Reference Guide

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CommonSpot is the content management system software used at Colby to manage department web sites. To edit a CommonSpot page, you must first be trained. After the training (a 1-hour session scheduled at your convenience) you will be given access to your department web pages.

CommonSpot is also used for some college club and organization pages. You must first have the faculty/staff advisor for the club or organization issue an email to the Technical Training Center indicating that you have been identified as the editor of the page. Then you must also receive the training and be given access to your pages.

This Reference Guide reviews the basic content covered in initial CommonSpot training and is meant to provide quick access to help for tasks commonly carried out while editing and maintaining CommonSpot web pages.

It is NOT intended to take the place of the mandatory training. It does not explain in detail HOW to do the tasks referenced, it does remind user where to find certain tasks and tools and provides a reminder overview of the purpose of their functions.

Five Things to Remember” covers the 5 most common errors that can prevent you from being able to access and/or edit your site.

CommonSpot 5.1 technically works with Internet Explorer. However, we have found situations where this is not altogether true, and some formatting that is done in IE will not appear as it seems when viewed in other browsers. It is safest to use FireFox when editing your CommonSpot pages.

CommonSpot uses pop-up windows to “communicate” with you while you edit. It will gather information and data through interfaces in the pop-up windows and ask you to input choices or  text. Therefore, it is essential that you enable pop-ups for the Colby web site. We recommend that you enable pop-ups ONLY for the Colby web site.

Colby maintains two sites for CommonSpot pages: one that is the public-facing site which contains all “published” pages and one that is reserved for editing and maintainance purposes which contains edits and/or pages that have not yet been “published”. No one can “see” this unpublished content except the site editor and CommonSpot administrators. “Publishing” a page, or individual edit” moves the content from the AUTHOR site (  to the PUBLIC site ( and makes it visible to the general public.

You can VIEW any published public page without logging into the Colby web site system. However, to access the AUTHOR site and edit your pages, you must log in. This process checks your username against a master list of users with editing privileges for any particular page/site and determines whether they should be allowed access.

The AUTHOR site provides three working “modes”: Read, Edit and Author. In READ mode – the default – you cannot make any changes to the page and you will not see the familiar icons on the page that allow you to select tasks associated with the elements on the page. In order to see and use these icons, you must be in either AUTHOR or EDIT mode.

We will first look at the CommonSpot interface, get used to some new terminology and learn where things are on your screen and what they are used for.

ICONS are small graphics (such as the gear shaped image) that indicate you can do something to the object. When clicked on, they reveal drop-down menus of possible commands and tasks. Subsequently clicking on a choice in the drop-down menu will take you to a pop-up where you can make your changes or insert elements.

GHOST TEXT is the term that CommonSpot uses to identify gray text on the page that is explanatory in  nature. For example, there is GHOSt TEXT that says: “Insert new element here” which is a clickable link. It explains what you can do there and when clicked takes you to the pop-up that allows you to do it. Think of them as directional “road signs”.

ELEMENTS are what CommonSpot calls the text and image objects that you can insert on a page. Each object – or ELEMENT – has its own functionality and pop-up window.

The standard layout for a new CommonSpot page on the AUTHOR site includes an Activation Status Bar, a Breadcrumbs link list, a Page Title, a left-hand navigation bar that serves as a Table of Contents, a Content Well, and the Authoring Drop-Down Menus.

From the Status Bar, you can choose to activate a page immediately (Activate Page Now) or to activate it when it is published (Activate when published). Checking the “Activate when published” box allows you to make changes and edit your page without it being publically available. However, remember that as soon as you publish anything on the page – it will make the page (and anything “published” on it) “viewable”. This is very useful when making changes to an already published page – just don’t publish your changes until you are finished with the changes. If you are working with a totally new page, you can “publish as you go” and basically keep the page from being viewed by not making any links to the new page on your other pages until you are completely done. In this way, no one can “find” the page even though it is technically “published”.

There are three Authoring Drop-Down Menus: the Page View menu (where you select Read, Edit or Author mode); the Properties & Actions menu (contains links to typical page maintenance tasks such as metadata, pages and documents); and the Tools & Information menu (contains links to the Page Finder and other high-level information about your page and site). You will use the Page View and Properties & Actions menus the most.)

This segment discusses various methods and tools for working with content on your CommonSpot pages.

The most common task you will perform is editing content in existing elements…changing dates, names and events are all typical tasks.

Hyperlink elements include any piece of content that is primarily a LINK to something else. Note that you can include hyperlinks in TEXT elements, and often will want to. Individual hyperlink elements are used when you want to isolate a link element on the page by itself. Probably the most common uses for stand-alone hyperlink elements are Breadcrumb Lists and Drop-Down Lists.

Images are the “Spice of Life” on web pages. CommonSpot provides multiple methods for displaying images on a page. The most often-used format is “Text Around a Image” which allows to position a picture on the page and wrap ongoing text around it.

By far the most common element on any page, is a text element. Formatted Text Elements not only allow you to input and format text, they also allow you to insert images and links, format the text as you would in any text editor and access the HTML directly if you need to adjust specific coding. Simple Text Elements only allow you to type straight text with no formatting. You can also choose to include a Header (Title) or not in your text elements.

Formatted Text Elements provide an editing interface that resembles the editing menus of any word processor. It provides formatting selections, insertion of tables, images and links, and such functions and copy and paste. It also provides a link to the HTML code for the element which allows you to edit the raw HTML directly if you wish. Unless you are familiar and comfortable with HTML coding, it is best to not edit the raw HTML, as once you corrupt code with incorrect or misplaced tags, it is diffcult to recover it. (CommonSpot does not provide line breaks or spacing in the code, so it is just a single mass of HTML tags and content which is difficult to read and edit.)

CommonSpot does provide a link to individual tags – and available attributes for those tags – from the formatted text box interface. You do make limited changes from this interface by selecting various options.

The Properties Inspector Panel displays option for selected HTML tags.

Once you have edited an element, you will need to “Publish the Changes” you have made to make the changes visible to the public. You can do this one element at a time or by the entire page. You can also choose to discard any changes you have made. This option is very useful if you have made multiuple changes to an element and then discover that it is totally wrong. Rather then having to go back into your element and undo every single change, you can just “Discard” your changes and start over.

You will probably want to create a new page at some point. You access the new page pop-up dialog through the Properties & Actions menu. When CommonSpot asks you for a destination for the new page, just click “Next”. Pages are not stored on the server in any hierarchical order in relation to each other other than the top level “folder” for any particalur site. (The English Department site vs. the ITS site, for example.) Organization of pages is all done from the linking and navigational structure on the pages themseleves, so it not necessary to physically put pages “under” one another to achieve structure.

Your department or club/organization will have been assigned a TEMPLATE when the site was originally created. Find this template and use it. Templates contain “boiler plate” content such as navigational links that were determined at the time of site design that should appear on all site pages. This not only keeps links standard and appearing on all pages, it reduces the editing work associated with maintaining a site by at least 50%. It is very important to use your Template.

Metadata is a term used to denote information about a page that is not part of the content of the page. These include things like keywords, urls and privacy settings.

The final page of the creation process should be left AS IS. It is set up to use the template to define the navigation and link structure. Just click “Finish” on this page.

In a few seconds (please wait) your new page will be displayed. Notice the Green Status Bar we discussed earlier. Uncheck “Activate when published” so you can publish as you go and start building your new page. Once you are ready for your page to go live, create links to it from either other pages or on the site template navigational bar and click on “Publish Page Now

Once you have created a page, you will probably edit it as time goes on. At some point, you  may want to revert to a previous version of a page. Rather than having to edit out all sorts of changes, CommonSpot allows you to go back to a previous version of your page.

Versions allow you to “go back” to another version of your page and also create an “audit trail” of changes.

Use the “Page View” menu to look at versions of your pages.

A NOTE OF WARNING: If you delete an entire page, it – and all the versions of it – are gone for good. There is no way to get them back. Unless you are absolutely certain that you do not want or need the content on a page, it is better to “unlink” the page and/or make it “private” (from the Properties & Actions menu) rather than delete it.

You can select a version and revert to that version of your page. The process is documented in the next few slides.

Documenting your changes is very important. You may not be the only person – ever – to edit or maintain your site pages. Someone else may have to track down what was done. In addition, since you probably have other primary duties, you may not be editing your pages every day, every week or even every month. It is easy to forget what was done when. Documenting – even with just a few words – can save you many hours of searching later.

Now for some last functions and tasks.

Manage you pages through the Properties & Actions menu. You can FIND pages and documents, DELETE them, UPDATE them, and perform other functions on them without having to hunt around for a link to them on your live pages.

My Pages allows you to view and manage all pages and documents associated with a site from one menu. To display a listing, just lick on the “+” sig next to a listing.

You have multiple options for opening a page for editing.