A review of “Plone 3 Theming”


I recently read Plone 3 Theming, a new book by Veda Williams. Although not presently working in Plone, I like to keep up with the Plone ecosystem. Should I find myself working on a new CMS, Plone will be one of my preferred technologies, so I need to nourish what few Plone neurons I’ve got.

Obligatory caveats

I bump into Veda at Seattle Plone Gathering meetings. I wouldn’t say we’re friends, but we are friendly.

BTW, the book has an online errata list.

Snap review

Buy this book if you’re working on any aspect of developing a Plone-based site. Even if you aren’t doing theming work, its informational goodies will come in handy. It’s written for the newbie-to-intermediate level, but I’ll wager that even advanced Plone site developers will learn a thing or two from this book.

Boy, I wish it had existed when I was learning Plone for Fisher Communications! Learning theming required absorbing information from many sources, with varying levels of organization and quality. Here all of it is in one coherent text! Veda’s an excellent writer who easily covers a lot of territory. I predict this book will be indispensable for newbie Plone developers, and a dog-eared favorite for advanced developers.

The first two chapters (47 pages) are an introduction to Plone, theming concepts, and theming tools. I was puzzled that Veda didn’t include Emacs, the world’s greatest editor, in the text editor section. Hopefully God will forgive her. Chapter 3 tells you how to set up your development environment, and will be enormously beneficial to Plone newbies.

Then the remainder walks the reader through theming, from soup to nuts. Generally excellent all the way through. I particularly like how the chapters devoted to styling mechanics break it down by the different areas on a typical web page.

The section about add-on tools justifies the purchase price all by itself. Well maybe that’s being hyperbolic. But it’s still a must-read. As is the chapter devoted to the future of Plone theming, collective.xdv.

Nits

While the chapter on ZPT and TAL is a great introduction, anyone doing non-trivial work will need to read the TAL documentation and other ZPT tutorials. Those topics are sufficiently complex as to merit their own books.

The book occasionally dwells too much on how things used to be done. There’s some value in providing a historical context for how things are today, but going too far can distract. I think the Plone theming landscape is sufficiently complicated without descriptions of how things were done in Plone 2; but this is a personal preference, and of course it’s trivial to skip over such paragraphs if they’re not your cup of tea.

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