As you may or may not know, the beta version of Kentico 8.1 was recently released. I've had a chance to take it for a spin and wanted to share my first impressions on what the newest version of Kentico brings to the table. Here's a secret...it's pretty darn impressive.
Live Tiles on the Dashboard
This is the most talked about feature in Kentico 8.1 for sure. The role based Dashboard that was released as a part of Kentico 8.0 was already a killer feature of the product. It made it possible to personalize by role the first experience that website admins had with the Kentico admin interface. Now in 8.1, the Tiles on the Dashboard behave much like Windows 8 Tiles. They animate and are more easily customizable. The pictures below truly do not do this feature justice. Seeing it in action is pretty impressive.
You can now drag and drop them around, add more tiles on the fly, and remove the ones you don’t want without having to go to the Roles application. It’s even possible to make your own live tiles for custom modules as well. The screen shot below shows the edit mode of the Dashboard. Check out the Kentico DevNet article on Live Tiles and Dashboard Customization for even more about this new feature.
Buy X, Get Y Discounts
This was a much requested feature by many Kentico e-commerce site owners. Again the DevNet Article goes into more of the full details so I’m not going to spend that much time on this one.
What I really like about Kentico 8.1 and 8.0 when compared to previous versions is the fact that you can generate these discount codes in a specific way with a specific prefix like ClothingXX. From there you can even tie coupon codes to personalization and use them in your Marketing Automation efforts.
Enhanced LinkedIn Integration
Previously in Kentico 8.0, LinkedIn integration was purely around an authentication method. Now you can create your LinkedIn App in Kentico. The functionality gives you the ability to post to your Company’s Profile either through the Module itself or as part of an Advanced Workflow for automatically publishing content to other networks like Facebook and Twitter. You do have to go through the process of creating an App on the LinkedIn Developers site. Once you have that created you register it in Kentico and then the Company Updates and Company Profiles tabs come in to play.
You can even see some statistics back inside of Kentico from your company’s LinkedIn Profile. It’s pretty cool.
Now if you really wanted to, you could click publish once and push to all sorts of social channels. Again impressive.
Microsoft SharePoint definitely has a love / hate relationship with most IT Professionals and/or Individuals who have to use it at their organization. The one thing I tell people the most is that SharePoint is still best in class when it comes to document management and document collaboration activities. So it is not going anywhere. The good part about 8.1 is that it makes connecting SharePoint lists and libraries easier than before.
If you had used the SharePoint webparts in previous versions of Kentico, you know it was mostly a guess at if you had configured the properties correctly to talk to the right list service or not in. The improvement that is now present is that you can register one or more SharePoint connections to SharePoint 2010, SharePoint 2013, or SharePoint Online once in the admin interface and connect multiple webparts on multiple templates to the SharePoint App Connection, and test to see if it worked or not.
Along with the new and improved configurability there is a new version of the SharePoint data source webpart. There are more options now to finely configure exactly what you want to get out of the list or library from SharePoint plus additional debugging information is available. It also looks like the old SharePoint webparts have also been marked as obsolete. That’s one thing to consider in an upgrade scenario.
Kentico 8.1 adds some really nice features to the product, as well as, optimizes some existing ones. The improvement to rebuilding Contact Groups in the On-line Marketing solution is much anticipated, and I am very curious to see what upgrade improvements there will be too. The full Kentico product roadmap also has a few more items that are part of the release, and you can read more about Kentico 8.1 beta release directly from the new article on DevNet.
Kentico 8.1 is slated to be released on 8/22/14. I hope the upgrade script is ready to go too. From what I have see so far in these few days it is an upgrade that is definitely worth it.