Monday, December 15, 2008

Composer the Poser

When a teenager wears skateboarding shoes and a brand named hoody but doesn’t skateboard, he is referred to by real boarders as a “poser”. Unfortunately, the same can be true for EMC’s Composer. It wears all of the key features of the doc app builder, but it ain’t no DAB.

Don’t get me wrong, like a good EMC citizen, using a DAB built system, I created Composer projects from Production to QA and Dev. I worked through some initial bugs in the Composer build and was determined to deploy the next phase of the project using D6 sp1 Composer. I had heard that D6.5 was not going to use DAB, so I thought I’d better get on the bandwagon and get used to Composer.

I read through Jason Duke’s article on the Blue Fish site and was assured that I’d get through the process with a few issues, but no show stoppers. I figured out that all of the directory structures needed to be consistent in each environment. I also worked through a deployment plan for multiple, decoupled dar files for easier development coordination and implementation. I rewrote my design document to follow the new and “improved” configuration UI of Composer.

The first road block was value assistance for a query. The xml file created by Composer was missing the “complete_list = true” key/value pair for the query element. This meant that the dropdown was fixed at 20 pixels. EMC support sent a fix for webtop (not Composer) which fixed the width of the dropdown, but the dropdown graphic was the new look and feel graphic. This was glaringly bad for users to see. What were they thinking?

The second road block was that if you include groups and roles in the Composer project during deployment they will overwrite the existing groups and members if you don’t remember to change the install instructions each time. There is no global way to tell Composer to ignore existing artifacts, thus each time you deploy, you have to set the install option again for each artifact. When the project install fails which it will over and over again, you’ll be clicking and clicking. Bottom line is that this needs a lot of work for it to be production ready.

The third road block was that value assistance for query based dropdowns changes the rendering of the select box as compared to the fixed value dropdown. Hello, a customer can tell the difference between the two and won't like it. The fix is the go into DAB and save it again, but this is no excuse. Gotta wonder what level of regression testing was done...

After chasing a few more bugs with Composer D6 sp1, the patch came out, but that didn’t help much. Common sense won out and we’ve gone back to using DAB for deployment. As clunky as it is, at least it isn’t a poser. By the way, DAB was released for D6.5. Gee I wonder why?


Anonymous said...

I can relate, if there is one thing I find lacking in Composer it is the ability to independently modify components.

I may just want to change a lifecycle, and for that I have to run the entire installation and be sureto have the install option set properly. It gets to be a pain.

I've taken to using overwrite a lot, even though I know it will eventually bite me.

Dave Louie said...

Hi John,

I'm the Product Manager for Composer. Thanks for trying Composer.

I'd like to address the 2 road blocks that you faced.

I took a look at the first road block you identified. In Composer 6.5 SP1, I created a type, created an attribute, and created a conditional value assistance fixed list of possible values. I clicked the flag 'List is complete'.

I then opened up the XML and see that the XML model has the attribute "complete_list="true"".

Does this mean your first roadblock has been addressed in Composer D6.5 SP1?

For the second road block, in Composer, you can set the install options at the project level.

Right click on the Composer Project, select Properties. Go to the Documentum Project properties, and you'll see the Upgrade option drop-down list. One of the values there is "Ignore Matching Objects".

Would that work for you?

We can take this discussion to email. You can contact me directly at


John F Webber said...


Thanks for the update on 6.5sp1, but this is for D6 sp1 patch, which does not have these fixes. This brings up an ongoing issue with the point releases of EMC products and that is most companies can't move as fast as the releases. Upgrading takes time and money that companies need to justify each time. So if the company is at D6 sp1 for a while during the 6.5 release, it is left with patches and fixes to a point release that is never going to catch up in terms of fixes to the lastest point release...

Dave Louie said...

Hi John,

Sorry, one thing I forgot to mention in my post is that in general, Composer version is not tied to Content Server version.

So in your case, you can use Composer 6.5 SP1 to deploy against a D6 SP1 Content Server. It's a tested scenario.

If you're open to it, zip up your Composer Project, send it to me, and I can install it to one of our repositories here to see if I can reproduce your problem.

Keep in mind that when you send me a Composer Project, you'll have to send me pre-requisite scripts to set up any users, groups, or ACLs that you expect to be present, since I'll be installing to a clean repository.


John F Webber said...

This is sounding better. One more issue that I'm curious about is the change in the select box image for query value assistance as opposed to a fixed value assistance. Is this fixed as well?