About Cofax

Last Updated: 2002/Jan/21

What is Cofax?

Cofax is a Web-based text and multimedia content publication/content management system. It was designed to simplify the presentation of newspapers on the Web and to expedite real-time Web publication.

Cofax, at it's core, is a framework of software modules and tools to manage and deliver news content from different sources. It was developed using Java, database, and XML technologies. It is easy to use and implement.

In some ways, it is similar to commercial products like Vignette StoryServer, FutureTense Internet Publishing System, and Pantheon Builder, but costs much less to implement, maintain and use.

Cofax is Open Source software developed mostly by KnightRidder.com/Philly.com staff working with a host of open source developers who contributed code.

Is Cofax for real? Where can I see it in action?

"One today is worth two tomorrows; never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today."-- Benjamin Franklin

Cofax is here today. It's been in production for over two years and has served hundreds of millions of page views for Knight Ridder and a growing list of independent companies.

Please see our Cofax In Action page for live examples.

Why was Cofax developed?

"If you want something done, ask a busy person." -- Benjamin Franklin

The Cofax Software was mostly developed by the Technology Staff at KnightRidder.com/Philly.com working with the philly.com Production staff and The Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper staff. Feedback from other Knight Ridder newspaper users of Cofax also shaped the product.

Close interaction between the users and developers of the toolset greatly benefited the finished product and has had much to do with it's success.

Other people have also kindly contributed to the development of Cofax as an Open Source project.

The initial motivation for the development of Cofax was to set up automatically updating columnists sites for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

In 1995, the Philly Online Staff developed pin, a system to automatically publish the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News newspapers on the web.

In 1996, the Philly Online staff came up with the concept of a product called the Packager or pin version 2 which would automate the building of special packages and sites using the newspaper's content.

In 1996 and 1997, Philly Online created Co-branding software for use by the Sports Network. In their own time, some of the same developers created other Open Source software.

Knowledge and code from several earlier projects, both Philly Online's projects and independent Open Source projects was used in the development of Cofax.

In 1999, Cofax (then called Goon) was developed to replace the pin system.

Produced in an environment intimate to its customers, with a low budget ceiling, a number of specific benefits were sought after and achieved:

  1. Ease of use. The templating system and the content management toolset would need to require minimal training and technical support.
  2. Content/Design/Logic seperation. Content creators and designers must free to create without needing technical support. System logic can be changed without requiring changes to design or content.
  3. High performance/scalability at reasonable cost. The largest sites on the Knight Ridder network were serving tens of millions of page views a month. The new system would need to support that and more.
  4. Platform independence. Not having to rely on one single vendor for app server, operating system, or even database.
  5. Database logic independence. A fatal flaw of most similar systems is their tieing to one database schema and platform. Changes to schema in most systems require massive changes to source code. It was a goal to solve this technological problem.
  6. Flexibility on importing the various, and highly different newsfeeds that are provided by newspapers.
  7. Static site look and feel. URLs were to be simple and navigatable. Sites should be indexable by standard search engine technologies.

The Cofax project achieved these goals and much more.

Initially rolled out two of the largest newspapers in the the Knight Ridder chain, the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, Cofax adoption took place for the majority of the newspaper chain on a voluntary basis after hearing word of it's impressive capabilities.

Today, the entire Knight Ridder online network utilizes a second generation content management system that utilizes concepts pioneered by Cofax.

Where can I get Cofax?

First, please read the Cofax Software License.

You must read and agree to the Cofax Software License before you can download or use it.

When you are ready to download Cofax Files please Visit the Cofax Download Page

How can you say Cofax is Reliable?

  • Independent companies have had great success deploying Cofax as a publishing solution.
  • Cofax has served the highest traffic news paper sites of Knight Ridder.
  • Cofax has been very useful for many of Knight Ridder's smallest news sites.
  • Cofax's ability to serve at the rate of several million page views per day running on a configuration of a single Internet server plus one data store server is regularily tested using Microsoft's Web Application Stress Tool running on several workstations
  • What do you mean Request Driven?

    Cofax utilizes a strong application of the Model-View-Controller design pattern. Simply put - your HTML designers will not have to worry about breaking code when they edit design. There is a strict seperation.

    For more details read our Cofax Technology page.

    Click to view diagram

    Diagram by Kim Marcille, Production & Technology Manager, Knightridder.com/Miami.com

    We are not a Software Company. Can we use and support Cofax?

    "Mine is better than ours."-- Benjamin Franklin

    No matter what publishing system you buy or build, a major part of supporting it will be internal to your company. Particularily the areas of feed conversion and transfer to the central database will need to be developed and supported internally. These are the most crucial areas that need the most upkeep and support. Keeping this piece of the technology within the company and not owning the presentation system does not make sense. With Cofax you are not dependent on any one vendor or your own systems staff. Its open modular design allows you to go to different vendors for different needs at different times and still own a reliable, supportable application.

    Your systems folks are already supporting other software throughout the company, and will continue to need to do so. Any publishing system that is implemented will need cusomization from time to time, as new needs arise, by publication. Someone will need to do that maintenance. A system the size of this is not and cannot be simply turn-key.

    Having the programming be open source will actually speed development and maintenance time. Having the project maintained by an outside entity, one that has economic concerns other than us, slows the process down and can act as a roadblock. What if our needs run counter to the needs of every one of their clients?

    Cofax already supports 3rd party software. It is an open architecture system. If needed, any layer can be built by a third party, using our components and framework as its base.

    For example, a vendor could build new editor's tools for Cofax using the published APIs.

    It's 'open'. Which is what other solutions you can buy are usually not. Will they give you full access and modification capability to their source code? Would you buy a car that doesn't allow you to open the hood and see what's inside?

    Buying software to publishing your content is not like buying Microsoft Word. Microsoft Word demands no change in a users' processes in how they do their job. It is at a lower level and is a replaceable component.

    When you buy software on the scale of that of a SAP or a a major publishing system, what you are buying is NOT just software, but the PROCESS to maintain it. The business rules that define it's operation are in control by the company. That is not where they should be in a fast moving field such as the web where our business processes need to be able to change on a dime. It's fine for a financial service, but not the Internet.

    How did Cofax being Open Source benefit Knight Ridder?

  • It allowed others to improve Cofax. They improved its architecture. They created components for it that everyone benefited from.
  • It allowed people to improve its security.
  • It allowed other organizations to adopt and implement it.
  • An Open Source model did not preclude Knight Ridder from benefiting from the product.
  • An Open Source model does not preclude Knight Ridder, or any other company, from developing proprietary extensions to the system for their own internal needs.
  • It allowed multiple vendors to be able to support & further develop Cofax. It eliminated dependence on a single outside vendor or person within the company.
  • What are the benefits for me as a System Administrator or Developer?

    You can build new applications from it's modular archetecture quickly and easily. You can choose your own operating system, database (ODI, XML, SQL), servlet container or replace the servlets entirely as a delivery method. You have the flexibility to choose.

    It imports content from multiple sources (e.g. newspaper back-end publishing systems, wire services, manual input using Editors tools, databases, via web, ftp) and publishes it to a database. It then serves this content to multiple mediums in multiple formats (e.g. As dynamic web sites, as static web sites, as e-mail digests, to palm size PCs, to cell phones & pagers, to affiliates's web sites as a content provider.)

    From a site production staff's viewpoint, Cofax allows for complete separation of:

    1. Content
    2. Presentation
    3. Programming
    4. Site Management

    Designers can work on the templates without any risk of breaking the code (Unlike in ASP, ColdFusion, JSP, etc.)

    Cofax's data store has import and export facilities, both real time as well as scheduled. The data store can be local or at a foreign server across the Internet. Article data is imported into the database using Java classes accessing XML data. Due to this architecture it is very easy to add new news sources (newspapers) to the database. All a newspaper would need to do is send an XML file containing that day's articles and it would be available within the database.

    To provide access to the article data a set of Java classes have been designed to employ template based production of static and dynamic sites. Due to the use of Java, you can build your display platform using any of the popular technologies available, CGI/Perl, Active Server Pages, Cold Fusion, or in philly.com's case, Java Servlets. This provides for easy implementation and a quick return on investment. Our Java Servlet display classes are provided with Cofax but are not necessary to reap many of Cofax's advantages.

    What are the benefits for me as a Site Leader?

    Saves people time

    The automation and the tools make it much easier for the production staff to build, change and maintain their sites. Staff has a lot more time to spend on higher quality work rather than tedious repetitive manual building of sites.

    Deploy your staff more effectively

    Complete seperation of content, presentation, design, programming and site management lets people concentrate on what they do best.

    Get up and running quickly and at low cost

    A small newspaper can be up and running on Cofax in less than a week and the cost of setting it up can be a few hundred dollars to set up the import module and database entries and templates!

    You are not tied to one vendor

    If you do decide to host a cofax site on your own, rest easy in knowing that it is built on standard server software that has plenty of support available. Also, if you have needs that cofax forfills the majority of, but not all of, know that unlike many other systems, Cofax is open. You have access to ths source code and design. That means you can contract out support and development to the vendor of your choice.

    Automated updates & archives

    Updates from feeds, such as your newspaper publishing system, are automated. Archives are automatically maintained. Templates for a 7-day archive, one month archive, etc. can be created within minutes.

    Powerful Co-Branding & Flexible Syndication Features

    Parts of Cofax are based on a system that was designed primarily for Co-Branding and Syndication. This is where Cofax really shines.

    No new client software to install and support

    Journalists, editors, and designers need no new software installed on the computers. All they require is a web browser and an internet connection.

    What are the benefits for me as a Sales Manager?

    Create sellable products faster, with less resources

    Sell advertisements for multimple versions of content, for example, cell phone, printer friendly version, palm pilot, e-mail edition, and other products.

    Works with your present addvertisement serving software

    You can use products like NetGravity and RealMedia Open Ad Stream, or place advertisements in any other fashion. Cofax requires no change in your present procedures.

    URLs are easy to track

    Cofax output is perfect for usage reporting programs like Accrue or WebTrends, and for Search engine indexers.

    What are the benefits for me as an Editor?

    Makes packaging of content easier - no programming required

    Articles are automatically archived and made available for reuse. Content can be collected and republished in new formats, for new audiences. For example, columnist sites or weblogs.

    Handheld, cell phone, send by e-mail, and printer friendly formats are provided out of the box.

    Classification, Keywording, and Taxonomy management

    Articles are classified and keyworded, allowing you to manage and reuse them easier.

    Work in advance and pre-publish

    Editors and journalists can work in advance and post material before publication. Related material for an article can be posted before a newspaper generated story is sent, allowing you the flexibility you need in scheduling.

    Support multiple daily editions of a newspaper

    For example, see the Inquirer links on the Cofax in action page.

    Do breaking news, and online journalism

    Cofax's unique toolset and features encourage and support providing breaking news and online journalism.

    Get more time to design, while reducing your workload

    Design an entire site from as little as two templates. Cofax enables you to do away with header and footer type includes.

    Leverage what you already know

    Most sites use standard HTML WYSYWIG templates. No programming is required.

    Insured path for future growth

    Templates are not tied into any particular language, making requests like "create a cell phone version", or "create a printer friendly version", easy without any need for programming. You can use plain HTML, HTML/CSS, XML/XSL, WAP/WML and several other formats for the templates.


    Although not necessary, sections, and even single articles can have their own templates permitting you complete freedom to design a site as you see fit, with as little effort as possible.

    What are the benefits for me as a Journalist?

    Makes online journalism easy

    No special knowledge, not even HTML, is necessary. You need no special software - just a web browser and internet connection. Build weblogs, topic specific sites and more.

    Anytime, anyplace, as fast as you can type

    A web based interface makes it easy to publish your work and make corrections real time, from anywhere you have access to the internet.

    Tools enable you to be just a click away from editing a story you have posted to a publication.

    Reach a larger audience

    Your work is archived and immediately available for reuse without any effort on your behalf. For example, no programming is required to create a columnist specific site for you, or to send out a syndicated version.