What is a CMS and which one to choose?

A CMS (Content Management System) makes it possible to create automatically pages of a website from data, and it works on the server.
All the CMS cited here are free and open source.



The name CMS, Content System Management, is a vague term, since actually any software manages contents.
More precisely one gives this name to a software which manages the creation and the publication of documents, possibly in a collaborative way.
On this site, we will speak rather about CMS as Web applications, therefore software of assistance to put documents in line on Internet.

Why a CMS?

Content managers undertake the part common to the pages of your site and generates the pages starting from the text or of the data that you provide him. He thus delivers you repetitive tasks.
He can be static and create the pages before they are put in lines, or dynamic and create the page at the request of the visitor.
He does not bring anything about the contents itself, but makes it possible to manage the structure of the site, to add and classify the pages. The major CMS make it possible to manage a forum, a directory, news, most of the time by the addition of extensions.
Sometimes it makes it possible to adapt the interface of the site, to generate more stripped printable pages or to make contributors taking part to the site.

Which CMS to choose?

The number of CMS available, even if one limits oneself to the free software, seems unlimited. The page of comparison although enough long gives only one part of it and does not include commercial software.
Nevertheless, classification that we will give should help to delimit what one seeks, and which software can correspond so that one seeks.
In the list of CMS, a comparison is based on the type, the language and the information storage. Links are given moreover on sites which make it possible to compare in a very detailed way the possibilities of this software, thanks to a dynamic matrix and to the comments of the Net surfers.


Working on scripts of a site to make a blog is completely useless. On one hand there are Community sites which propose to you to put your blog on line without any edition HTML, on other hand there exists CMS to install on your own site for all the formatting part of the pages.


These are sites whose contents are published by the visitors. Is thus appropriate for encyclopaedias, cultural sites general or specialized in a topic.


It is completely useless to devote only one moment to program the forum of a site. There are free software complete and relatively simple to use. Posts are recorded into a database and the wire of discussion are posted in a dynamic way.

All these CMS require PHP and MySQL.
Note that many general CMS (or portals) include also forum management, possibly by the addition of extensions.


Generators of portals are complete management systems being able to create and manage in addition to pages HTML, the interactive capacities of the site: FAQ (questions of the users and answers of the webmaster), forum, news. The following CMS have an editor style text processing and principal functionalities:

Other categories of CMS

Specialized CMS are near Web applications.


CMS with templates

These CMS operate on models which one defines according to the format of the pages and whose fields are affected by the data according to their type.

Statics pages

Static CMS build the pages before putting them on line, starting from files or templates
The advantage is that the pages are parsed by robots of search engines and thus indexed.

There are tools also to process the pages locally, build them into HTML and put them on the server. See this article: Ditching Wordpress for Pelican. (Python must be installed locally to user Pelican).

Dynamic pages

The dynamic CMS builds the page at the time or the visitor wants to consult it, while clicking on a link. Data are read from a dataase and page are created according to a model.
Most CMS software make use of SuperCache wich stores statically frequently used pages and so does not access the database.

Data storage in XML

Some managers store data in XML files, from which it is possible to create pages according to different points of view.
XML CMS can be static or dynamic. Often the XML file ara packed in zip format, this is the case of DokuWiki for example.

More information and tools