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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.

PHP-Nuke And Its Offshoots

In terms of the number of releases and user community, PHP-Nuke is one of the more mature open source content management systems available. PHP-Nuke is a rarity in that it charges a nominal fee -- currently $12 -- to download the latest version of the application, although older versions are free. Don't let that put you off though; it's very much worth a look, and like many of the other systems we discuss here, can be test driven for free at OpenSourceCMS.com.

Also worthy of note are the multiple PHP-Nuke fork projects. Forks are new applications based on modification to the original code, and in the case of PHP-Nuke, most look to improve or modify the way that it handles certain aspects of administration and content management.

Among the best of these is XOOPS, which was the First Runner-Up in Development in SourceForge.net's 2006 Community Choice Awards.

Enterprise Wikis

When most people think of wikis, they think, of course, of Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia whose content may be created and edited by anyone. That ease of use has certainly driven growth -- over 1.6 million English language entries exist on the site today.

As compared to the content management systems we've discussed, a wiki can be easier to use, particularly on the content creation side. Both hosted and self-managed wiki options are available; while a hosted option can get you up and running with a basic wiki in minutes, the administration of self-managed wikis will probably require some familiarity with PHP, MySQL databases, and Apache Web servers.

In an enterprise environment, a wiki's greatest strength -- the ability for users to create content easily and edit on a whim -- can also be its weakness. Sloppy writing and editing can make the content tough to find or simply inaccurate, and in some cases, administrators want only a limited group to do the content creation and management. To help address these issues, there are numerous types of wiki installations available, some of which address these specific concerns. An excellent tool for comparing the many wiki installations and their features and options is Wikimatrix.org.

We'll outline some of the most popular and interesting choices below.

MediaWiki

As the software that runs Wikipedia, MediaWiki is the gold standard when it comes to building a wiki. Some other wiki installations can claim (rightfully) to be easier to use or manage, but none have the depth and breadth of features and functionality that MediaWiki boasts.

MediaWiki is written in and requires PHP and a MySQL or PostgreSQL database, and is generally served via an Apache or IIS web server. This means that setting it up can be a bit of an undertaking, but for launching an enterprise-class wiki, it's probably the best option available.

It handles images, audio and video files, and documents -- most of the things an organization would want to have readily available and easy to find for its users.

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