Open source CMSes prove well worth the price

We look at five free offerings boasting solid Web publishing features that challenge their commercial competitors

Stepping back and looking ahead

After my intensive test schedule with these five products, there were a few surprises along with verification of what I generally suspected all along.

The lightweight Drupal has a decent following and special features, such as taxonomies, but comparatively weaker CMS functions (lacking rich-text editing, for example) and a somewhat unfriendly development environment mean Durpal is playing catch-up. Joomla, after breaking from Mambo, swept up many core developers and swayed community members to switch, too. Collectively, they've turned Joomla into a very relevant project. With improvements planned for Version 1.5, I'm optimistic about this CMS.

DotNetNuke (the .Net reincarnation of PHPnuke) wasn't originally on my short list, but I'm glad I reconsidered. Although it's Windows-only, this ASP.Net application proved scalable and has a real affinity for handling midrange commerce activities. Plone is a step above, combining multilingual features, workflow, and automated navigation.

With a strong organization behind it and a slew of features, Alfresco's Community Edition stood out in this comparison. That would be true solely considering its content management, but as these applications branch out into document and records management, Alfresco has already staked a claim in the extended ECM space.

The Bottom Line: Alfresco Community Edition 2.1

Alfresco Software, alfresco.com
Overall score: Excellent 9.2/10
Ease-of-use: 9/10
Features: 10/10
Security: 9/10
Scalability: 9/10
Management: 8/10
Value: 9/10
Cost: Free under GPL 2 with FLOSS exception
Platforms: Windows and Linux
Bottom Line: This very inclusive offering, developed using Java, sits on top of a JSR-170 content repository. Out of the box Alfresco provides a Web portal framework; CIFS (file share) interface that works on Windows and Linux clients; and a Web-content management system -- plus document, imagine, and records management. Further, Alfresco scales well with options for deploying content to multiple servers.

The Bottom Line: DotNetNuke 4.4.5

DotNetNuke, dotnetnuke.com
Overall score: Very Good 8.4/10
Ease-of-use: 9/10
Features: 8/10
Security: 8/10
Scalability: 9/10
Management: 8/10
Value: 8/10
Cost: Free under BSD-style license
Platforms: ASP.Net, Windows Server, SQL Server 2005
Bottom Line: Written in VB.Net, DotNetNuke is an extensible content management system suitable for intranets, extranets, and public Web sites. The core distribution includes three dozen CMS modules, including a skin system (based on simple templates) that separates design from content, personalization, and search; other modules range from e-commerce systems and photo galleries to blogs, forums, and wikis. Commercial publishers offer other components.

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