Pixel & Tonic

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What is Blocks?

Posted by Brandon Kelly on Oct 23, 2012

For the past two years, we’ve been working on a little side project here at Pixel & Tonic: a new CMS called Blocks. We broke our silence a week ago with a tweet, which admittedly left a lot of people with a lot of questions. Today, we’re going to begin to answer those questions.

Ironically, the question we expected to hear the most, hasn’t been asked even once: Why bother? Perhaps that’s because the answer is obvious: This is what Pixel & Tonic was created to do.

What’s special about it?

Blocks gets its name from its biggest feature: Content Blocks. It’s our name for “fields”. We realize that every site is different, and has different content requirements. So out of the box, we supply only the bare minimum of content-y fields – titles for entries, first and last names for users, etc. Beyond that, the choice is yours. Sections, pages, users, and assets all get their own “content block sets”, where you can define exactly which content blocks you want to be associated with them. From a development perspective, we’ve made it extremely easy to add content block support to entities in the system, so plugins will be able to take advantage of them as well, with very little effort.

Beyond content blocks, the entire system is filled with goodies that will make you smile: Internationalization support, entry drafts and versioning, multi-group assignment for users, one-click updating (for the system and for plugins), and extremely powerful templating, to name a few. Oh, and did we mention that it’s P&T-designed?

If you’re a fan of our add-ons, it’s safe to say you’re going to love Blocks.

Who’s it for?

Blocks was built for web designers and developers who like to code every last HTML node by hand. It’s for web agencies that strive to make their clients happy by delivering the best solution possible. And it’s for site owners, who just want a simple tool to keep their website updated with fresh content, without going up a steep learning curve.

What types of sites can be built with Blocks?

It’s hard to answer this question without sounding a little crazy, but here goes. Whether you want to build a small brochure site, a multi-section news site, or anything in between, we want Blocks to be the best CMS option you’ve got, from both cost and feature perspectives.

To accomplish that, Blocks has been divided into 6 parts: the core, and five strategic packages, each providing features geared at different types of sites. When you go to purchase Blocks, you can pick and choose which packages you want included, based on your site’s requirements. As your site grows in scope, so can the CMS.

So what are they? Publish Pro ($100) adds multiple section support, entry drafts and versioning; Users ($100) adds user management, groups and permissions; Language ($100) adds internationalization support; Cloud ($50) adds Amazon S3 and other cloud-based file management support; and Rebrand ($50) adds the ability to brand the system for your agency or client. Oh, and if you’re building a simple website with no use for any of those packages, we’re going to give you Core…(drum roll please!)… for free.

Just how extensible is it?

It should go without saying that we’re big fans of plugins here at Pixel & Tonic. So rest assured, Blocks has been written from the ground up with extensibility in mind. The app has a comprehensive service layer providing APIs that handle absolutely all the business logic, and plugins can tap into those APIs in the exact same way that the core components do. Plugins can even offer their own APIs, enabling cross-compatibility with other plugins. They can have their own controllers, front-end resources, templates… the list goes on. So yeah… Blocks is pretty darn extensible. And if you just want to write a plugin that adds a new block type or widget to the system, it’s as easy to do as it should be.

When will it be available?

We’re gearing up for a private beta as quickly as possible. The initial focus will be finalizing our plugin APIs, so plugin developers will get access first. Once we’re ready, we’ll start to let more people in, and keep scaling it until we’re ready to launch 1.0. To stay in the loop, you can either follow @blockscms on Twitter, or signup for the newsletter on blockscms.com.

What does this mean for our EE add-ons?

In a word: Nothing. ExpressionEngine is a great tool and we’re honored to be a part of its community. We’ve had two years to figure out how to balance working on Blocks and EE add-ons side by side, and we’ve made it work. We’ll continue to maintain and support our existing add-ons, and even write new ones when we feel so compelled.

So there you have it! Hopefully this answered most of the big questions floating around, but if you’re still curious about something, feel free to email us or ask on Twitter. We’re extremely excited about Blocks, and we hope you are too.


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