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PostNuke Essentials

This chapter outlines the basic functions and tools available in the PostNuke portal site administration system. Included are previews of new features that will be available in PostNuke 0.8.
This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

In this Chapter

  • PostNuke Terminology
  • Working with the Administration System
  • Site Settings
  • Troubleshooting
  • Next

It's time to start making the PostNuke site truly yours by customizing the global website settings. PostNuke includes a central administrative area where you can configure nearly everything about your site, from its name displayed in the browser's title bar to the footer code displayed on every page. But first, you need to understand the naming conventions and terms used throughout PostNuke. Generally, language should not be a barrier to using PostNuke, but you do need to know about a few terminology quirks. In this chapter's upcoming sections, you learn about

  • PostNuke terminology

  • Working with the administration system

  • Site settings

PostNuke Terminology

A number of terms and conventions used with PostNuke can be confusing to a new user of the application. To minimize any problems you might encounter with some of the words, this section covers the most common issues.

Modules and Blocks

You will see the terms modules and blocks universally throughout PostNuke. PostNuke is essentially developed in a modular way and each component of PostNuke is called a module. Many modules do their job unseen, working seamlessly as part of the overall PostNuke system. Some modules interact with users and administrators, and some have what are called blocks. Blocks are smaller components of modules that display module content for your site.

Core modules specifically refer to those components included with the PostNuke package itself. Third-party modules are written by other developers outside of the main PostNuke team and are released separately from PostNuke. Many third-party modules are exceptionally helpful and widely used, and some of them have been incorporated into PostNuke itself, becoming core modules.

International Spellings

It's very important to note that in addition to PostNuke's worldwide usage, the application is also developed internationally. Other language options allow you to change from the English default, but there are currently no dialect choices for English in the default install. English words are just as likely to appear with British spellings as they are with American.


PostNuke 0.8, predicted to be available sometime in the later half of 2005, will include a completely reworked pnLanguages module that will centralize the settings for a site and make it much easier to create support for additional languages and dialects.


PostNuke separates its content from presentation using themes. Many applications now allow this kind of visual customization, and you might also be familiar with the term skin, where "skinning an application" is equivalent to applying a theme to change its appearance. Though some Content Management Systems (CMS) use skin to describe their presentation layer, in PostNuke the standard is theme. PostNuke's themes are made using one or more web files containing Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), PHP code, or both. The creation of PostNuke themes is covered in Chapter 10, "Themes," and Chapter 15, "Customized Themes."

Stories, Articles, and News

Some PostNuke terms are also used interchangeably in what can be an inconsistent or unclear manner. This is likely due to the large number of different developers who have worked on the PostNuke application over the years. The most commonly confused example is the use of stories, articles, and news. All three words refer to items posted and managed through the same tools. For example, when you post information through a form, you have the choice of displaying it on the home page or simply adding it to the site. If you show the item on the home page, it's considered "news." Old news is cycled off the home page over time. Regardless of whether an item is displayed on the home page, it is still part of the collection of permanent "articles."

The term "story" is used in PostNuke to identify the administrative management of news and articles. In PostNuke usage, a site administrator adds or approves a story for the home page news, whereas a general site visitor submits news for the site. In both cases, a given story can also be sidelined as simply an article and never appear on the home page at all. So, a given posting that appears on the home page can, at any point, be referred to as a story, article, or news item. Even old articles are called past news or news stories. There's very little clear distinction. Many have commented upon this issue, and there will hopefully be a more clear usage of those terms in a future release.

Topics, Categories, and Sections

Another sometimes-confusing usage in PostNuke is found with the terms topics, categories, and sections. Topics are a way of grouping news articles. When an article appears, it is usually accompanied by a graphic; the graphic is defined by the topic with which the article is associated. Every article must have a topic. Categories also group articles, but a category is only displayed as text, usually before an article's title. A default category called "Articles," which when chosen essentially means an article is not in any category, is in the general "Articles" pool. Topics and categories have similar names and duties, but topics are what add the icon to an article.

Sections might seem to be related to topics and categories, but they are actually completely separate and should not be a problem after you understand their function. A section is a kind of alternative article, but its format is more for long, multipage documents. These long documents are grouped by section name. General site users cannot submit a section document for inclusion on a site. Section documents are also named articles, but section articles are not connected in any way to news/story articles.


And, finally, you will be reading a great deal about PostNuke hacks. A hack in PostNuke is a manual change or rewriting of the PHP code that alters the function of the application. These changes do not carry the negative connotation often associated with hacking. PostNuke is open source, which means its code is legally open to any changes you want to make. PostNuke hacks are often publicized and recommended by other developers and users as a means to extend PostNuke's default capabilities. Popular hacks can be chosen to be included with future releases of PostNuke just like popular third-party modules. Throughout this book, you will discover the custom changes that you too can make to PostNuke's source code to maximize its use.

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