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Developer(s) Fog Creek Software
Stable release 2.0 / August 25, 2003 (2003-08-25)
Type Content Management System

CityDesk is a proprietary Content Management System created by Fog Creek Software, which was founded by well-known blogger, author and software usability proponent Joel Spolsky.

CityDesk differs from most Content Management Systems in that it resides as a client-side application. It uses templates and a simple database structure to generate static web pages that are uploaded to a web server by its built-in FTP client. CityDesk runs on Microsoft Windows, and uses the Microsoft Jet Database Engine. This architecture makes it particularly suitable for smaller, information-rich sites whose users reside on a single network in a Microsoft-centric environment.

The unusual architecture brings with it some significant advantages. CityDesk's client-side model allows a relatively rich and responsive user interface. The program can be scripted with batch files to allow post-processing of pages by other applications. CityDesk's page editing interface creates XHTML-compliant code.

CityDesk's data management is more flexible than might at first appear: a CityDesk plug-in, HTML DBScript,[1] allows CityDesk to access data and generate pages from any Windows ODBC-compliant database.

The architecture creates two obvious issues. Data added to the system goes "live" only when a user makes a decision to publish it - although this will be at best a minor disadvantage for many users. And users outside the network cannot interact directly with the system without the use of an external database and a scripting language such as PHP, JSP or ColdFusion. However, the system can be used to hold and manipulate templates and pages written in these languages.

Used in this way, CityDesk becomes a higher-level page-management system. Its combination of power and simplicity has attracted a small but enthusiastic group of users, who have used CityDesk to address a variety of site-creation challenges.

The last major release of CityDesk was version 2.0, on August 25, 2003. In line with Joel Spolsky's policy[2] of not discussing new versions, Fog Creek has since made almost no statements on future upgrades. However, in a 2004 interview[3] with Australia's Age and Sydney Morning Herald newspapers, Joel Spolsky pointed to limitations in the client-side CMS model. CityDesk, he said, had "never really succeeded in selling to organisations with more than two or three people" creating or editing content. Although Fog Creek has not said as much, it seems likely that CityDesk is not in active development. Joel Spolsky has stated that CityDesk "flopped".[4]


  1. ^ Lou Franco - HTML DBScript For CityDesk
  2. ^ Mouth Wide Shut by Joel Spolsky - January 15, 2003 Joel on Software
  3. ^ Simplicity and ubiquity matter (or, How reality mugged Joel Spolsky) by David Walker for his fortnightly IT column in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.(July 23, 2004) -
  4. ^ Joelonsoftware - Figuring Out what your company is all about

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