Looking for a CMS with inline or front end editing.
June 20, 2008 9:48 AM   Subscribe

A simple CMS with an inline or front end editor?

I searched the archives and I was surprised that for all the questions about CMS solutions, there weren't many mentions of inline or front end editing (assuming those are the correct terms for what I'm looking for, of course).

My holy grail of web design right now is to find a CMS that is dependable, simple and dead easy for the client to edit. I usually use Joomla, but I'm finding that it is anything but simple for my average client to use.

The ideal solution would be a system in which the person in charge of content could edit directly on the page. It would also be necessary to be able to add images and video. An added bonus would be the ability to add new pages from a front end editor, but I don't know if that would work well or be any easier than logging into a backend.

I searched and found a reference to Plone, which seems a bit complicated and unfortunately isn't demo-ed on Open Source CMS. I haven't found much else. I remember a friend of mine using a simple ASP CMS back in 2003 that had inline editing, but I know that it changed its name and now I can't find it back.

I've seen some mentions here and there in searches of plugins that would do this for Wordpress. I'm not crazy about that idea, but it would work. Does anyone have any experience with them? I have also seen a plugin developed for Joomla that did this, but the developer I spoke with had it custom programmed for a private organization and wouldn't share any information about it.

Does anyone have any suggestions? It would preferably be either free or really worth the money. Any help or leads would be appreciated.

On preview, I'm seeing a few related questions with interesting solutions. Would like to see if anything new has come up in the last year since the previous question, though. Thanks
posted by bristolcat to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
How simple are we talking? I'm currently looking for a barebones CMS as well and from my trawling of AskMe and other places, the best solution I've found (though not optimal) is CushyCMS. Major issues include the inability to add new pages without the intervention of a designer/developer, but there honestly doesn't seem to be very much in the space between CushyCMS and, say, Joomla/Drupal unless you either roll your own or attempt to shoehorn Wordpress into the role of a general CMS (which I hear is not as horrific an idea as I think it would be, but still seems like a lot of work).
posted by chrominance at 11:03 AM on June 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

posted by growli at 11:07 AM on June 20, 2008

I know Adobe Contribute allows this, but it isn't really a traditional CMS and is very much non-free and non-free-software.

I've personally done projects with ModX, which has a "quickedit" bar that appears on front-end pages when the user is logged in to the backend. From this bar, you can open a separate window to edit the page content in a TinyMCE instance, which is kinda-sorta-maybe WYSIWYG.
posted by Alterscape at 11:10 AM on June 20, 2008

Perhaps this was what you were talking about in regards to Wordpress:
Wordpress Plugin: Custom Admin Menu

I used that on a site that I built for my Dad's Vietnam Veterans site because standard-issue Wordpress had "too many goddamn" buttons for him in its interface.

But, since you said you were doing this for "clients" it seems like selling Wordpress as your CMS is probably not the right thing to do. Seems tacky. Hell, AFAIK, that's not even legal.

* A thing to keep in mind: There are a lot of web firms out there that charge good money for what you're asking for for free. The reason is, it's never really as simple as a "barebones CMS" after the client has their say. Drupal's modular style is a way to tackle that problem but Drupal, of course, is admittedly not an easy or simple CMS even at the beginning.
posted by metajc at 11:19 AM on June 20, 2008

simple and dead easy... edit directly on the page... add images and video... add new pages

Those things don't match very well. "Adding pages" is the biggest trick there.

I think you're going to want to start using Wordpress for this. It's the right choice for small/simple things where you don't mind bending design to fit the formula.
posted by rokusan at 11:30 AM on June 20, 2008

I like Wordpress, but I was annoyed how they continually wanted me to use their stupid "page" with the same template every time.

My solution was this:
I made a simple include, that was a rip-off of their "page" but with everything stripped out but the title and content.

I installed a plugin called "get-a-post" which does what it sounds like- takes in an id and returns one post/page.

Now anytime i want to add a chunk of editable text, I create a page in the WP backend and grab the ID. Then I code my php page in the normal way. Where I have the hole where I want user-editable text, I drop in my include, which calls "get-a-post." Just before the include, I specify a variable for it to take in, equal to the id of the content chunk I want.

i can even have more than one "chunk" per page, so it's more like adding a block of editable content where I want, and less like their clunky "page" concept.

it's not that complex but I can share the code with anyone who's interested (mail me).
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:47 AM on June 20, 2008

(sorry this doesn't exactly address the issue of inline editing but as people said, i don't know how possible that is for adding complex content. You could MAYBE hack something togther like this:

if (WP user logged in) {
onClick the textArea {
//pop the WP editor in a new div with this page pre-loaded
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:50 AM on June 20, 2008

now that I wrote that i kind of like that idea. i might try to hack it together, but I don't know if it'll work.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:51 AM on June 20, 2008

Response by poster: Well, metajc's point about "selling" Wordpress is exactly why I'm not crazy about the idea of using Wordpress. Ideally I would hire a programmer and work with them, but I'm just starting out and the website that I have this in mind for is actually for a friend, so I was open to options.

I did look at CushyCMS and I thought it looked interesting and potentially useful. I'm not so sure about the idea of a hosted CMS. I don't know. There was no FAQ or anything and I didn't entirely feel comfortable with that.

I will have to look further into CommunityServer.com.

I did play with ModX, too. The quick edit feature was neat and worth exploring further.

My main frustration with this is that I saw it done so well with a little small-time CMS back in 2003. I just haven't been able to find it back, although by now it's probably no longer free if it's even available.
posted by bristolcat at 12:00 PM on June 20, 2008

it seems like selling Wordpress as your CMS is probably not the right thing to do.

I REALLY don't get this. It's open source software! You're setting it up and configuring it for them. That's like saying it's wrong to set up MySQL for clients or to host their sites on Linux because you didn't personally build those things.
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:19 PM on June 20, 2008

You could do it with Drupal 5 and javascript tools module or with Drupal 6 and the currently under development active edit.

You could hire the maintainer of the module to finish up the module though the maintainer would most likely still want to release the module under the GPL.
posted by Brian Puccio at 1:33 PM on June 20, 2008

My holy grail of web design right now is to find a CMS that is dependable, simple and dead easy for the client to edit

I think you're asking for something that can't exist. It's like asking for templates so anyone can do the work of a master electrician, just not possible. There's a certain amount of knowledge that "the person in charge of content" needs to learn in order to be able to "edit directly on the page" or to have someone do it for them. You need to define what you mean by editing directly on the page also, is that editing raw html, placing pictures, being able to move those placed pictures around, changing there size, what?

So the best course might be to teach someone how to do things. It takes longer and requires more work, but is ultimately more rewarding and helpful to the person being taught.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:38 PM on June 20, 2008

If the client editing pages is your primary consideration, Adobe Contribute works well. It's not a CMS, not free and is prone to page publishing issues, BUT once you've setup the page templates, adding and editing pages is incredibly easy. I found Joomla a lot easier to use than Plone, though I haven't used Plone in a couple of years.
posted by cnc at 2:07 PM on June 20, 2008

Seconding Modx - one of the easier to use CMS's - still more complex than i wanted.
posted by bitdamaged at 3:15 PM on June 20, 2008

What you are looking for is known as "in place" editing.

I'm not aware of any CMSes where this is a major feature, but I suspect there's some out there that do a reasonable job of it. Sharepoint (totally not free) has a lot of in-place editing. Ning has some in-place editing. Wordpress AFAIK does not have in-place editing, but honestly, has the best backend WYSIWYG editing I've seen. The recent addition of gallery/uploading features have made it a pretty complete solution for most applications.

It would be complicated but probably do-able to bring up the Wordpress editor via AJAX and permit in-place editing, but I think an "edit this" link is plenty understandable for most clients -- if it is not, I'd suggest that maintaining their own website is probably going to be a little over their heads anyways. I do not recommend Drupal for this. The core devs are opposed to WYSIWYG editing and thus WYSIWYG has to be added by a third-party module of questionable quality.

Hopefully without derailing too much: there is absolutely nothing wrong with "selling" a client a Wordpress site. You are not "selling" the software, you are selling the consulting, setup and configuration. This is probably the number one way that open source products make their creators money, so I'd suggest it is super-inaccurate to suggest this is illegal. Now, if you were simply selling a disk with Wordpress on it, or selling Wordpress as an online download, or selling a modified copy of Wordpress as proprietary software and NOT providing the source freely, that would probably run afoul of the license. Installing and configuring open source software is not only not illegal, but a HUGE industry.
posted by fishfucker at 5:22 PM on June 20, 2008

I don't know what sort of sites you're working on, but I believe indexhibit (portfolio) and tumblr (blog) can be be deformed to behave more like general purpose sites. minimal, dead easy admin functionality.

In a similar vein, there's chyrp (self-hosted tumblr-inspired).

Habari might be worth a look, too.
posted by unmake at 8:42 PM on June 21, 2008

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