REVIEW: The open-source Concrete5 content management system trails its rivals in terms of templates but offers a powerful API. The free CMS offers strong administration features, and companies will be able to quickly customize sites.
Over the years, I've spent a great deal of time working with various
CMS packages on multiple levels--as a basic user, as a developer trying
to extend them and as an administrator doing installation and
configuration. I've seen just what a pain they can be. And so I was
immediately intrigued when I saw these statements on the "About" page
for an open-source CMS package called Concrete5
--"Building and maintaining a site in Drupal or Joomla is far too complex and intimidating for a regular person.
--"Sure it's great you can get started quickly, but if you want to
do anything more than blog, Wordpress is like using a hammer to drive
--"With Concrete5, you get the best of both worlds. Anyone can start
making their own Website in seconds, and the editing experience is
easier than using a blog; just click on what you want to change.
Developers still get a flexible and robust framework for building
sophisticated Web applications. Web geeks can build anything they might
with Drupal or Joomla."
Does the formerly commercial Concrete5 live up to hype? eWEEK Labs
put the CMS through its paces to find out and to determine whether its
ready for enterprise use.
When fighting (er, I mean working) with a new CMS (content
management system), one of the best ways to get a basic feel for its
capabilities is by checking out other sites built in it. To be fair,
this isn't going to show you everything. (Perhaps the developers
included several components that aren't really being used much.) But
it's a start.
Most of the well-known CMS sites include a "showcase" section, and
Concrete5.org is no exception. One of Concrete5's showcase sites is for
a design agency, and one features photography.
The two sites are drastically different, which is a good sign for a
strong CMS system. One is primarily an advertisement site, featuring
mainly static pages; the other is a dynamic site showing recently
A good CMS system should be able to create custom, static pages that
are nice-looking and fit into the overall look of your site, as well as
dynamic pages containing content requested by the users of your site.
For example, when you visit an eWEEK.com page, our CMS does what nearly
all other news sites do: It notes what article you are requesting,
takes our template and inserts the article along with additional
appropriate material (ads, links to related content and so on).
To see a slide show of Concrete5, click here.
The real power in any CMS is its ability to handle dynamic pages
like those you find on eWEEK. The reason I say this is a lot of non-CMS
software can be used to develop static pages. Dishing out content
dynamically, however, requires a good bit of server-side functionality.
Unfortunately, there are some really simplistic server-side systems
calling themselves CMSes that do dish out dynamic content. But sites
built from such software generally look the same: Basically, they look
like cheap blogs with a giant header, a blog item on the left and a
list of links on the right. But as you can imagine, our needs here at
eWEEK are significant: We're dealing with hundreds of thousands of
articles, thousands of images, many ads-the works. Can Concrete5 CMS
handle something as big as eWEEK?
You can install the open-source Concrete5 for free yourself on your
own servers, or you can pay $15 per month to host your site on
Concrete's servers. (The organization also provides premium services
such as custom hosting and other professional services for additional
I installed the software myself. It requires PHP and MySQL. Because
of those requirements, I installed it under an Apache HTTP Server. (I
didn't test whether it would run under Microsoft IIS with PHP and MySQL
installed, but it should work just fine.)
Installation couldn't be easier. The first screen asks you for the
usual information: a name for your site; the name of your MySQL server
and login; and so on. Like a lot of good software today, Concrete5
evaluates your current configuration and informs you if you're missing
Once installation was complete, I had a basic site with some basic pages built in by default.