Skip to: Navigation | Content | Sidebar | Footer

Weblog Entry

Wanted: CMS

January 09, 2004

Wanted: recommendations for a proven, but simple open source CMS that’s web-standards friendly.

The ideal candidate will work with LAMP (Linux/Apache/MySQL [or PostgreSQL in this case] /PHP). Function-wise, it should just be bare-bones, and usable through a browser. It will allow editing of multiple chunks of content that can be chained into a single page, although the chunks themselves will probably be pretty simple (a few headers and paragraphs, the odd list, nothing much more). At the same time, I’d like it to auto-generate things like site-wide nav and breadcrumbs and the like. No problem scripting those, as long as they’re in some way possible. Free as in beer is a luxury, but not necessary.

Yeah, this is sounding like Movable Type. And in a way, that’s more or less what I’m looking for. I’d like something that’s page-oriented instead of post-oriented however, and although Matt’s how-to would get me what I need, MT just feels like the wrong tool for the job. Zope is total overkill. I’m sure there are a plethora of others out there, but I’m interested in hearing about actual experience working with one.

And of course if it generates <FONT> tags out of the box, don’t even bother mentioning it…

Reader Comments

xiffy says:
January 09, 04h

i would recommend nucleus cms : for the job. it’s a ligthweight cms in php, it’s open source, and you can add with plugins just the tricks you want, like the breadcrumb feature.
don’t know for sure if it’s possible to do the multi-page item things easily though.

January 09, 04h

Some of the more sophisticated Wiki packages might meet your needs. For example, Simon Willison used Tavi Wiki to build a simple CMS like what you describe:

There’s also WordPress (which just hit version 1.0), which is open-source, web-standards-based, and LAMP-powered, but it’s more of post-centric model you’re trying to avoid. I know some people are modifying WordPress to act as a page-based CMS, but out of the box it’s more like MovableType.

stew says:
January 09, 04h

I woudl SERISOULY recommend wordpress.

Grab the nightly for 9th Jan and you are away, its a cracking script and is pure web standards delight, infact the site I’m working on just now is jsut about validating to XHTML strict, just one bit to fix and thats my own scripting :D

Ben Pirt says:
January 09, 04h

I found myself last summer searching for the ideal CMS, with similar requirements to you - LAMP (PHP) based, and have played around with a lot which fit this description. The one I came across may be too heavyweight for your needs according to what you described, and the first project using it involves a pretty steep learning curve. But it is incredibly powerful, and very well suited to standards based development.

Take a look at eZpublish [ ]

After using it on one project and being slightly put off by it’s complexity, I found myself being frustrated by a lot of other CMSs more rigid structures. I almost settled on Drupal [ ] but it just wasn’t quite there in terms of flexibility, but is wel worth looking at. I had almost decided to write my own, but as soon as I started thinking about the ideal way to do this, I realised that it was actually the exact same way as eZpublish is put together.

Everything is object oriented and you define classes of data which can be displayed in different ways depending upon their context. There is a datatype called ‘xml text field’ in which users can enter markup, but this markup is then parsed on the server and output as valid xhtml, which gets around the users messing up validation.

Anyway, I think i’ve rambled enough. Even if it’s more than you need at the moment, it’s probably worth bearing in mind for the future. Email me if you want any more evangelism :-)

All the best,

Ben Pirt

huphtur says:
January 09, 04h

my vote is on WP1.0 as well.

Adrian says:
January 09, 04h

You might also want to check out Drupal, seems to meet all your requirements.

P.S. Don’t be distracted by the use of a few tables for layout on, there are themes about that don’t use tables, and it’s relatively easy to write your own themes.

Lach says:
January 09, 05h

Not to go off-topic, or anything, but I wonder if the string of marketing-types who name their products eZ whatever realise how stupid and puerile their products sound outside a North american market?

“ee zed… ee zed… oh, right easy. Couldn’t just call it that in plain English and have the world understand that. Just wouldn’t be cool enough without the z I suppose.” Nearly inevitably followed by me ignoring the product and any possible worth it may have had.

Eaden says:
January 09, 05h

Check out to try out many many - yep - open source cmses.

Also check out mambo ( )

January 09, 05h

Canadians tend to say “zed” too, so “North American market” should be narrowed further to “US market.”

(Not a Canadian, but I lived in Vancouver for a year.)

January 09, 05h

I have searched for the past year and a half for a CMS that meets all of these requirements:

- is page-based
- is open source and uses PHP & MySQL or PostgreSQL
- is not code-bloated
- outputs valid markup
- provides WYSIWYG content editing
- uses friendly urls (i.e., /dir/page instead of page.php?id=12)
- runs in a shared hosting environment
- has a staging environment and does versioning
- does a good job of keeping content separate from presentation
- has a simple/clean UI
- does not require consulting services to get set up
- allows me to designate specific permissions for content editors

I have not been able to find a single CMS that does all of this. I have been close, but there always seems to be some sort of catch.

I really wish that the folks at Movable Type would offer a product that was primarily a CMS with all the other features I mentioned, that also incorporated some blogging tools. I use Movable Type to manage both my blog and static content and that is fine for me maintaining a small site, but not for my clients who want to have their “non-technical” staff manage hundreds or thousands of pages.

There are SO many freely-available “so-called” CMSs, but unfortunately not one of them is really usable for a practical business website.

Dris says:
January 09, 06h

Well, I’d have to recommend my own Überblog, but no. I don’t think it’d work at the moment. It’s extremely beta. Though it’s geared to work with fairly complex requirements, it’s not yet ready for such use.

January 09, 06h

no direct experience with it, but i did look at plone some time ago and the feature set looked good

January 09, 06h

If you’re good with PHP, I would suggest writing your own. It really isn’t that hard (I made my own, although it does not have all the features you want). However, if you find one you like, but it uses querystrings instead of pages, remember it isn’t the end of the world. You could always use a .htaccess-based method to reroute page URLs to querystrings at the server (see ALA: ).

January 09, 07h

Brian: I think you’d be lucky to find what you’re looking for. It’s quite a feature-full application that you’re looking for and to have it open-source as well would require a dedicated team of developers willing to offer such a thing. Now, if you do find it, by all means, let me know. :)

MovableType does take some getting used to and is a little awkward to use. A page-based CMS always seemed like a more natural approach. It’s easier to visualize the relationship between the content in the CMS and the content that appears on the live site.

January 09, 09h

This is a tough one. I use WordPress for a blog I set up for some friends, It validates (well, it did, I need to fix some image properties where I use absmiddle – duh!). But it is very blog/post centric, and I’ve wound up making a fair number of static pages and don’t have auto-breadcrumbing or anything like that.

You can hack WordPress, but it seems like more work than it’s worth, just like hacking MT to make it behave more like a CMS.

I’m surprised somebody hasn’t mentioned PHPNuke. I don’t have any experience with it, because everyone I know has hated it. But it’s there.

I’ve played with Zope just a little about a year ago– just hacked together some barely functional stuff. It’s powerful, but I thought the learning curve was high if you didn’t want to completely invest in it. I haven’t check out Plone, but I’ve heard it takes the bite out of Zope to a significant extent. Part of the problem with both Zope and Plone is that installating Zope isn’t as simple as just dropping it right into a LAMP installation – it is its own application server. Not a problem if you have a server laying around to monkey around on and if you have lots of flexibility to change stuff on your production server (whether you’ve got a nice ISP or you run it yourself). But those aren’t trivial ifs.

There is Mambo,, too. I use an open source project manager, and one of the developers (who left that project) also was working on Mambo. The project manager is nice, but their idea of XHTML and mine are different, and I don’t know if this is true of Mambo as well.

I’m about to start writing such a CMS right now with a couple friends to run a couple projects that are on Coldfusion based CMSes from the ancient past. It’ll probably be done by summer. There will be a posting component for dynamic content and static page generation. We’re going to provide a configuration a switch to either write files or let the server always dynamically serve them up – one of the projects the pages would be intensely computationally intensive to do that with and will only change a few times a year (it’s a college ranking site). It will fulfill all of Brian’s criteria except the WYSIWIG editing environment. We’re thinking that a WYSIWIG editing environment is sort of a Bad Thing – we are assuming our users (which is first and foremost us) can and do understand XHTML, and can write simple, structured documents. I bring this whole mess up just because I think our man Mr. Shea wants almost exactly what I do, which is why we’re writing the damn thing – a web-developer friendly way of managing both pages and posts. We want to maintain the right balance of flexibility for people who can script a bit but mainly like to design. Wordpress is too constrictive for this sort of thing, and Zope is like lighting your ciggarette with a blowtorch.

Rick says:
January 09, 09h

Right…that’s the thing with the “CMS’s” these days. Most of them really aren’t CMS but more like advanced news management scripts. I really haven’t found anything that really will be able to manage _all_ my content, not just one page.

WordPress is an outstanding script, but it just doesn’t cut it if you want a full blown CMS.

John says:
January 09, 10h

Rick says… “WordPress is an outstanding script, but it just doesn’t cut it if you want a full blown CMS.”

The request was for a FREE system and if you want full blown CMS then expect to pay for it.
WordPress is excellent and free and has pushed the original B2 to a higher level.



Matt says:
January 09, 10h

Dave, I feel your pain. It’s pretty neat to see WordPress being pimped here, and while it can be stretched to work as a full CMS (just like MT) it’s just that, a stretch. (If you do decide to go that route though, I’d be happy to help you out personally and perhaps any problems you run into could result in some core code improvements.)

However because of some of the reasons listed above, I’ve started work on a new PHP/MySQL CMS system. I’ve tried them ALL, and there really is nothing that addresses the needs people like us have. I want something clean, fast, with the basic functionality that a client demands in a CMS.

So I’ve been hacking away the past week or so and things have developed so far. Thus far my system (yet to be named) has been working out pretty well. So far I have a robust role-based user system, nice URIs, a basic workflow, fairly clean WYSIWYG editing (using a modified HTMLArea). I still have to work out the revision tracking (every change is stored in the database, I need to find a good way to diff them, like a wiki), the file attachment system, and some image handling stuff. Philisophically it’s very close to WordPress in the way a lot of it functions.

I’m hoping for a public release in the beginning of February. I haven’t decided exactly how it will be licensed yet, but for commercial use there will likely be a charge, simply because if there was something like this out there now I would not at all mind paying a few hundred dollars to save thousands in development costs and chop a month or so off the timeline.

January 09, 10h

MovableType, while an excellent weblogging tool, is not really a CMS and uses CGI, not PHP.

If you got rid of the bulky, server-intensive rebuilds, switched to PHP and added customisable content fields and permissions it would be getting close.

Id recommend pMachine which has most of what you required, with some tweaking it could do what you want and it is LAMP based. Additionally, WordPress (again with tweaking) may be viable.

All in all though, having used Blogger, MT, Grey Matter, Radio, WordPress, BBT, pMachine, PHPNuke, PostNuke and many other less known open source (and not) products, none have the complete feature set you are asking for.

As others have said, when you find it, please let us know.

Dan R. says:
January 09, 10h

It isn’t an easy thing to find – we’ve built some small sites using MT as the CMS, and while that does the trick, it’s not that easy for our clients to understand (with only a little customization, it becomes difficult for users to understand the relationship between the content in MT fields and the content on the site). We have been working on one project for a non-profit which required an open-source CMS fitting almost exactly your requirements, and after a few months of searching, and experimenting, we decided we’d rather spend our donated time building a CMS from scratch to suit the client’s needs, rather than spending that same amount of time customizing someone else’s system that almost did the trick.

The end result (running on LAMP) works so well, and is so easy for our client’s content managers to understand, that we are customizing our homegrown CMS to replace MT for clients who have had a tough time working with it.

It took some time to put together (lots of late nights and weekends), but the UI is slick (thanks in large part to Didier :-) and all-XHTML 1.0 Strict/CSS, the code base is reusable without too much customization (I mean, a form is a form; we just have to tailor the fields and options to each new project’s requirements), and most importantly, the system makes sense to our clients, and has a minimal learning curve (and we don’t have to worry about its limitations – if a client needs something added to it, we can just drop it in, since we know it inside and out).

If you have the time (and inclination) to build your own, I highly recommend it (you will get much more mileage out of the effort in the long run).

January 10, 01h

I am currently using Nucleus
It is great it does what I need and is extensible, but I am really just killing time waiting for Dean Allen to release TextPattern
I have used his old beta 6 version and fell in love with it. Keep an eye on this site and switch to textpattern when it is released. Dean Allen is a genius.

Webmaid says:
January 10, 01h

Check out BigMedium at

A. says:
January 10, 02h !

Jurre says:
January 10, 02h

Some good, but complex CMS’s have already been mentioned: eZPublish (have not used it myself, but have heard very good things about it) and Zope - which actually CAN be used in a LA(M)P enviroment, where LAMP would mean Linux Apache (MySQL) Python.

Another good CMS is Typo3 ( and You could check it out, but I suppose it’s way too complex for your needs. Just mentioning it anyway.

I think you should consider using a Wiki, the more advanced ones will suit your needs pretty well.

zlog says:
January 10, 02h

I was looking for a similar think a few months back, I settled on a hack of phpWiki, one of those LAMP wiki software packages.

It fitted my clients needs to the letter. He could create new pages just by visiting them and editing them, he could edit any existing page by just signing in and hitting the edit button on the relevant page. As the wiki was also templated, redevelopment of the site should be a breeze.

If you are interested, I posted about it at the time;

Brad Bice says:
January 10, 03h

I recommend Rodin -, developed by Jon Bell.

It’s an excellent application written in PHP and is very bare-bones. I have modified it slightly on my page, but it’s such a breath of fresh air after bogging myself down with Greymatter and Movable Type for so long that it’s wonderful.

Check it out.

Mike says:
January 10, 03h

My own 2c’s: find one you like and get into it, or code up your own.

Someone is always looking for the ‘right’ cms…

Ben Pirt says:
January 10, 03h

Lach: Couldn’t agree with you more - I’m from england, so e-zed publish doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. But then the main dezelopers are from Norway so go figure :-)

Brian: eZpublish pretty much meets all of those needs, although it “does not require consulting services to get set up” , it is still quite a learning curve. However, once you have gotten used to how it works, it is probably the fastest development environment I have found. In fact, to call it a CMS is probably slightly inaccurate, it is more of a RAD environment.

Christian Greinke says:
January 10, 03h


i’m just working on a cms for my various clients. it meets/will meet all your requ. and will have some more to offer. like optimized different output streems (i.e. xhtml, html, xml, pdf, ms office xml, wap …). but it uses strongly xml, xsl, rdf, css, xhtml and some easy php. you see by the time there is no need for db. it is article centric with content filtering that means you define a single article and write and/or syndicate content from different resources also from outside the cms, if it is valid xml.

Tom says:
January 10, 04h

It can be incredibly difficult to find what you’re looking for. I’m making a new site at the moment and am finding that every time I move away from MT I want it’s features back! Unfortunately, MT doesn’t have a link manager so I suppose I’ll have to write that myself. In fact, I’ll probably end up ditching any current CMS and writing my own. However, that’s not in the plans at the moment - I’ve got a ‘commercial’ site in the works that needs a lot of work. The old version of the site used PostNuke, what a nightmare!

January 10, 04h

Take a look at phpwcms:

Chris says:
January 10, 04h

Often overlooked, runs on LAMP and comes in FREE (personal use) and low cost pay versions (PRO $45 and Commercial $125). There are rumours of a new and much more powerful version too - due this quarter.

I use it and would be happy to let you browse around the control panel if you like. The code generated is clean and it’s easy to set up pages using pMTags.

Conan says:
January 10, 05h

One day, TextPattern will be finished.

One day.

Franck says:
January 10, 05h

What do you mean exactly with CMS. There are plenty of LAMP tools for plenty of different uses:

-Web Blog
-Community site
-Corporate web site

What really matters in a CMS is the learning curve of the admin section:

easiest case: you manage it, either for yourself or for your client. Try selling CMS under an outsourcing business model. It will work pretty fine

worst case: your client wants a real CMS system to be managed/feed by its web department + its employees. In that case, be sure you will need some product customization. You will have to adapt the tool to the company’s business process (no chance to sell any project if not). Your understanding of the system and ability to customize it are then the capital points.

If you are looking for an good product + Open Source + xhtml/css compliant, I had to agree with Dan might be difficult to find that in the market at this stage.

After many survey & tries, I finally end up using Mambo That’s the best trade-off “simple” to install/administrate and “flexible” enough to cover most of the users standard needs. It does not validates (though there are many discussion around that within the community), and it’s not a natural-born webblog neither. Last detail, available documentation is poor, as in many open source projects.

Link 2 the mambo project, they just have released a new stable version:

Jason says:
January 10, 05h

The popular theme here is that if you want a CMS to fit your needs, chances are you need to write one yourself. Its extremely frustrating installing a package regardless how well liked it may be in the public eye, just to find out its exactly NOT what you were looking for. To continue this process over and over and over is just madness.

From your description, I can’t say I have seen anything currently out there that fits the bill. However, I would venture to guess that Dean Allen’s upcoming Textile will be as close to perfect as you are going to find.

I have written a versatile CMS myself (eBlog) which is always in continual development. If you are interested in having a look behind the scenes, feel free to contact me. If you end up going the custom route, which I highly recommend, I am sure more than one of us here would be willing to donate some time, code and resources to assist you.

Jerome says:
January 10, 06h

Dotclear is not a CMS, it’s just for blog publishing… But a wonderfull tool indeed (maybe the best)

Jesper says:
January 10, 07h

It is amazing how many people here cannot read.

Once again, with feeling: Weblog software is nice, but those are usually post-centric only. What Dave wants is something that is page-centric only, or as well. He’s asking for a saw and you’re handing him hammers.

Regarding Wikis, as zlog mentioned, they are a fine concept and a nice idea, but the depth is zero or one (and only one on some packages). I’m thinking he wants something with which he can nest pages to as many sub-levels as he likes.

I’ve long been on the look-out for something like this myself. It would be nice to not have to roll my own, or hack MT or anything else to shreds, or pull everything through a layout.php and have all the other content there as well. (Sad case, but this is how Under the Iron is run now. It’s also why I’m recoding it. ;))

Keep us updated on your findings, Dave! LazyWeb and I will thank you.

January 10, 09h

I would echo some of the points made by Brian Sweeting about the limitations of virtually all CMSs.

I’ve written some quick thoughts on the matter at (sorry, no permalink available yet).

My main issues are firstly the way that CMSs ‘grab’ control of a site rather than being an optional tool which can be used to edit/generate content, i.e. effectively ‘sitting on top of a site’, and secondly the creation of non-permanent URLs. I quote from the W3C:

“It [is] the duty of a Webmaster to allocate URIs which you will be able to stand by in 2 years, in 20 years, in 200 years. This needs thought, and organization, and commitment.”

Most CMSs would fail this requirement instantly.

I’ve always rolled-my-own, using a basic framework I’ve put together which is basically just a wrapper for PHP’s VERY useful


directives [see ], which are basically auto-includes, effectively wrapping pure content files with the house style, across the site consistently.

Phil says:
January 10, 09h

What you are looking for is everything that Wordpress is. The URL is If you need a little more CMS you could tack on an installation of Gallery!

Ben Brundell says:
January 10, 09h

I’ve been looking for a similar thing. I’ve installed and am playing with Mambo Server [ ] (latest version) but am having real difficulty in getting clean XHTML from it. I’ve modified everything I can and *still* tables are being generated from somewhere. Suggest you leave this off you options for the time being.

James says:
January 10, 09h

For what it’s worth, you can try out live installations of almost all of the apps mentioned in this thread at

Michael R. Havard says:
January 10, 10h

Brian Sweeting,
You should probably check out Plone (ZOPE).

YES - is page-based
YES - is open source and uses PHP & MySQL or PostgreSQL
??? - is not code-bloated
YES - outputs valid markup
YES - provides WYSIWYG content editing
YES - uses friendly urls (i.e., /dir/page instead of page.php?id=12)
YES - runs in a shared hosting environment
YES - has a staging environment and does versioning
YES - does a good job of keeping content separate from presentation
YES - has a simple/clean UI
YES - does not require consulting services to get set up
YES - allows me to designate specific permissions for content editors

It’s just a matter of figuring out which parts of the product you really need and which ones you don’t and simplifying down. Plone (and ZOPE for that matter) can be as complex or as simple as you need it to be.

January 10, 10h

Already having put in a fairly long post, I wanted to make a short point:

It’s sad there still isn’t a really good CMS that does this. Lots of people out there are doing this for their own organizations and projects, though. When doing this, think about scalability, modularity, and licensing really really hard. I’d urge people to incline towards free licenses. Without all the Stallman-esque zealotry, I think if a couple good CMS projects are out there that cater to the standards minded web designer and if they have free licenses (BSD, GPL, Mozilla Public, etc), then there’s some decent competition and perhaps the community can settle on a couple of tools and actively improve them. This has happened with SquirrelMail, which is a nice little webmail client that has a plugin architecture and is now incredibly well supported and robust. The modularity also lets the core developers focus on nuts and bolts stuff, while other people develop bells and whistles that you can add if you want them. The analogue for this sort of CMS – let core developers work on things like query optimization, implementing a PEAR/PEAR-like abstraction layer to database calls for interoperability. Let interested others develop a slideshow gallery plugin, or extended web based file management.

Because I opened my damned mouth: feel free to contact me about the CMS I’m working on if you are interested in helping, or if you think you’ve got something that’s better and want some contributions.

timfm says:
January 10, 11h

I too have been anxiously awaiting Dean Allen’s Textpattern FOREVER. Rumblings are that version 1 is due out very soon.

Also – there’s recent monologue over at Hivelgic about finally releasing a CMS, although it won’t be free, it’s sure to be excellent.

Both Dean and Dan are brilliant.

Adam Rice says:
January 10, 12h

Although I use MT, I’ve been impressed with Drupal as well, but not so much for running a personal site.

Somebody above made the point that MT is CGI, not PHP. This is true, of course, but since MT stores everything in MySQL, you can write PHP snippets to access that dynamically if needed–others have done this. See, for example:

Fidel says:
January 10, 12h It’s web standards compliant, but you can mess it up in theme file pretty much same as every thing. it’s very secure. php and mysql.. my site (the index) uses e107. I’m lazing about validating it. but e107 is solid.

January 10, 12h

Stay tuned the Mambo Open Source forums if you are interested in this CMS. Over the weekend (hopefully) my company is set to release a 100% XHTML/CSS compliant version of Mambo that is also Section 508/WAI level 1 compliant. We have spent more than 100 hours on a complete rewrite of the Mambo core.

This will be a “developers” release and not necessarily for public consumption, but anybody interested will be able to download the GPL source. We have also had informal discussions with the core Mambo team about integrating this approach into the Mambo core.

(keep an eye on the third party announcement forum tomorrow night)

Tim Broeker

Deb says:
January 11, 01h

e107 rocks and so does Wordpress…

January 11, 04h

It was mentioned briefly in a post above, but I thought I’d put in two (or three) cents about the Big Medium CMS.

Full disclosure: I’m the developer of Big Medium, so of course I’m a particular fan. It’s just about exactly a year old, still young (version 1.2.2), and it’s very much in active development. It’s Perl with a flat-file back end, and you stipulated that you wanted a PHP/mySQL system, so it may not precisely meeet your needs, but for what it’s worth, here are its strengths and weaknesses…


- Page-based
- Easy to install (yes, works fine on shared servers)
- Auto-generated navigation and breadcrumbs
- Not free, but cheap: $129 per license (one license covers one installation, managing unlimited sites and unlimited user accounts)
- Generates W3C-compliant xhtml or html (your choice) and CSS. Of course, if you load custom templates with non-compliant markup, that’s a different matter, but Big Medium’s markup is clean.
- Extremely customizable template system eliminates the cookie-cutter look of many CMS systems. See, for example, these Big Medium sites:
- Friendly URLs
- Multiple accounts, with five levels of access privileges
- Gentle on the server. Creates static pages rather than hitting the database everytime a page is requested. Doesn’t have server-intensive rebuilds like MT requires.
- Unicode (UTF-8) encoding allows you to use Big Medium to manage content in any language.
Generates RSS news feeds, and javascript news feeds (allowing others to post your headlines on their site).
- Image uploads.
- Categorize content into sections and subsections.
- Easily add pullquotes to your article pages.

Here are some weaknesses, which essentially make up my to-do list:

- No WYSIWYG editing. This is coming very soon, however. The alpha of the next version is running it very nicely, and I expect to release a beta shortly and a full version within the next few weeks. In the meantime, there’s some built-in format tools: [b]bold text[/b], [i]italic text[/i], etc.
- No document uploads. At the moment, Big Medium manages only the content that you type in, not document uploads. Like WYSIWYG editing, however, the alpha of the next version has this feature running already. Should be ready for release in the next few weeks.
- No search. I’ve been taking my time on this because I want it to be fast, accurate and above all gentle on the server. That said, should be ready in the next two months or so.
- Not an open architecture, so it’s not easy to create plugin modules. It’s basically “as-is”: Big Medium was designed in particular for content/info/marketing websites. It’s a bit inflexible in this regard, which makes it less than ideal for ecommerce sites and the like.
- Very few skins. Big Medium comes with two complete sample sites/skins (one laid out with tables, one laid out with CSS) and a set of basic starter templates (laid out with CSS), and that’s it. I’m planning to develop more in the very near future, but in the meantime users are somewhat left to their own devices to develop their own templates. Since most of my customers seem to want templates that are unique to their site, however, this hasn’t seemed like a big drawback. With basic/intermediate html skills, creating a Big Medium template is not terribly difficult.
- No versioning.
- Very simple workflow (published/unpublished).
- Template editing/loading process is a bit clunky. Although not complicated after you get acquainted with it, it does seem to require a bit of a learning curve. I’m working on streamlining this process and adding a template wizard to help people get up and running quickly. That said, once the templates are loaded, adding/editing content is a breeze.

Tim Lucas says:
January 11, 04h

Definately check out FarCry CMS:

It’s coldfusion based, but it really is great. The standard WYSIWYG editor isn’t standards compliant, but you can swap in your own.

It has full permissions, content wizards and flexible templating, and you can run multiple sites off the one code base…

January 11, 08h

FYI - Open Source Content Management System List - (5+ months since the list was updated though…)

January 11, 08h

*blond moment* - Correct link to open source cms list: (I hava a habit of adding / to the end of url’s :)

THL says:
January 11, 09h

Most of these “CMS” are post-oriented. Also most of them are very hard for the average client to administer. No offence to anyone, but it seems to me that they were written by geeks for geeks.

The only exception from the ones I tested is mambo, and I really hope they will create a version that will output clean XHTML code.

Jeremy says:
January 11, 12h

I know someone has already said this a few times, but I would point you in the direction of WordPress 1.0. It’s a simply great tool, with loads of options and customizablity. (I’m not sure I spelt that right..)

I’ve been using WordPress for about 7 months now, and it’s great.

hya says:
January 11, 12h

Not sure if you have looked at Bricolage yet: . The end-user interface is pretty simple, and the concepts are actually quite easy to grasp if you have some HTML/XML/Database experience. The only stumbling block I can see so far is the installation, which involves statically compiling mod_perl into the Bricolage installation (See next paragraph for the performance-concious) and additional packages (besides Apache/PostgreSQL) which could be installed via CPAN and RPMs/Ports.

The one thing that I love about it is that it generates plain html (or shtml) files … so it totally reduces any database overhead if you configure it to “burn” those files to another site. This means you can have Bricolage’s apache installation resting on another server (or another port or IP on the same computer), and use another leaner apache installation to distribute the files.

Chris says:
January 12, 01h

e107 ( ) is quite good. I’ve used it a lot over the time it’s been available.

Might be overkill for what you seem to be asking for.

Another one that’s not been mentioned yet, is Land Down Under ( ), which recently recoded to output XHTML 1.1 code by default. Could be worth a shot.

January 12, 03h

Jesper : “Regarding Wikis, as zlog mentioned, they are a fine concept and a nice idea, but the depth is zero or one (and only one on some packages). I’m thinking he wants something with which he can nest pages to as many sub-levels as he likes.”

Like this ?
(my WikiMail page on the Crao Wiki)
(not my page, but a good exemple of multi-level : October 2003 archive of xtof’s WikiMail).
That wiki uses phpWiki 1.1.4 [ ] (and probably some mods), which incidentally is what Matt uses for his résumé site [ ] .

January 12, 04h

I feel I should stick my oar in as one of the lead Plone ( developers :)

* Plone is accessible to WCAG 1.0 AA thanks to the tireless work from WAI member, Tom Croucher

* Plone believes in standards compliance and is completely rebrandable using just CSS

* Plone is a CMS not a news-script. It has workflows, groups, fine-grained permissions and uses a proper content-type metaphor

* Plone Core is the minimal Plone set up extensible with whatever modules are most suitable. A wide range have already been developed. Creating new content-types is trivial thanks to the Archetypes framework.

* Plone has a large, enthusiastic and active community who work hard on the problems people find. Our IRC channels are always full of friendly people willing to help.

* Thanks to the Archetypes system, its now possible to store content in a separate SQL database if that’s desired, or take advantage of the OO database that Zope is based on.

Just thought I’d put our case :)

Mark Tearle says:
January 12, 04h

Try Mysource

Xavier Borderie says:
January 12, 05h

oh, right, also :

January 12, 05h

It’s a shame most of the posts above have been side-tracked into blog-oriented software, rather than page-oriented software.

I’ve started on a nice light, modular framework which relies entired on plug-ins for nearly all functionality. If it turns out to be the solution for me, then I’ll release it in one way or another – of course this doesn’t help anyone right now :)

Everyone looking at WYSIWYG editors should also consider something like Textile ( – I have no doubt that I’ll either use Textile or a lite version that I’ve coded from scratch as part of this framework.

TextPattern looks amazing, but again, it’s just a blog from what I can tell.

Jurre says:
January 12, 11h

Michael R. Havard wrote about Plone:

“YES - is open source and uses PHP & MySQL or PostgreSQL”

This is not true. Because Plone is (indirectly) based on Zope, it uses Python and the built-in ZODB.

Just for the sake of correctness.

dusoft says:
January 13, 01h

Of course,

I would recommend one developed by me that is used pretty worldwide - - Absolut Engine news publishing system

Mungo says:
January 13, 01h

We tried dozens of CMS at opensourcehost, and became their customer for PostNuke – hoping we could set up a static page-oriented, not blog post-oriented, site. It was a terrible but instructional experience. There is no way we were going to script PHP; we got into CMS in order to avoid coding and concentrate on content. The templates for PostNuke were miserable and the posts vs. stories dichotomy drove us nuts. The other Nukes and Wikis and Drupal did not appear to solve our problem. I agree with the original post that there is truly a need for static page oriented CMS.

January 13, 04h

Try to look at

January 13, 06h

here’s a full list of them:

have fun

January 13, 09h

I agree that eZ publish is pretty great and easy to use “once you learn it”. The learning curve is moderately steep, though.

January 14, 01h

Take a look at Magnolia:

Brandon Pierce says:
January 14, 03h

I’ll add a couple of comments about Mambo… it’s pretty well done and PHP-based, so I think it would mostly do what you want it to do. I tried it out and liked it, but it’s not what I consider to be standards compliant. It’s structure is pretty much tables-based, but there are efforts by some Mambo users to move the code over to XHTML/CSS. I looked at it myself, but the code isn’t just in templates… it’s also embedded throughout some of the PHP classes, so it might take a little effort, but if you’re handy with PHP you could make it compliant.

LF says:
January 14, 07h

For the Mac: “Tinderbox”.

Brian Hay says:
January 14, 08h

The CMS minefield. I’ve all but given up finding an off-the-shelf system that meets my requirements (which are almost identical to Dave’s). I’ve almost finished an ultra simple system that outputs strict, compliant XHTML pages from XHTML content (sounds weird eh?), with all style based on CSS and block positioning based on a simple nested XML tree. Site hierarchy (sitemap.xml) dictated by a single nested unordered list. No integrated WYSIWYG editor - all I want to be able to do is save content files from my favorite editor and have the “CMS” create and style the site (and cache for offline viewing also!) based on that content. No database. No templating engine. No overhead. No worries.


Dylan says:
January 15, 08h

Has anyone ever used Kavora ( Its a fully featured e-commerce solution that (allegedly) offers full accessibility, is built to web standards, and uses XML architecture. They say that Kavora is designed fully in CSS style-sheets and that it is totally compliant.

Looks interesting. I am curious to know if anyone has tried it.


thomas l says:
January 15, 11h

Wordpress sounds good:”We hope by focusing on web standards and user experience we can create a tool different from anything else out there.”

trying it out right now!

THL says:
January 16, 04h

there is now a new “version” of Mambo called xMambo that outputs valid XHTML code.

It is still a developer’s release only, but it looks very promising:

This is definitely the best open source page-oriented CMS.

January 16, 05h

I’m hesatant to suggest, because it sounds like you’d like a solution that lets you control plug-ins on the server side–but–if you’d like to go the managed route, Squarespace ( is a great choice.

Squarespace is sort of like a MT-ish style site that allows homepage writers more flexibility–as it focuses on a multi-page site as opposed to a single page blog (though you can add full-featured blogs into your site automatically). It provides some very advanced access logging and administrative features that allow complete customization of the backend template code, as well as WYSIWYG editing of pages and journal entries if you’re using Mozilla or IE (but happily degrades if you aren’t).

The resulting site is extremely standards compliant, and most generated pages validate perfectly as XHTML transitional. I’ve had some minor problems using the management interfaces from Safari (I think this is a bit more of a Safari issue than a Squarespace issue), but Mozilla and IE work great. The resulting Squarespace GENERATED pages still work great in Safari either way.

Seems to be an interesting alternative to the one-page approach to personal publishing almost enforced by the blogging world.

So, basically, for small CMS-esque projects and homepages–I’ve found it to be excellent.

Matt says:
January 16, 07h

So, what did you end up deciding on Dave?

James says:
January 19, 02h

Dave, if you have the time, please could you summarise your findings in this matter? It would be interesting to see what you’ve learnt/discovered.


– James

Dave S. says:
January 19, 10h

James/Matt – I don’t know much more than what’s in here. I’ve done a bit of investigating, and have a few leads that look promising, but they’re all as a direct result of this thread. I’ll post about my experiences once I start using one more frequently, but I still haven’t made a decision at this point.

Generally it sounds as if there’s a distinct lack of what I’m looking for, although a lot of people have put together various packages that nail some of the points on my list. I guess everyone needs something different, and while I’m not sure I agree the best solution is rolling your own, for the time being it’s still a popular option.

Mark Tyler says:
January 20, 07h

You should have a look at Shapeshifter ( It’s not cheap (5000 UKP + monthly hosting fee) but it the best there is.

I have used it for several websites and I am simply in awe of it’s power and user-friendliness.

It features an extremely versatile security model, based on users, workgroups, folders. It is totally browser-based, it generates valid XHTML and CSS (obviously dependent on the templates used), it supports clustering (for scaleability), it supports ecommerce… hell, it supports everything.

I know I sound biased and I am, I have tried many CMSs over the years and I haven’t found anything as comprehensive or sophisticated as Shapeshifter.

amiroo says:
January 22, 01h

LDU ( ) is a lean & mean, but capable, CMS. Look at my review on

Alex Drahon says:
January 22, 01h

You should really check out Mambo The only feature it lacks is correct XHTML/CSS, but it’s getting there (and you can use xMambo in the meantime, but only after your familiar with Mambo).

If you’re seriously considering rolling your own, why not start with Mambo’s code? It’s very clean.

You can also try phpWebSite not as useable for me but seems to fit the bill.

Also, from my experience, you need to try them if they’re near your features list. phpWebSite was my theorical choice base on features, but the real test put Mambo on top of the list.

Sam Saunder says:
January 22, 07h

I am using WebGUI by Plainblack at
The only thing is its Perl but they have an API. I have been very satisfied with it from a small to medium or intranet web site. Some of the Wobjects aren’t that great for what I wanted but the macros are incredible. Bottom line for me was it was easy to learn. I didn’t find a need to use the Ruling WebGUI except for the advanced stuff.

chris says:
January 22, 12h

After trying about 30+ systems, my favorite was an obscure Italian system called obliquid.

The intent behind obliquid is to create building blocks you’ll have to create your own templates, but the functionality is all there. Automated site mapping, 4-level group authentication if you want it (you can always remove functionality)

A sessionid prevents validation out of the box, but mod rewrite fixes it.


DataObjx says:
January 22, 12h is coming out with modular system CMS that provides users with ‘lego blocks’ - (single lines of code) that one inserts into their web-pages to create any type of web site. They have a demo at but it’s only partially up at the moment - but looks promising.

Essentially the user can create links, articles, events, etc and can simply add an Object params line of code into their page where they want the article, etc to appear.

The adminstration screens are robust and more features are being added weekly. Looks like this system could empower some web-sites with the data-driven flexibility many are looking for.

One has to register and request a demo of the site at the moment, but apparently there will be an automated demo in a few months.

mini-d says:
January 26, 08h

Have you tried Syncato? it’s fully XHTML + XPATH, XSLT, python, nice nice nice. :)

hans says:
January 30, 03h

I realize that you are not looking for Wiki’s specifically, but I think that coWiki ( might have a lot of functionality that you are looking for. It does a lot more than traditional Wiki systems – particularly in that it has a site structure, and unix-like access control to pages. It’s a great tool that I’ve used a number of times.

More generally, I think the better solution is to find a good content management framework as opposed to a “themable” CMS. I once was lead developer on the (now) Syntax project ( That provides a nice API for managing inter-related content objects, but has [apparently] not been actively developed for some time.

Of the solutions I’ve looked at, eZ Publish was by far the best overall (open-source) content manager system. Specifically as of version 3 when you can create your own custom entities w/o needing to hack one of the existing entities to suite your needs.

mg says:
February 02, 05h

Well, so many offers. I’ll make another one.
JetboxOne -

is page-based
is open source and uses PHP & MySQL
is not code-bloated
outputs valid markup
provides WYSIWYG content editing
uses friendly urls
runs in a shared hosting environment
has a staging environment and does versioning
does a good job of keeping content separate from presentation
has a simple/clean UI
does not require consulting services to get set up
allows me to designate specific permissions for content editors
has integrated stats

Check and evaluate yourself.

zeek says:
February 02, 12h

phpCMS just try it
plugins, scripts in all scripting languages and more…

dz0 says:
February 04, 01h

still nobody mentioned
page orentiered - just use wfsection module (one module has 1/3 of CMS properties ;)

February 14, 11h

At the danger of sounding elitest all these CMSes have nothing on this new LAMP based CMS called Sitellite.

It has all the features that you have asked for out of the box (including valid XHTML - no FONT tags :) and way more. It has been reviewed and listed on over 40 websites including CMS Matrix:

Sitellite does eveything that you have asked for above, it’s Free (GPL), it’s LAMP based, it’s easy to use, has over 100 downloads a day, has a large and active support community, a host of add-ons to extend functionality (including forums, website metrics, email campaigns, e-commerce apps, etc), and a company that supports it as well.

It is far and above the best PHP GPL solution available. The time of NUKE and Mambo is over.

See for yourself.