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9/10/2007
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Everything You Need To Know To Get Started With Content Management Systems

Free and low-cost enterprise wiki tools and open-source content management systems are plentiful. Here's a quick guide to the available options.

That said, there are several excellent open source content management systems available, most of which have a strong user community willing to assist with questions. We'll go into detail on a few of them below, but to try out a live demo of many of the CMS and wiki systems discussed in this article, visit OpenSourceCMS, which features over 50 different installations, all of which you can log into and test drive.

Drupal

Drupal is among the best known and most well-regarded content management systems, open source or not. This is due, in part, to the availability of dozens of plug-in modules that support everything from standard functions such as adding content and blogging, to calendaring, bulletin board forums, and photo galleries. Virtually anything most organizations could need is available, and there is an active, helpful user community to assist with getting everything to work. Drupal is programmed in PHP and requires a MySQL/PostgreSQL back-end database. Since it's open source, if you can't find a module to do what you need, a programmer with some PHP skills can create one.

If you're looking for evidence that Drupal is up to the task of running a high-traffic site, consider that popular destinations such as Ain't It Cool News, The Onion, and Spread Firefox run on the platform.

Plone

If your organization is already using the open source Zope as its Web application server of choice, Plone may be a logical choice for the CMS, as it's designed from the ground up to run on top of Zope. Assuming that you have Zope installed already, Plone is easy to set up, and flexible, with dozens of available modules. Discover Magazine and Wimax.com are among the sites that run Plone CMS on top of Zope.

Mambo/Joomla

Like Drupal, both Mambo and Joomla were created in PHP and require a MySQL database. The platforms are close cousins; after a 2005 disagreement about the direction of Mambo, most of the core development team split off, and Joomla 1.0 was released shortly thereafter.

Both systems are well respected, and both have done a pretty good job of thriving since the split. Like Drupal, the user communities for both Mambo and Joomla are helpful and passionate, and while modules built for one tend to work for the other, this may not continue to be the case as the code bases diverge.

Wordpress

Although Wordpress is primarily considered a blogging tool, its ease of installation and use has driven development of a multitude of plug-ins, including CMS-focused modules.

While the fundamentals of blogging and content management are similar, Wordpress is probably not the best choice for a site with a lot of static content. It can, however, be an excellent choice for a site with a significant blogging component or for an administrator who is already comfortable with Wordpress. A quick Google search for "Wordpress CMS" should turn up the relevant plug-in modules.

Wordpress is available for free download, here.

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