CMS Project

The "Project 8" to do a review of Informatics Web services and policy, resulted in a questionnaire and a presentation of the results at the FirstInnovationMeeting. This lead to an agreement that we should provide a general purpose CMS service that will meet the needs of a majority of users/research groups.

We have started experimenting with a couple of likely contenders and some technical notes of their initial setup are available as PloneNotes, DrupalNotes and JoomlaNotes. Due to time constraints, and the acceptance that no one package is going to satisty everyones' needs, we are unlikely to consider any other CMSes.

We have since decided on Plone and are working on our test service at We hope to have a service in place by the end of September. With a pilot for the end of August, dedicated hardware has been ordered.


  • Identify the requirements of the service.
  • Compare how our likely candidates standup on those requirements.
  • Select CMS and get it ready for service
  • Progress

CMS Requirements

There are a few technical and user requirements/features that we should consider. Some of which are must haves and others which are desirables. A good source for the initial comparison was done at:

Feature Must/Desire Drupal 5.1 Plone Joomla 1.5
Virtual Hosting Must   Can be done via apache proxy Should be do able, as it is just PHP on apache
Versioning Must Apparently Yes - - CMFEditions Apparently
Packaged - RPM Desire   Yes  
Workflow Desire Limited Apparently Limited
Authentication - external users Must Yes Yes Yes
Authorisation - Various access levels Must Apparently Apparently No
Simple to Use Must   Seems to be Seems to be
WYSIWYG editor Desire Apparently Yes Yes
HTML Must   Yes Yes
scripting/PHP Desire Apparently Apparently Apparently
Friendly URLs Must Apparently Yes Yes (ish)
Web Stats Desire Apparently Apparently Apparently
Possible compatibility with polopoly Desire      
Generation of valid (X)HTML Must   Yes Supposedly, but not that I've seen

Apparently CMSMatrix says yes, but we've yet to confirm it for ourselves
Yes We've confirmed this on our test services
No CMSMatrix says no, or we've not been able to confirm it for ourselves

David Richardson also gave us a list of things that CISA where looking for in their ICSAWebReview.

Selection Of the CMS

As previously stated there are a wide variety of Web Content Management Systems available. We picked a short list of 3 of the more popular Open Source CMSes as possible candidates: Drupal, Plone and Joomla.

Though Joomla seems easy to use, they are currently developing a 1.5 version which is still beta, and quite buggy. Their stable release is 1.0.7, but according to their web pages, there is not a migration path from 1.0.7 to 1.5. So if we were to choose this, we'd have to either choose their beta version (which they say don't use for production services) or the older 1.0.7, with no future migration option. Also, of the 3 CMSes Joomla is the least featured of the three. So we will rule out Joomla as a candidate.

Looking at the remaining two, Drupal and Plone, by comparing them on, there is little to choose between them, though perhaps Plone has a few more features. Of the two Zope/Plone seems to be considered the more grown up and professional product, eg, with better documentation and more polished releases. Drupal seems better suited to community blogging type sites, with new versions coming out frequently.

There are a couple of concerns regarding Plone however, one is the reliance on its own zserver. It doesn't use Apache, and so we can't leverage our Apache knowledge/experience, however we can (and do for proxy Plone behind Apache. Also the large variety of plugins are apparently a bit of a dependency tangle.

Drupal is PHP and MySQL/Postgres based, and its plugins are more self contained. This would tend to suggest that Drupal would be a better choice from our management point of view.

However, one of the big pluses with Plone, is that it is being used by some big organisations eg RBS and University of Bristol. We also have at least some experience of Plone with the web site. And out of the box, Plone does give you a basic usable CMS. Drupal requires some initial configuration to get things going.

Considering all this, and with the fact that time is of the essence, we have decided to go with Zope/Plone as the basis for the Informatics CMS service.


Installed CMFEditions and the required ZopeVersionControl and CMFDiff Products to enable versioning (history) on plone content types. The Diff part doesn't work it never shows any differences, but without the Product it crashes. I tried installing the latest Zope 2.9.7 and Plone 2.5.3 on topper and the above products, but had the same problem. I'll leave this for now.

Working on making it more service like, machine headers, backup and possibly a Zope component (low priority).

  • A simple live/wcms-server.h has been started and scunner now uses this. It should be mirrored to pegasys.

Next will be a look at skinning.

Need to think about how accounts are going to work, both in the short term and longer term (Cosign+Friend). Assuming that some people will have access to multiple sites on the CMS, they won't want to register multiple times.

  • Plone 3.0 has just been released, and it ticks more of our requirements boxes, so the pilot web service has been setup using Plone 3.0. Unfortunately the apachepas doesn't work as nicely with Plone 3.0 and so Cosigning Plone has taken a step backwards. We need to fix this.

  • The initial pilot service is now running, but shouldn't be widely used until the authentication is solved. For now we have to ensure people use their UUNs and a non-valuable password when creating local Plone accounts.

Some things about Zope and Plone

In principle, skinning doesn't look that hard. If it is really just a matter of laying out the content differently and with different styles. Using the DIYPloneStyle product as a starting point is very useful. Note that if you follow the instructions in, it will copy accross empty copies of things like base.ccs, columns.css public.css, which overrides any of the defaults you might want to keep. This might be fine if you are starting from scratch, but I've tried to keep my changes to a single file and only override the bits I need in wwwinftheme.css.

You can control what appears in the navigation tabs by excluding individual folders from the Nav, or disabling them all (in the site navigation control panel option), you then have to go into the ZMI and edit the portal_actions appropriately. Not very friendly, and slight discoraged. Look for the "Home" action as an example and copy/extend.

Looks like TALES is being recommended in favour of DTML. But you'll still need to know a bit of each. The languate itself is simple, the difficulty is knowing how to reference all the properties etc of the plone/zope/content attributes properties.

Plone Users mailing list

-- NeilBrown - 15 Jun 2007

Topic revision: r15 - 19 Jul 2010 - 11:47:24 - NeilBrown
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