It is important to realise that the products in the products area are not necessarily quality-controlled to the same standards that Plone itself is - doing so would simply be too time-consuming and place unnecessary limits on the freedom of third-party developers to share their creations with the rest of the Plone universe. However, this does mean that you have to be a little careful when you install a product!
First of all, there are often several products that do roughly the same thing. For example, there are several message board applications with different strengths and weaknesses. How shall you choose? And how do you know if a product is reliable or ready for real-world use?
First of all, you could judge the state of the product by how it presents itself. Does it provide sufficient information for you to understand what it does? Does it have a bug tracker? How many open or closed bugs are there? What version is it at? A product with an alpha release is obviously less stable than a product with a final release.
Secondly, try to gauge what other people are using. It may be a good idea to ask politely in the mailing lists or the chatroom for other people's experiences.
Ultimately, though, you will have to try it out! When doing so, you should never, ever simply install it on your one and only "production" Zope instance. Third party products have been known to completely hose your Plone instance before. There are a two golden rules:
- Always try out a product on a test instance. Ideally, this should be an exact copy of your production instance.
- Always keep backups of your production instances, and take a backup immediately before installing a new product. You never know what can go wrong.
To set up a test instance, you should install a second Zope instance (usually it is easiest to do so using the
mkzopeinstance.py script, see the set-up from source how-to), and copy the contents of the
Products directory and the
Data.fs from the production Zope instance to the test one. This way, you will have an exact copy to play with.
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