Book Club: MODX The Official Guide

At this moment, I have a tall stack of unread books related to content management systems sitting in front me. Publishers and authors apparently like my review style because new books continue to be sent my way. However, reading a book from cover to cover for a review (the last one being six months ago) takes time and I just haven't been able to keep up with the required reading. So with admission that I haven't read every page of these books, I've decided to at least start posting mini-reviews of select books and hoping that this move is still a win-win-win for publishers, authors and readers.

So in Oprah style, welcome to CMS Report's Book Club. The first book of this new series is Bob Ray's MODX: The Official Guide. This is the first book published by MODX Press and represents how much the MODX community recognizes the need to get quality CMS books about their projects into the hands of developers and users. I've had a couple conversations with MODX's Jay Gilmore and have witnessed the huge effort and level of support taking place to get this book published.

Becoming a publisher is no easy task but we felt no-one else was going to do it as well as we will at this stage. We have at least 3 other books including one that is nearly complete in the works for release over the next 3 quarters from MODX Press. The first one is the hardest. [Gilmore]

MODX: The Official GuideMODX is both an open source Content Management System (CMS) and a Content Management Framework (CMF). In other words it can be used by the content management user and also by the experienced web developer needing to use the MODX as building blocks to create any number of different CMS platforms. By the time you’ve finished reading MODX: The Official Guide, you should be able to use MODX to create new web sites or to port existing web sites to MODX. It is the author's goal in writing this book "to provide all the information you need to use the basic building blocks of MODX to meet your needs as a web designer/developer".

In order to get the most out of this 772 page book, you should have a basic familiarity with (X)HTML and CSS. Although knowledge of PHP is not necessary, the author also recommends that you learn PHP to utilize MODX better.

You will also see some PHP code in the book. You can do a lot with MODX without knowing PHP, but to get the most out of MODX, you really should have at least some knowledge of PHP. If you don’t, never fear. PHP is a relatively easy computer language, and the PHP Primer in this book’s Appendix will help you get started.

One of the biggest difficulties I have in learning a new open source CMS is the assumption some communities make that the culture behind their CMS is common elsewhere in content management. That assumption is often wrong as it is easy for new visitors in any open source community to become quickly lost. The author of MODX does a great job in making sure the reader is aware of the MODX way of doing things and there is little chance you'll get lost with this book. While you may be confused with such MODX terms as chunks (reusable non-PHP code), snippets (usually PHP code), namespace, and properties...don't get too concern.  After you spend some time with this book, you'll find yourself quickly becoming comfortable with the new vocabulary and differing perspective that MODX offers.

The content and stye of this book tries to be a reference that both beginners and MODX experts can utilize. While this is true, I think those that that will benefit the most from MODX: The Official Guide are those that consider themselves somewhere in the middle of the two extremes. Those that have used MODX for at least a few months and those that are too humble to consider themselves an expert will benefit the most from this book.  In other words, I believe this is one of those books that intermediate users (this includes most everyone with an interest in MODX) should have on their bookshelf. What if you consider yourself a MODX beginner? I promise you, with this book you won't be a MODX beginner for very long.

At this time, I'm aware of only one place to purchase MODX: The Official Guide and that is as a pre-order through MODX Press.