Not too long ago, I worked with Alex Klock on creating a Tridion GUI extension for a client. The GUI extension was for a document embedding service provided by Crocodoc1. Once I finished, I had to provide a training document for it. Soon after, the client wanted documentation on some other things. And then more things. Being one for
efficiency and optimization creative laziness, I found a way to make sure everyone gets the latest version of the same document. So I’d like to share a super nifty trick for embedding training documents into your Tridion implementation.
1 If you don’t know who Crocodoc is, you should rapidly become acquainted. Their API definitely is not one that sucks; it converts PDFs, PowerPoints, Excel documents, and Word documents into HTML (and soon to be HTML5) so that you can read the same document on any device with a screen, without nasty platform-based plugins.
The Use Case
You have a Tridion implementation and your client wants to know how to use it. Not only do they want Tridion basics, but they want to know when component X goes with component template Y and how to put it on page Z. Once you finish it, it’s time for enhancements. Then it’s a new project. If it isn’t annoying enough keeping track of who you should email the document to, you have to worry about everyone reading from the right version. Life would be better if the training document were in one place, and if everyone had only the latest version.
No Development (or Developers) Required
I’ve found that most CMS developers have a tendency to ignore any features that aren’t related to development — a shame since trainers and content authors usually depend on us for learning how to use the implementation. So it’s time we explore the non-development side of Tridion.
The Shortcuts Pane in Tridion
In Tridion 2011 (and I’m sure 2013), you have a fun little section in your left pane that’s called Shortcuts.If it’s been collapsed the whole time, today is the day you expand it. We’re going to crack it open and look at a simple feature known as Custom Pages. It’s between those two other features that probably deserve blog posts.
Chances are, the only custom page you have in there is SDL Tridion 2011.That’s the landing page that you see in the big center pane when the GUI fully loads. Not only can we change what we see when the GUI loads, we can add other custom pages as well. Custom Pages are visible to all of your Tridion users, so this is a great way to make sure that everyone in Tridion can get similar information.
Make a Custom Page
- Expand Custom Pages.
- Select New > New Custom Page
Once you have a new custom page open, you’ll find that there really is nothing to it. You only have three fields:
Default. You can only have one default page, and that’s the one that you see when Tridion first loads. Hopefully your gears are churning right about now.
Getting Creative with Custom Pages
The opportunities are endless for how you can take advantage of the Custom Pages. I’ve used it for shortcuts to other places in Tridion and even as shortcuts to the actual web sites we’re managing. I need to dig in and find out where these pages are stored, because I bet there’s a lot of fun hacks we can pull off with this feature. But, today we’re talking about the topic of training in Tridion.
Did I mention Crocodoc already? Not only is there a professional API, there’s a personal version, too. Remember that it converts documents into HTML and HTML5 — and it works in any browser. So why not hop on over to Crocodoc and sign up?2 Once you’ve got an account, just upload a document and look at the beautiful, plugin-free, IE-friendly, embedded result. Now just click on share in the top right of your Crocodoc page, and grab that URL.
Just make sure before you copy and paste that link that you uncheck the option to Allow others to Add Comments. Unless, of course, you’d like to have all your Tridion users collaborate, which might not actually be a bad idea.
Your big idea
If you want a training document for your Tridion users, use some embedding service to get it on a web page. Then create a custom page that uses the URL for that embedded document. Of course you don’t have to use Crocodoc, but their cross-browser support for PDF, Word, PowerPoint, and Excel makes them an easy candidate. An especially since Tridion 2009 is IE-only, it’s nice to know that Crocodoc will still work.3
2I tried to think of a quadripedal reptilian movement that implies speed, but it’s hard to do when the animal in question will have drowned and eaten you as a result.
3 This isn’t some elaborate advertisement. I genuinely like Crocodoc. I’m only trying to push Crocodoc because A)They have great support B) they convert PDFs to HTML, and the next version will be SVG; not canvas like the other goobers C) Their logo looks like the Lacoste logo lost 40 pounds on a vegetarian diet