that prohibit changing the infrastructure of their portal and Open Source products result in your Intellectual Property becoming Open Source.

With CWPortal, the infrastructure can be customized to fulfill your requirements, yet protect your Intellectual Property.

The CWPortal provides the following services to applications built on the infrastructure:

  • Dual mode authentication - Microsoft Active Directory & application managed user with one-way hash protected passwords
  • Role based authorization
  • Flexible part layout engine
  • Design mode layout editor
  • Flexible "look & feel" through site templates for custom branding
  • Menuing infrastructure & editor

The Layout engine allows various Portal Parts to be arranged in an infinite number of configurations by placing a set of Parts in a Portal Channel with either a horizontal or vertical orientation. Portal Channels can be nested inside each other to allow virtually any part layout to be achieved.

Part Layout

Design time features allow the management of the part layout right from the browser page. Individual parts displayed on pages are created as Web User Controls and easily plugged into the infrastructure. If they implement certain interfaces, they can receive information about their part properties, parent parts, and design mode.

Channel Editor
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Part Editor
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Additional features include a set of web controls that can be used in conjunction with the portal or stand-alone to provide more advanced user interfaces. These components include Labeled versions of the standard UI components that have the label integrated with the control as well as error management and validation.

There is a DateBox control that provides a javascript popup calendar, a CalendarSpan control for a vertical running calendar display, CWPickList for a double listbox interface with mover buttons between them, and a CWExpandableDataGrid which displays a grid of data with rows that can be collapsed or expanded depending on the structure of the data.

     
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There is already much foundation work completed in the CWPortal product and it is Celeritas' goal to continue developing and refining this product to give our customers more options when developing their custom portal.

CWPortal might be the technology that can jump start your next web project and deliver a better solution in less time.

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