PloneGov: Bringing Plone to Local Governments

Oct 19, 2007

Plone is one of the best known Free Software Content Management Systems (CMS) in the market. Much of the importance of Plone lies in its power and flexibility, enabling it to be applied in a wide variety
of contexts.

This maturity was no more obvious than during the "PloneGov" developer sprint at this year's Plone Conference. PloneGov is about bringing Plone to local government organisations. However, the focus is not on the technology. Instead, the key aim of the project is to support collaboration between local governments, the Open Source developer community and small to medium enterprises (SME) that support deployment. This said, some of the technical work going into PloneGov is also very interesting.

Two products for PloneGov that stand out for their technical merit are Python Open Document (POD) and Latex Tool. POD is a tool for converting your Plone content into Open Document Format and Office .doc files. These tasks are simply performed through an elegant transformation of the content into the XML normally found in Open Document Format. Passing the content to OpenOffice running in server mode gives users the ability to save .doc and PDF files. Using OpenOffice to produce PDF output, however, does have some drawbacks. Most notably the overhead of running server mode OpenOffice. Latex Tool is an alternative means for producing PDF using the LaTeX typesetting environment [6]. In this case Plone content is converted from XHTML into LaTeX source by a Python-based transformation script before being passed in to the LaTeX compiler. This combination of PloneGov plus POD and the Latex Tool has the potential to create an all-in-one environment for managing and editing ODF content without the need for OpenOffice. As these products mature, they will clearly become an invaluable part of the PloneGov suite.

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