Searching for content management platforms can be a daunting (and expensive) process, one that requires long hours of research and deep pockets. The most popular enterprise content management tools often provide more than what’s necessary for non-enterprise organizations, with advanced functionality relevant to only the most technically savvy users. Thankfully, there are a number of free and open source content management tools out there. Some of these solutions are offered by vendors looking to eventually sell you on their enterprise product, and others are maintained and operated by a community of developers looking to democratize content management.
In this article, we will examine free and open source content management platforms, first by providing a brief overview of what to expect and also with short blurbs about each of the currently available options in the space. This is the most complete and up-to-date directory on the web.
Free content management tools defined
Free content management software refers to products that are offered commercially free by the solution provider. These offerings are usually trimmed-down versions of the expert or enterprise editions, offering basic functionality that enables users to easily manage their content. Commercially free content management tools typically offer less functionality on the whole than their open source counterparts, but are often a great way to gain more than a free trial if it’s a product you were already considering.
What is open source content management?
Open source content management platforms are platforms with a source code that anyone can inspect, modify, or enhance. These tools are designed to be publicly accessible and are commonly managed and maintained by organizations with a specific mission in mind. The open source content management platforms included in this list are surprisingly full-featured, offering an expansive list of capabilities for a variety of users.
It’s important to remember that some of the open source offerings included in this list require some development skills, and that may make them less than ideal fits for your use case. We recommend that you read each tool’s FAQ to see just how much coding is required to take advantage of the software. The open source tools usually do a good job of explaining the requirements for use on the download pages.
Alfresco is a scalable, Java-based Content Management System (CMS) that offers users the tools for imaging, web content management, team collaboration, and records management. The platform also features multi-language support, jBPM workflow, support for automatically generated XForms with AJAX and Lucene search. This open source platform handles any type of content, enabling users to share and collaborate on content easily. The solution also offers cloud-native architecture, and simplified information governance.
Bitrix24 offers a document management solution both on-prem and in the cloud. Users have the ability to move their setup to their private server whenever they want to access its source code. Additionally, the platform keeps track of the user’s activity stream, enables them to chat individually and in groups, and manage their tasks and projects through Janban and Gantt. Users are also able to automate their marketing strategy and design website landing pages with high conversion rates.
Concrete5 offers an open source Content Management System (CMS) that is licensed by MIT. The platform allows users to manipulate each individual page by clicking on edit, and then moving elements of that page around to suit their needs. Users have the ability to do this without any add-ons or extensions. Concrete5 is recommended to organizations that are looking to produce magazine experiences and general web portals. Additionally, the platform works well for users looking for drag and drop page arrangement in their CMS.
Drupal’s open source CMS is recommended to users who are comfortable with HTML, CSS, and PHP. The platform is strong when building up a database driven website that needs to be fast, customizable, and provide a developer-friendly CMS environment that can act as a blank canvas. The solution offers over 30,000 extendable modules, as well as more than 2,000 unique themes to assist with site building.
ExpressionEngine’s free version uses templates to define appearances of web pages. The provides is also recognized for its levels of security, flexibility, scalability, performance, and out-of-the-box building features. Additionally, the platform has a large community, which offers extensive enterprise-level support. There are no restrictions on how a website can be designed, and the solution provides an intuitive control panel for creating content and presentation templates.
Joomla was named the Best Free CMS in 2015 by CMS Critic because of its strong community and support system. The solution is also good for boosting SEO results, due to the fact that it generates SEO-friendly links in a scalable system. Additionally, Joomla offers users advanced admin features, as well as more than 7,000 extensions. The platform also provides native front-end content editing, content management flexibility, and native integration of multiple languages that makes the site’s content more friendly towards non-English speakers.
Maarch Courrier is a fully modular CMS written in PHP designed to legally archive large static documents. The solution features multiple file type management, validation workflow, physical archives management, hierarchy-based authorization and clearance, and business apps like HR document management. The platform enables users to qualify and index content, both paper and virtualized, from a single screen.
Magneto uses Composer for dependency management, which provides an improved overall in-app experience, as well as an enhanced ability to manage processes such as upgrading or managing Magneto and third-party components. These components can include modules, themes, and languages. The platform also provides support for Elasticsearch 6.0, which is a new Authorize.Net extension to replace the Authorize.Net Direct Post module.
Shopify is an eCommerce platform designed to assist freelancers and small businesses. However, the solution also helps enterprises that need secure eCommerce platform services. A point of strength for the platform is that it supports any type of device, which allows businesses with smaller budgets to save money by no longer needed to pay for custom designs. If needed, though, Shopify offers a range of designs that the user can fully optimize themselves.
SilverStripe is a CMS that is ideal for building websites. The platform provides content authoring tools to schedule publication, set different permission levels for a range of parties, and establish own content approval process. The solution is recommended to users that are proficient in HTML and CSS and want to create their own designs. Additionally, SilverStripe offers strong security, branding, and enterprise-level setup and performance. The solution also provides both site search and metadata generation.
TYPO3 is a CMS built exclusively to serve sites of a larger magnitude, as well as to be a native content management platform, as opposed to a native blogging platform. The solution is popular with corporate websites because of its integration of features that would otherwise require extensions or plugins. TYPO3 also offers Ajax drag and drop elements and is recommended for users who aren’t as savvy with code.
Wix is a design-driven site that is not considered a ‘pure’ CMS. However, it does have applications and components that function as part of a CMS. Though the free version does not allow for users to use a custom domain, it is praised for its ease of use, layouts designed for small businesses and creative professionals, and developing interactive websites without needing to know any code. Wix also offers over 500 customizable templates that are written in HTML5.
WordPress’ platform has a large developer community that provides a range of tutorials for more inexperienced users. The provider’s open source structure enables programmers to openly share codes online to allow users to use and save on developing time and costs. Users should be aware that WordPress can also be used with no coding required, if the user has no experience with coding. Additionally, the platform has thousands of themes available for free and for purchase.
If you’re looking for an enterprise-class content management solution, consult our Content Management Buyer’s Guide.