Content Management Systems

Introduction

My interest in this matter is not entirely new, since I have been using an old Userland Frontier version for many years at work, to generate a small (but useful) intranet site for my team. As good as the "source editor" of OmniWeb on Mac OS X may be, it's not a substitute for a web content management system. And then there are all my digital photos, crying for some sort of content management, preferably accessible from all my computers on the network.

Just to make things clear, at this moment I make the distinction between "web site content management" and "content management".

  • Content Management is the general term, that describes the processes and tools to manage all types of content for all kinds of "publishing", from brochures over websites to TV shows. Full-blown Content Management Systems are usually commercial products: high-priced, with extended functionality, complex to set up and complex in use - and at the same time unavoidable for large-scale documentation systems (think pharmaceutical or aeronautical companies). Since about 2004, this type of system has usually been termed "Enterprise Content Management".
  • Web Site Content Management is a specialised type of CM, usually a bit less complex than full-blown CM. WCMS systems only produce one sort of "output": web sites. The spectrum of available solutions ranges from the extremely simple to rather large systems for the management of multiple sites, and more. See this separate list of WCM products that succeeded in attracting my interest.

There are a few other essential definitions you're bound to encounter:

  • Document Management is a somewhat older term, predating the invention of the Personal Computer and the rise of electronic documents. DM describes the automated systems that allow a company to stock, archive, research and manage its (usually paper and/or text-based) documents. By definition, DM systems handle documents as a basic unit.
  • Digital Asset Management is a specialised form of document management: it handles multimedia documents (audio, graphics, etc.).
  • Micropublishing is the term used to describe the publishing process of weblogs and moblogs: small items, not "documents", are being published in systems where the documents do not exist untill they are viewed by their audience.

WikiWiki sites, better known as Wikis, are a particular type of CM tool; I'm handling that subject elsewhere (in a Wiki, of course, and/but in Dutch only).

Also note that most solutions are server-based - hardly surprising since most content management is done by groups of people, not by individuals.

Organisations and Internet Sites

Articles

Software

The heavy-weights in the commercial CMS market are called Documentum, Vignette, Stellent, etc. Check the Gartner quadrants and the like to find out more about them.

I have never had the luxury to contemplate buying one of those systems, not in a professional context and certainly not for personal purposes. I did review many simpler, usually WCM, systems, be they 'open sourced' or not. From my admittedly shallow reviews, I have compiled a list of interesting products. My interests have always centered around tools that are not too specific to a single type of website (who needs another ***nuke lookalike?), capable of running on more than one operating system (I own Macintosh computers, remember?), and open enough to allow some form of tinkering with (parts of) the source code (I love programming). Note that I haven't spent too much time to update this list since I wrote it in 2004, so it's getting a bit stale, unfortunately.