Opensource CMS?
April 22, 2009 5:34 PM   Subscribe

Are there any good opensource CMS systems?

Need to develop new CMS for a fairly big media site. Are there any open source CMS aplications that are any good? Thanks.
posted by wanderlust_babe to Technology (17 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Drupal is a superb CMS, but has a bit of a learning curve to use it effectively. homepage
posted by frwagon at 5:40 PM on April 22, 2009

Drupal, or you can do anything with WordPress.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:40 PM on April 22, 2009

Seconding WordPress. With plugins, you can do almost everything you could ever want.
posted by aheckler at 5:55 PM on April 22, 2009

CMS From Scratch, while it looks simple, is actually very powerful in terms of what you can make with it and it's designed to be customisable.
posted by teraspawn at 5:55 PM on April 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Drupal is the gold standard for flexible, powerful open source CMS. You can almost literally make it do ANYTHING, but the learning curve is steep. But very, very worth it.

I'm using Joomla on a site as well, also open source. It's good, but has some predilections I'm not too fond of. But check it out.

And, also, Wordpress. Depending on your value of "big" and your value of "media". But if big is actually big, you won't do any better than Drupal.
posted by griffey at 6:19 PM on April 22, 2009

Response by poster: Are these really better than getting a commercial system? And, is there a lot of work that needs to be done to an open source system to make it work for you the way you need it to? Customize to your specific needs?
posted by wanderlust_babe at 6:20 PM on April 22, 2009

Best answer: Better than a commercial system? I'm afraid I don't follow the question. They're free (as in beer), so that's a plus, and can do ... with some work, almost anything. A commercial system will probably have a support team who will build the site for you, for an hourly price.

Drupal's workload to put a site up depends on how specific your needs are. You're probably going to want to write a custom theme, at the least (mostly html and css, with just a tiny bit of php in it..) A lot of functionality is offered through the Drupal custom modules that are pre-written, but if your needs are very specific, you might need to write your own modules. How much effort really depends on how much of "other people's creations" you're willing to rely on.
posted by frwagon at 6:27 PM on April 22, 2009

Of all the open source CMSes Drupal is the one I have the most experience with and I have been quite impressed with it. It's quite well designed and what it does (which is a lot) it does well.

But there are literally hundreds of open source CMS products that have different aptitudes and specializations. You might do well to figure out what particular features and capabilities would be of interest to you, narrow yourself down to several different candidates, and experiment with and ask questions about those in particular. Some interesting sites to take a look at might be CMS Matrix and Enterprise Open Source Directory. (There are lots of other similar sites out there but those ones I've found the most informative.)

On preview:

Are these really better than getting a commercial system? And, is there a lot of work that needs to be done to an open source system to make it work for you the way you need it to? Customize to your specific needs?

That's no simple question. For some applications Drupal or another OS product will be excellent and most commercial products would be a poor fit, and for many uses there are niche commercial products or commercial products with special capabilities that would be better than anything else.

I am a software engineer who specializes in CMS projects - mostly ones using commercial products - and believe me, commercial products are by no means a "no customization necessary" situation, indeed there are many situations where something like Drupal would require far less customization because some's released a module which does exactly what you need.
posted by XMLicious at 6:29 PM on April 22, 2009

You may also wish to check out Django, first developed for the Lawrence World Online, open-sourced, and now in use by, EveryBlock, and myriad others. It's not really a CMS but a web framework, and will handle anything you want to throw at it with aplomb.
posted by The Michael The at 6:38 PM on April 22, 2009

Bricolage is an open source CMS widely used in the publishing industry. I think it was originally written for Salon.
posted by singingfish at 6:55 PM on April 22, 2009

Yes, Django. You can build all sorts of web apps with it, but it has some particularly sweet stuff for CMS type apps. Like, once you've defined your data model, a nice admin interface comes for pretty much free. List views & date based views are a couple of lines of code + your HTML templates.
posted by Good Brain at 8:48 PM on April 22, 2009

I work with the team that makes Movable Type, which is available as either a free open source version or a paid version with support. If by "big" media site, you mean genuinely big, then MT, Django, and only one or two other options are really tested at the scale of enormous media properties, as far as open source platforms go. (Take a look at the kinds of clients using MT for an example of the scale I mean.)

That's not to diminish great tools like WordPress or Drupal, which have tons of features and plugins, but are really optimized for small to mid-scale sites. In the case of the big media sites using WordPress, for example, they're almost all running on's infrastructure, not on the media properties' own infrastructure. (That seems to be to what you're trying to build.) There are a few big Drupal sites, but very few run by major media properties.

Without knowing exactly what scale of media company you're trying to run, I'd say to look at the example of those who are doing well, and acknowledging my bias, I see sites like the Huffington Post or the Washington Post or using Movable Type and it seems to be the right choice for the high end. Plus you can get support if you get stuck.
posted by anildash at 9:52 PM on April 22, 2009

There are lots of books about using Drupal.
posted by PueExMachina at 10:20 PM on April 22, 2009

Hating to be an ass, but did you do *any* research on this question?

Drupal, Wordpress, Joomla, Django and Movable Type are just a few of a number of possibilities (VERY dependent on size/complexity of site). Anyone who is considering a for-pay CMS is, quite frankly, retarded (IMVHO).

I'd start espousing on several of these, but you really need to do some research before asking such an open-ended question, look at some experiences of installations of comparable sizes and such.

If your site is as "big media," as you describe, I would assume you have a budget/chance to do said research. YM (and budget) MV. Lots of options out there....
posted by liquado at 10:26 PM on April 22, 2009

The details are always important with this kind of question. What kind of workflow/permissions do you want? What kind of site architecture? How much custom development (to deal with unusual requirements) is likely? What technical expertise do you have available?

What's "any good" for you is going to vary depending upon the answers to questions like those, as each application has strengths and weaknesses, and you need an application that suits the skills of the developer(s) involved.
posted by malevolent at 11:58 PM on April 22, 2009

There's already a CMS built out of Django called django-cms (logically enough).
posted by octothorpe at 3:43 AM on April 23, 2009

I'd say the only CMSes that are any good are the open source ones. The commercial "enterprise" CMSes I've worked with have always been overcomplicated and underpowered.

Drupal is my first choice for larger, more complicated sites. WordPress is great for smaller projects. There are many, many others. Pick one that is extensible (as both of these are) and has an extensive library of expansion modules and themes (as both of these do).
posted by wheat at 8:21 AM on April 23, 2009

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