May 18, 2011

The CMS Uber Guide: Free

Choices, Choices, Choices…

In the realm of Free Content Management Systems, there are a lot of options. Here is a massive list of CMS’s. Way more than we’re going to cover here. Free content management systems often have a large community following, more so than most licensed systems. This is very beneficial if you require support but with free communities support isn’t always provided. People are just being kind enough to help address your problems and maybe provide a solution, workaround or quick fix; or absolutely nothing. If you have a very specific problem, or obscure issue you might have to solve it on your own.

On the up side their are lots of CMS’s to pick from so this will be the longest list yet; in no particular order.

Joomla

Joomla CMS

This CMS has a very large community following, not bound by any borders, and probably has the best multi-lingual support for a content management system ever. The documentation is well written and gives you a solid foundation to build upon to help get you started and up to speed with all the working parts of Joomla. It has quite a number of functional components.. in fact thinking about it now it has enough features to be pretty close to an Enterprise-level CMS. With the latest release 1.6 updating and improving a number of issues including major usability improvements allowing older version plug-ins to run within the latest version of Joomla. The downside is that 1.6 wasn’t met with outright joy from the community but more of a lingering anger as it has been two years since the last major update. Some argue the CMS is losing direction when compared to the competition.

Breakdown
  • URL: Joomla
  • Language: PHP
  • Tag System: No
  • Extendable: Yes
  • Common Usage: Broad Range

WordPress

WordPress

This is the world’s number one publishing platform. Chances are if you have content, WordPress is going to manage and publish it for you. With the release of version 3.1 and the awesome new features that come along with the update really show that this open source platform is not just a meager blogging tool anymore; it’s a full fledged CMS. And rightfully earns its place in the list.

It has a simple 5-minute install process which is easy to follow, a huge assortment of themes ready to go “out-of-the-box” getting you up and running in under 10 minutes. I find the longest process for me is searching through all the cool plugins available which add so much functionality to the system.

Although everything is simple in apparence, under the hood quite a number of thinges are taking place and if you want to get the most out of WordPress an advanced knowlege of PHP and some HTML/CSS would be very advantagues.

The plugins although plentyful in choice, could pose security vulnerabilities or other types of quality assurance issues so always make sure you have a backup of your blog before you deside to go all willy-nilly on installing cool new plugins. Even when updating plugins one should be careful. Backup, backup, backup.

Jadu

Jadu

A staple for Government and Educational websites, Jadu’s implimentation are taloured specifically for your project requirements, so licencing costs can vary. It’s available as a hosted, SaaS subscription-based or no-premisis CMS using either PHP or .NET. Maintaining a strong focus on content structure, taxonomy, search and module extendabilty Jadu also is able to expand and take on other important roles using modules most notably Jadu HR for all types of recruting; Jadu Retail for ecommerce featues and Jadu Galaxies which lets you create networks of micro-sites.

This isn’t the type of CMS you’re going to pull out for all projects unless your team or web design company specializes in this niche of design. Because of this the developmeent community is a bit small but their is official support if you require it.

Breakdown
  • URL: Jadu
  • Language: PHP or ASP.NET
  • Price: Contact for Details
  • Free Version: Yes
  • Tag System: No
  • Extendable: Yes
  • Common Usage: Education, Government, Businesses

TextPattern

TextPattern

This slim and fast CMS has a pretty loyal group of designers and developers. Those who like it, like it a lot. It’s becasue of it’s minimalist allure that people are fans of what it can do. It knows it’s a CMS and you’re going to want to make content so a “new post” entry is the first thing you get upon login. I have yet to find anther CMS present it to you in another way, better (besides’ WordPress’s quickpost on the dashboard). For the non-technical user this isn’t a 5 minute install process like WordPress, you’re going to get your hands dirty, so their is a bit of a learning curve. I also found some of the core features basic to start, hence why it’s slim & fast so you’ll most likely be installing plugins fom the get go to get more functionality that you want.

Breakdown
  • URL: TextPattern
  • Language: PHP
  • Tag System: Yes
  • Extendable: Yes
  • Common Usage: Broad

SilverStripe

SilverStripe

This CMS feels more like a desktop application rather than a web system. It’s award-winning design make it stand out among the free CMS. It was also the first open source web app to be Microsoft Certified for Windows Server 2008. That’s a big recognition I think. Out of the box it has some nice features like the ability to send your users newsletters and it has its own statistical reporting module. Upon first use I found the interface to be a bit different and took a couple of extra mintues of poking around to learn as I said before, it felt more like a desktop interface. But once you get used to it and learn the location of things productivity increases dramatically. The documentation it a bit lacking in depth for my liking and I feel that trying to extend it’s functionality isn’t as easy as other CMS in comparison.

Breakdown
  • URL: SilverStripe
  • Language: PHP
  • Tag System: No
  • Extendable: Yes
  • Common Usage: Broad

Drupal

Drupal

If you require a CMS trusted by millions web owners, and are going to produce a large amount of custom content then Drupal is your powerhouse CMS for the job. This system has one of the largest communties producing a huge number of plugins. Because of the huge amount of flexability drupal provides (and it can be overwhelming) it often gets labeled as a “developer only” CMS with a steep learning curve in the theme department. The amount of flexability and its ability to handle large amount of content and create new custom content types give it the reputation of the ugly ducking. Amazing on the inside, but not the prettest of the bunch.

As of the most recent update, version 7 shows many strides towards a more designer friendly approach to theming and have answered many woes from the community. However since the plugin community is so vast, some of the most popular plugins are the only ones able to support updates immediatly upon launch.

Breakdown
  • URL: Drupal
  • Language: PHP
  • Tag System: No
  • Extendable: Yes
  • Common Usage: Broad

Umbraco

Umbraco

This is one of the few CMS that use Microsoft’s .NET technology build. This is a CMS geared towards developers looking to get down n’ dirty with content management systems and has quite the learning curve to get started. It is free to use and you can even publish to your website from Microsoft Word which is a pretty cool feature if you don’t already take advantage of Windows Writer Live for writing web content to blogs. It’s not to extensive in the way of extra plugins or support so this is something geared more towards advanced users overall.

Breakdown
  • URL: Umbraco
  • Language: ASP.NET
  • Tag System: No
  • Extendable: Yes
  • Common Usage: Broad

MODx

MODx

This powerful CMS is for large scale websites which need a solid system with advanced metrics and an API for development. New users might find themselves overwhelmed with the amount of options as you get quite the bells and whistles to control many aspects of the site right out of the box. The administration user interface (UI) isn’t as friendly as intuitive as I would of expected but still does the job.

Breakdown
  • URL: MODx
  • Language: PHP
  • Tag System: No
  • Extendable: Yes
  • Common Usage: Broad

Other free CMS of note

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