Update: Dec 1st, 2009

On This Page…

What Is It? ~ Who Uses It? ~ Why Use It? ~ Do I Have to Use It?
How Do I Get It? ~ Where Can I Get Training?5 Most Common Errors
Are There Other Resources Available?

What Is It?

CommonSpot is the application used to any Colby Department, Club or Organization page that has been developed using the preset look and feel templates for Colby College web pages. CommonSpot is a Content Management System (CMS) that allows Colby to:

  • Establish common attributes on all pages (look and feel)
  • Track, organize and manage all content on the system (images, media, text)
  • Determine navigational continuity on sites (template-driven)
  • Control access to sensitive information
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Who Uses It?

Anyone responsible for editing and maintaining a Colby site that uses the CMS, such as a department site or a club site.

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Why Use It?

CommonSpot offers a template-driven, non-HTML focused, site development tool that is more intuitive than raw HTML coding. In addition, the built-in templates and tools created by college ITS professionals for your use, allow you to create standard-looking, professional pages that are easily maintained and managed.


This is a view of a Colby CommonSpot departmental web page.


This view shows only the universal header that all pages display (across the top) and the standardly formatted navigational column on the left side of the page. Links in the left navigational column are editable; format of the column itself is not.


The final view shows the section of the page that is customizable by the user.

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Do I Have To Use It?

There are several reasons why you might choose not to use CommonSpot:

  • The site you are maintaining is not currently in CommonSpot
    (most usually this requires Dreamweaver or raw HTML coding)
  • You want to create a personal/professional web site
    (see WordPress)
  • The site you are maintaining does not site on the Colby servers 
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How Do I Get It?

If you are in charge of editing a department page:

  • Contact technical training
  • Indicate the web site you will be maintaining and request access and training
  • Technical training will respond and set up a training date.
  • Once the date is scheduled, ITS will make sure that your username is added as a contributor with access to the appropriate pages on or before the date of your training.
  • Once you have completed the training (about 45 minutes), you will be all set to maintain your page(s)

If you will be in charge of editing a club page:

  • The same procedure should be followed EXCEPT:
  • The email to technical training needs to come from Kelley Wharton indicating that you will be in charge of the club site.
  • Technical training will then contact the identified individual.

If you want to have a student worker help maintain your site:

  • Follow the same procedure EXCEPT:
  • The email to technical training should come from the current editor/maintainer of the page and should include the name of the student worker who will be editing the page.
  • Technical training will contact the student worker to set up the training.
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Where Can I Get Training/Help?

You can get additional assistance after your initial introductory training by:

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5 Most Common Errors

The following errors and solutions are the most common reasons that users may have difficulty editing their pages.

Problem: I Cannot see the editing menus and the individual element editing “gear icons”. Probable Solution: You are not on the “author” server. In order to edit a CommonSpot page, you need to be on the author”server. The author server allows users to make changes to pages and review them before making permanent changes to the publicly-viewable pages on their site. The author server for any CommonSpot page is “…your-page-url-here”
Problem: I am on the author server, but I still cannot see the editing menus and the individual element editing “gear icons”. Probable Solution: You are not logged in. In order for CommonSpot to award you authoring access to any page, it has to check your username against it’s internal security database to make sure you are authorized to edit the site. This prevents unauthorized users from making changes to your site. However, the only way CommonSpot can tell who you are is if you have logged in.
Problem: I am on the author server, I am logged in, I can see the drop-down menus but some of the commands are missing. Probable Solution: You are not in author mode. CommonSpot has three modes: Read, Edit and Author. The default mode when you access a CommonSpot page on the author server is “Read”. You must change this mode to “Author” (or “Edit) in order to make changes or add content to your site. The mode settings for your page are found in the center drop-down menu at the top of your page.
Problem: Weird stuff is happening. Some tasks do not complete correctly. I cannot see some menu items. Probable Solution: You are not using FireFox as your browser. CommonSpot requires FireFox in order for all dialog data entry forms to be displayed (and perform updates) successfully.
Problem: I am on the author server, I am logged in; I am in author mode, I am using FireFox. Where are the gear icons? Probable Solution: You have accidentlly “hidden” them. CommonSpot 5.1 allows you to not display the individual gear and rendering icons associated with each element on your page. Scroll to the top of the page and immediately to the left of the drop-down menus, you will see three icons. If they are semi-transparent, it means they are hidden. Click on them to re-display them. This can also happen at the individual element level. Click on the element and unclick “hide icons”.
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Are There Other Resources Available?

CommonSpot is a propriatary piece of software that is customized at each installtion. Therefore there is little outside references or help materials available that would be of any use.  The CommonSpot Contributor Guide (PDF) is very detailed and generic in content (Colby customizations will not be reflected in the content.). It can be downloaded here, and might be of use to someone who already has advanced HTML skills.

Version 5.1 Differences

The current CommonSpot version on campus is 5.1. Those folks who received training before August of 2008 may want/need a refresher on the differences between 5.0 and 5.1. Most of these are cosmetic in nature, but the new placements of menus and tasks can be confusing. Contact technical training if you would like a 1-on-1 update session.

New Subsite Tools

The new Colby look and feel was launched in September of 2009. A new group of subsite tools was launched at the same time that makes the management of events, news and announcements elements much easier.  These elements can be found in the Element Gallery under “New subsite tools“. Contact Communications to schedule an introduction to these elements.

Please contact technical training for any additional help.

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