Open Source CMS Comparison

I’ve been playing around with some JAVA based Open Source Content Management Systems for some time for an upcoming project. I’ve considered OpenCMS, Apache’s Lenya and Alfresco uptil now and am posting some of the observations here. I will try and keep this a *living* post i.e., I will keep updating it as and when possible. Once I have more details, I might even restructure it so that comparison is a feature by feature comparison. I will also add reviews about other Open Source CMSes too if I get an opportunity to play around with them.

OpenCMS

It is the oldest and i guess most matured of the three mentioned above. It uses Java and XML and can work with all major databases and application servers. It uses the concept of offline and online projects. I think it is similar to staging and production environments, with offline project acting as the staging site for previewing content etc. The site can be delivered either using static publishing or dynamically. There is workflow also but I have not worked with it and hence do not know how customizable it is. More features can be added using Modules. Professional support can be bought separately.

However, i *personally* feel the learning curve to be steep. Although there is extensive documentation covering different aspects, I would have loved to see a getting started tutorial which explains how to develop a simple site with content entry, workflow and finally delivery. Maybe it is already there somewhere but I havenot found it yet. Apart from this, it is not very easy to customize.

Apache Lenya

It comes from Apache’s stable and I guess that is the biggest strength. It was created by Wyona and then donated to Apache. It uses Cocoon framework which is quite customizable. It also has most features expected of a good CMS and matches OpenCMS in that respect.

However, it is not very easy to install. Unlike a single click wizard based installation of OpenCMS and Alfresco, one needs to use Ant and build Lenya as well as Cocoon. Okay It does have a binary install but then you are tied down and cannot run it on your own application server. Hopefully this will be improved in the later versions. All content is stored as XML which could be good or bad depending on your requirements. Finally, learning Cocoon and Lenya and understanding the use of APIs to extend the platform could be painful ;-(

Alfresco

Its the latest in the space. Very easy to install and get up and running. However, it is only a preview release and not a full fledged production. I’ve written some initial thoughts about it here. This could be a product to watch especially since it is created by veterans in the CMS space and has some really cool features.

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20 thoughts on “Open Source CMS Comparison

  1. OpenCMS is waaay too complicated for what it is. I’m not a fan, and I doubt very many people who actually tried a real-world implementation would be. Sure does a lot of stuff on paper however. Documentation is ok, but hard to get started with (as you said), and customization is difficult.

    Lenya is cool, but not really for everybody. It has all the components that make it cool, but I didn’t find using it to be all that.

    Alfresco. Talk about beta! You can’t even render the frontend — that’s coming soon. Looks interesting, but very young.

    I’ve used Magnolia, and it looks interesting. Magnolia.info — it didn’t make your list!

  2. Thanks Jonathan. I’ve never had an opprotunity to work with Magnolia but downloaded it just yesterday. Will try and evaluate it soon. But i completely agree with your comments above.

  3. Magnolia is selling a basic version and paid “power pack version”, which has all the cool features like clustering and stuff. Why I would go for a basic when I don’t know when I will need features like clustering.

    Javed

  4. This is a late comment, but if you haven’t checked it out, InfoGlue (www.infoglue.org) is worth looking into. After watching their intro video, I found it to be quite natural to use. Templating is handled by Velocity.

    There are some weaknesses – I don’t think it would lend itself well to file management, but I would consider it for development of a corporate site for instance.

    A real favorite of mine that I simply can’t use because of the underlying framework is the .NET project, Umbraco (www.umbraco.org). Extremely nice interface and one of the most flexible, smarly built CMSs I’ve seen. All the big features are there. Again, it would be weak as a document repository.

    I’ve enjoyed reading your posts – nice (and relevant) work!

  5. Jason,
    Thanks. I’m glad you like the posts.
    InfoGlue is in my Radar now 🙂 It looks promising though. Version 2.0 is JSR-168 compliant. If that means I can access all CMS services as portlets, I guess it would be the first CMS to do this.

    /a

  6. Hi Apoorv,

    I was just wondering if you had evaluated Magnolia? In the last few days i have been comparing a few CMSs and finally narrowed down to Magnolia, openCMS, InfoGlue, Alfresco(in the order of importance). We just need a Web CMS and we would not need any document management features. However, another interesting requirement in our case is that we must have a facility to extend the CMS and define our own custom data-structures which could be mapped on to our custom tables.

    Do you have any suggestions?

    Have been following your updates on the various java-based open CMSs. Its helping a lot…keep up the good work!

    -Samrat

  7. I’ve never had a chance to work with Magnolia and Infoglue but from what I hear, It takes too much memory just to get it up and running, unlike other Open Source products. However, if JSR-170 is your requirement than Magnolia could be a good choice. Infact there are quite a few people who like this product.
    Alfresco recently released its version 1.0 finally. It is still evolving and I’m not sure if it is production ready yet. I could be wrong also though.

    One interesting feature of OpenCMS 6.0 is the ability to create your own data types using XMLContent. Basically, you create a simple XML with details of fields in your datastructure and it does rest of the work. However, it stores content in its own VFS in XML format and I’m not sure if it is possible (or a good idea) to map this content to your custom table.

  8. Thank you apoorv! I will look into the XMLContent feature.

    I dint get much time in the last week to try out the CMSs. Next week, am planning to evaluate both openCMS and Magnolia at more deeper level to see which one can be easily customizable. Until now, i am a little inclined towards openCMS since there is a possibility to write our own modules, which AFAIK is not the case with Magnolia (please correct me if i am wrong!).

    Will write my results here next weekend…

  9. A small comment to memory requirements of Magnolia
    Yes there was a time when Magnolia needed lots of memory for INITIAL startup (i.e. for the very first time you ever staarted Magnolia). This as used for populating the repositories by reading bootstrap files, something that makes it easy for us to be able to plug in other repositories or use different databases.

    However, Magnolia has always been rather memory efficient to run. When you download Magnolia today, the initial bootstrap has been performed by us (that makes the download bigger but means you have no big memory requirements anymore).

    In other words, we have had systems with 8 Million hits per hour on a standard PC server; and you can run Magnolia with 256MB in general (large sites might need more).

    Of course its also a matter of which infrastructure you are using. Websphere? JBoss? Tomcat? Jetty? Resin? Weblogic?

    Or do you want to use Liferay or JBoss portal with Magnolia? Thats also possible, and will need much more memory than Magnolia.

  10. Has anybody looked at MMBase.. It’s a Netherlands based product – and has some cool core features. Completely OO and java based.

  11. Hi everybody,

    I got confused with the world of portals and cms.

    Which java based portal/cms would be better for creating easy to customize and dynamic website?

    Any experiences Please Share…

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