The Best Open Source Content Management Systems

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One of the most important elements new website owners fail to give enough consideration to is in selecting the right open source content management system (CMS) for their website. Obviously some websites are put together without the inclusion of a full CMS. Yet those websites used in enterprise environments are almost always employing some kind of CMS for easy content handling. Continue reading for my recommended best CMS options.

WordPress Open Source CMS

One of the most popular CMS solutions available today is WordPress. The reason why WordPress is so popular is due to how simple it is to use. Today WordPress is easily considered to be the most popular CMS of all time.

WordPress is available both as a do it yourself installable solution to be used on your own server or can be run from a managed service like You can run it as is from a base installation, or add extended functionality through the use of WordPress plugins.

WordPress is widely targeted by malicious individuals who try to exploit out of date WordPress installations or those installations that are using insecure configurations. But so long as you keep things up to date and research how to harden your WordPress installation in the first place, you won’t have any issues to speak of.

WordPress is best for those who want a blog-friendly platform, yet might also want to extend its functionality beyond mere blogging and sharing content online. WordPress is usually best for those of you who wish to setup an entry level CMS that can grow with your needs over time.

Drupal Open Source CMS

Working with Drupal is usually best for those who are very comfortable with HTML, CSS and PHP. If you shine in web development, then using Drupal won’t be too difficult for you. Drupal is usually best if you’re looking into building up a database driven website that needs to be fast, highly customized (using your own skills) and provides a robust developer friendly CMS environment that can act as a blank canvas.

One way to differentiate between Drupal and WordPress, is to think of Drupal as a blank page, whereas WordPress might be a vanilla blog. Both CMS environments allow you to customize much of the user experience, whereas Drupal goes a step farther in lending itself to customize much of the backend to better suit your needs.

Drupal is best for a web developer who needs a CMS framework, but doesn’t feel like building one from scratch. Drupal is absolutely not for anyone who is looking for a simple default installation experience.

Joomla Open Source CMS

Joomla is one of the best popular CMS platforms you see all the time, yet we’re never actually aware of it. Without giving away too many names, many of the popular chain restaurants and e-commerce websites on the Web today are running with well maintained Joomla installations.

If I was to mention the one thing I love about Joomla over other open source CMS’ is its balance between ease of use and control. For example, on Joomla I can control RSS layouts, banner placements, user permissions and other important elements without using special themes or plugins. Should I find a feature not included on the default installation of Joomla, I can add it using Joomla extensions. To point out that Joomla is powerful would be an understatement.

Joomla is best for anyone looking to take deeper control of how they present their CMS web content. It’s also fantastic for anyone looking to produce a website that has e-commerce capabilities. If deeper control, customizable options and other more robust elements are interesting to you – Joomla may be the perfect CMS for your needs.

Concrete5 Open Source CMS

One of the lesser known CMS applications that has proven to be interesting is called Concrete5. This MIT licensed CMS is interesting in that you can manipulate each individual page by clicking on edit, then moving elements of that page around to suit your needs. Being able to do this without any add-ons or extensions, is very powerful.

So while Joomla and others may have larger support communities, Concrete5 offers a balance between WordPress’s ease of use and Joomla’s individual page control. Concrete5 has proven popular for websites looking to produce magazine experiences and general web portals.

Concrete5 is probably best for anyone looking for drag and drop page arrangement in their CMS. While it’s possible with other CMS’ through extensions, it’s best to use this functionality in a native environment if at all possible.

TYPO3 Open Source CMS

I found TYPO3 to be an interesting CMS in that it seems to borrow useful elements from other CMS applications, but sets out on a path all its own. TYPO3 puts an equal amount of emphasis on standard CMS functionality and the ability for developers to build off of the CMS to customize it to their own needs.

TYPO3 also has the ability to be expanded, using extensions. However the overall control offered by a default installation reminds me a bit of Joomla. With permissions, users, deep page control, it’s a strong CMS indeed.

Another interesting element to the TYPO3 user experience is the Ajax drag and drop elements. This functionality is similar to what you might find with Concrete5. Useful for less code savvy users, but perhaps not as much for someone coming from a CMS like Drupal.

TYPO3 is a CMS best for those who are looking for a highly customizable experience, but still prefer to have the ability to control the layout of their content pages using mouse dragging. You can expand on its capabilities using extensions or get a lot out of it with a default installation.

Other Open Source CMS solutions

Obviously there are countless other CMS solutions available to you out there. And I certainly encourage you to check them out. That said, I selected the ones listed here with the most critical features: extendable, secure, open source and provide decent support from their perspective communities.

What say you? Perhaps you have an open source CMS that you think is fantastic and would like to share with the readers here? If so, please post to the Comments below and tell us about it. I’m especially interested in hearing your views about the security aspects of simple to use CMS environments vs the more advanced, difficult to use alternatives.

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