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Open Source apps galore!

October 9, 2009 Leave a comment

I am trying to create a new website, I have a business idea in mind, I am not a hardcore techie. But I am willing to get my hands dirty as much as I can, within the limits forced on me by my lower-than-the-bespectacled-geek’s brain-to-body ratio and my half-used, ageing brain cells. What do I do? This is what I did…

I must say I am the more curious type. The first thing I always try, is to find out if I can build a system form raw components and leave a lot of room for customisation to myself. But I wanted to try out open source apps only. One must remember the weak points of using open source technologies before deciding on using them:

  1. The dev team usually does not provide complete support for installation/use/bugs etc. Although, this varies a lot between various open source projects depending on the scale at which the project is undertaken and who is/are the investor(s)/stakeholder(s). A few projects actually wind up and the users may be left on their own.
  2. The apps are meant to be used by users who intend not to spend much money on licensed, non open-source products. Hence, these OS (Open Source) apps are tested primarily 0n other freely available technology stack (server, database, operating system etc.) If you intend to use those on non-OS servers and databases, you may have to do the porting job yourself.

Considering all this in mind, I started with analyzing (reading documentations, if available, installing and running) various OS apps. The number of apps in PHP is definitely more than those developed in any other language. Since I am from JAVA background, I was very keen on finding JAVA-based apps. A good source of information about such apps is java-source.net. Two of the good apps I found were Jforum for adding a nice forum to your existing website and Roller to add a weblog. Both of these can be attached to your existing websites with minimal configuration. But I am looking to build a website from scratch. Thats where I need a content management system (CMS). A blog is a simple example of a CMS. WordPress is a great tool for a blog-type website. But a CMS can do much more:

  1. It keeps your website well organized and comprehensive,
  2. Its easy to create, easy to maintain with minimal technical knowledge,
  3. It increases the data security, and
  4. It greatly reduces your time and costs.

Here’s a list of top open source ones in news right now. These are, by no means, my choice as I haven’t tested them. The best source of feature set comparison and discussions are http://cmsreport.com and http://www.packtpub.com/award.

In no particular order:

Mambo

Mambo is a full-featured, award-winning content management system that can be used for everything from simple websites to complex corporate applications. It is used all over the world to power government portals, corporate intranets and extranets, ecommerce sites, nonprofit outreach, schools, church, and community sites. Mambo’s “power in simplicity” also makes it the CMS of choice for many small businesses and personal sites.

Joomla

Joomla is an award-winning content management system (CMS), which enables you to build Web sites and powerful online applications. Many aspects, including its ease-of-use and extensibility, have made Joomla the most popular Web site software available.

Drupal

Drupal is a free software package that allows an individual or a community of users to easily publish, manage and organize a wide variety of content on a website.

The built-in functionality, combined with dozens of freely available add-on modules, will enable features such as:

  • Electronic commerce
  • Blogs
  • Collaborative authoring environments
  • Forums
  • Peer-to-peer networking
  • Newsletters
  • Podcasting
  • Picture galleries
  • File uploads and downloads

DotNetNuke

DotNetNuke is a web content management system (WCM or CMS) and application development framework which enables businesses to quickly build and deploy feature-rich, interactive web sites and applications in Microsoft .NET. An intuitive, menu-driven interface allows even non-technical users to easily create new sites or extend the functionality and features of their existing web site.

SilverStripe

SilverStripe is an open source content management system. It’s simple to use, standards compliant, and offers great usability. The standout feature for me is the templating system, which uses simple placeholders within standard HTML to build the pages. Common functions — like menu systems — are built in and automatically generated, yet still offer full control over the styling.

phpNuke

Pligg

e107

mojoPortal

WordPress

…………and many more. There are a number of things to note before picking any of these for creating your website:

  1. Feature-set and robustness of the framework
  2. The size of the community – Drupal and Joomla in particular have large community
  3. Security provided by the framework
  4. Your level and type of technical knowledge – You may occasionally, need to integrate your own code to the existing CMS resources. Hence, if you know .Net, you may like to choose dotnetnuke and so on.
  5. Unique features in a CMS suitable for a particular purpose – WordPress may be more suitable for a simple blogging site and Pligg for a community site.

Considering all the above mentioned factors, coupled with my own online research, I decided to try out Drupal and Joomla. Once I am done with the trials, I’ll have something more to write.