Skimming Java based CMS world

This is not a real review, it’s rather personal experience and it’s based on some very specific needs and starting points. We needed sorta Content Management System for our customer, nothing big, nothing complicated, just some articles, personal blogs, 4 authors total I guess. And then there are those parts that are not from the CMS world. Some kind of online auction. Simply put – there is also something like custom application. Not big, not difficult, but it should be integrated into the site and – in the best case – users of this application should be the same as CMS users – just with some other roles. Is it extended CMS? Is it custom site with CMS features? Whatever… I had to search for a solution from the CMS world that is easy to grasp, extensible… bla bla. That sort of things. FAST evaluation. You can imagine.

I’ve read some reviews and than I started with Alfresco. Installation (bundled with appserver/webserver) was OK, but I somehow didn’t get it. It’s also more than CMS so it seems, which made it too complex for our needs.

Magnolia, installation OK, seems OK, admin is nice – but after another restart it was not working, admin showed login screen on the main part of the screen, I could recursively enter Admin tool stacking menus on the left. Maybe bad luck, but I left the Magnolia right away. I really didn’t mess with it. It worked, I turned off the computer, returned after the weekend and after application server launch – it went bad. Maybe the Magnolia was sad to be alone during the weekend, I don’t know. I also wasn’t able to find out how I can access the public site. I want some public site, something the guest can see, and I can edit (in-situ or via admin section, whatever). I quickly went through manuals, but either I searched wrong or what… never mind, next.

InfoGlue, installation OK, admin is kinda from early 2000, don’t know how to get to the public page (again!). I felt dumb. I know I don’t understand CMS, but why I can’t get to page my visitor will see in a quick manner?

Next two candidates were OpenCms and dotCMS. On a first run I skipped these because of not exactly trivial installation (no unzip-run bundle). I remembered I kissed a girl and I wasn’t sure if I liked it – but I didn’t listen to that warning. And then the sex wasn’t any better. For that I’m willing to bother with complicated installations as a last resort unless someone recommended the solution (personally). First kiss (installation experience) must be smooth! 🙂

Next… Jahia, installation OK, after that I can finally see some public page! After logout it’s more difficult though. Trouble here was the pricing. It really is quite serious for commercial usage, starting at roughly 2k EUR. That would be too much for our little site and customer’s budget. Too bad, Jahia seemed really cool! For non-commercial usage I’ll probably return to it.

This was the time when I risked a little PHP detour with Joomla! (exclamation is part of the name) – it was OK, but than I went through the idea of mixing Java application into PHP – with the same user base… hardly possible (only on DB access base, hard to cache, too many problems!). Otherwise it’s cool and definitely refreshing after previous Java experiences. Again – I could quickly see how visitors see my page. Somehow this became my favourite requirement. For any simple site (personal for instance) I want to edit without messing with HTML (I can write HTML code – of course!) I’d go for Joomla!! (Remember, first exclamation mark is part of the name. :-))

Running out of options I installed dotCMS after all… and maybe I’ll try to go beyond not-so-perfect kissing with girls the next time as well. It felt better than previous products, but when I wanted to add blog post without proper relation, error message was really confusing. Also the switch to edit mode was unintuitive because ordinary access to the page always opened the edit sidebar and I wasn’t able to get rid off it (no, logout is not the answer I’m looking for). Documentation would probably help, but… I guess easy things should be easy and content should be editable on place like in Joomla – of course not only, but optionally. Still one of those better CMS for someone who is not CMS expert. Maybe.

Time to install OpenCMS as well. The results were quite similar to dotCMS but I didn’t dig deep enough this time because suddenly I had some spare time to do other things as well. And I decided that I have enough of all CMS solutions. I seemed to me that these solutions are meant for companies who need CMS for their own needs, not for companies delivering sites with CMS features. Nor Wiki or pure Blog are good enough either – although the blog idea is quite close.

I’m really lazy to study things so it seems. It’s only half of the truth because when something grabs me I can devote the time to it. But as a CMS outsider I have to say – nothing really grabbed me. If something it was PHP. Is there any good Java-based CMS? I don’t know – probably yes. But I can’t go through them all. I read the blogs, I searched for the stuff, maybe I was unlucky, the result is… well, I’m a programmer. So yes, I’m creating CMS functionality now – half/half for fun and for work. Because I know a few things for sure. When you want to bend a wheel, sometimes it’s easier to do so with the wheel you invented. Life is full of sayings and truths – but no truth is universal after all. 🙂 I am probably mistaken with my current stand, but it’s hard not to be when you lack the proper experiences. At least I’ll learn some new technologies along the way. And I’ll not fight other’s solutions (however great they are) but I’ll do what I like – software development. That’s also something.


About virgo47
Java Developer by profession in the first place. Gamer and amateur musician. And father too. Naive believer in brighter future. Step by step.

3 Responses to Skimming Java based CMS world

  1. Thanks for your article about Java-based CMS. Your “intuitive” approach is quite interesting and shows how a user or a developper first impressions are setting up (something rarelly described by the analysts but a key issue to motivate people starting with your product!).

    I hope your blog may motivate some people to gather again a quite exhaustive review of Java-based CMS or at least some other “intuitive” feedbacks like yours.

    I would love doing it but as I am myself belonging to a Java-based CMS vendor, I just can’t be objective 😉

  2. virgo47 says:

    Anyone with more experiences would be probably less confused and more satisfied with CMS products, I have experiences with a few simple PHP publishing systems (I don’t remember even the names) and WebNode lately – these I found more intuitive for a user – I don’t have admin experience. That’s also why I named it “skimming”. There are different articles about this topic, reviews, but in the end you have to try it for yourself. Often the information in blogs is outdated.

    Nice long list of OSS Java CMSes is here:

    As for Jahia – I really liked it, looks very nice and modern and if there was a bigger budget or if the site was non-commercial, I’d love to spend more time with this one. 🙂

  3. Pingback: Skimming the world of UML tools « Virgo's Naive Stories

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