Joomla and WordPress: Highly Recommended Content Management Systems

Wow, we’ve received a lot of suggestions for a content managment system in response to Looking for a Content Management System That’s as Easy as Mac. One reader suggests that it’s too early to write off ExpressionEngine, while six tell me that I ought to be looking at Joomla. WordPress is in second place, and several others were recommended by a single reader.

At this point, we’re going to work a bit more with ExpressionEngine. If that looks like a dead end, Joomla is next on the list.

Use Blogging Software

From Farah Al-Essa:

Hi Dan,

Love your site.

I think you might want to consider switching to a blog format. It will do everything you want except importing the old pages.

Best Regards,
Farah Al-Essa


Thanks for the suggestion. Blogging software is essentially a content management system designed for one kind of content.

The problem is that I want to be able to import and update existing content so I don’t have to go back to Claris Home Page and the other tools when I want to update a computer profile, for instance. Importing HTML is a nonnegotiable in my book.



From Daniel Heiberger:


I’ve only got a casual interest in web development, but John Gruber of Daring Fireball had a lot of good things to say about Panic’s Coda.

The article is from last year, but Coda has recently been updated.

Coda is not a CMS, but maybe it has other features that would be useful for LEM. Just throwing the idea out there. Hopefully you’ll get more relevant responses.



Thanks for writing. I read Gruber’s article and gave Coda a try. For code lovers, it’s probably a wonderful tool, but it doesn’t have the WYSIWYG front end that a writer wants.


eZ Publish

From Doug Brethower:

I’ve only been trying to find a good CMS for a couple of years now.

I had downloaded the right one once upon a time but never took the time to figure it out. First glance it looks great. Then try to admin, and it is a confusing jungle. Describe any other CMS (e107 in particular) that you have tried?

Dig down into the jungle for just a couple of hours and read the best documentation available for any CMS, and you will start to see that it is actually intuitive – it is just so complete, so flexible and layered, that it takes time to grasp. And unlike all the other CMS, it doesn’t work primarily from the admin interface – admin is just for real high level admin stuff, like creating entirely new objects.

eZ Publish 4.0

Crazy Norwegians did it right, they just aren’t telling anybody. Judging from their client list, they don’t have to work too hard to spread the word.

Looking at those clients, you will think this is a big budget corporate CMS that will consume too many resources for a working class guy like you or me. Now that I am digging into it a little, it is amazingly simple. You just have to learn to stay away from the admin stuff while you are learning.

All other CMS, you start off in admin to get something done. eZ Publish, you look at admin and you are lost. eZ Publish, you login with credentials and start editing the content in place. It works unlike any of the other CMS you have been trying in other words. But if you have tried the other CMS, your thought processes may already be programmed incorrectly, so it is confusing. runs on PHP/MySQL so it works on just about any hosting.

I may be overselling this, having just discovered most of the feature set last night, but I don’t think so. It is a tad slow, but I think that is mostly due to the language translations and/or cache settings.

If it turns into yet another bomb, I will let you know. is a place to demo a lot of CMS before downloading and installing.

Thanks for all your great articles. Hope this helps you and your readers some small bit in return for all the help your site has provided me over the years.


Thanks for the lead. If it’s good enough for NASA, MIT, National Geographic, Vogue, Elle, Car and Driver, and so many others, it’s got to be powerful and user friendly. Looking at their online documentation, I’m very impressed: edit in your browser or using Microsoft Word, clear separation of design and content, and it’s free.

I’ll definitely be giving this one a try!


I think is going to work well. And they support Open Office docs as well.

A few days of work to transform this site straight HTML –

Into this site –

A few quirks remaining. If I had copied an existing package and made my changes instead of overwriting their package, I don’t think there would have been any quirks.

A couple of installation notes at with some notes on how to quickly get up to speed with to follow soon.

Keep the good stuff coming!


Wow, that’s a world of difference. At present Joomla is the most recommended solution, followed by WordPress. I’ll put eZ Publish on my short list.


Avoid Drupal, Consider WordPress

Hey Dan,

I’ll be honest. I’ve played the CMS game in the past, but there are few recommendations that hit everything you want on the head.

Drupal has been considered the best open source CMS out there, because it is very extendable – lots of modules and stuff. But it doesn’t do WYSIWYG very well – updates break itself. There is no real sense of user friendliness. And drupal sites tend to look sort of similar and run into similar functionality problems. I am tired of using Drupal – there is no vision for making the thing a whole piece of software. It’s uneven.

So seriously, the best option is WordPress. At the end of the day, it will do all the basics that you need, and it has much stronger vision and cohesiveness. There are ways to expand its functionality too with plugins and things. But it is easy to use, rock solid, and well supported.

Nathan Hill


Thanks for the suggestion. I just spent some time on the WordPress site, and it looks very promising. Looks like another one I’ll want to try out!


Joomla, WordPress, and Movable Type

Dan –

I read your post about CMS with interest. I was a slow adopter of CMS but am now sold on it. And I wanted something that was, as you say, written for end users, not for programmer geeks. So I suggest three that should fit the bill.

All three of these have the following necessities covered:

  • WYSIWYG Editing
  • Images
  • Cascading Style Sheets
  • Comments
  • Flexibility
  • Users
  • Editing and Publishing
  • Templates
  • Publication Dates
  • Meaningful File Names

Importing of flat HTML files can be scripted on all three, but it’s not a task that any content management system can do lightly. Your site is amazingly complex in that regard, given its scope and age, and it will be a big task for any CMS to accomplish – it’s not impossible, but it’ll be a chore regardless of which solution you choose.

Joomla (

Joomla is an incredibly capable CMS. It’s not difficult to learn, and the documentation is written in normal English – an incredible thing for an open-source project (thus the downfall of the *Nuke, Drupal, and ExpressionEngine projects: geek-speak dominates their docs). I’ve used it for projects that had to be handed over to folks who are not tech-savvy, and they caught on quickly (see for an example). It has a WYSIWYG composition window option, as well – again, I’ve let this system loose on writers, and they seem to like it.

Joomla uses themes that are CSS-driven and clean, as well as easy to modify.

WordPress (

My own blog ( runs on WordPress, and I’ve found it most capable. The latest version (2.6.1) has a very clean admin interface. Sure, it’s not technically a full-on CMS, but it works quite well – especially the “MU,” or multi-user, version. The composition window has a WYSIWYG option, and common (for Windows, alas) keyboard shortcuts can be used for basic formatting (e.g. ctrl+I for italics, ctrl+B for bold), and the code that comes out uses the modern, non-deprecated tags. The documentation is good, and the support system even better (the WordPress forums contain 99 percent of the answers users will need, and if there isn’t already an answer, the folks who read the boards are quick to help).

WordPress (and WordPress MU) has a lot of plugin extensibility, due in no small part to its traction in the CMS market. Themes are CSS-driven and easy to modify. From my own experience, I’ve not needed to use the MU version, even for multi-author sites, as user roles are easy to define and create.

Movable Type (

This is the old granddaddy of CMS for many folks who’ve been on said horse for a long time. Unlike Joomla and WordPress, it’s not a straight-up PHP system, instead using Perl for many of its functions. That used to be a liability of MT-driven sites, but recent improvements in the 4.x version (that, amazingly enough, added PHP to many backend functions) have made it much better.

The admin interface is very clean, and it is used on many multi-author sites (e.g. and The publishing method is a little different than that used by WordPress and Joomla, but it’s intuitive once you’ve used it a little. Unlike Joomla and WordPress, MT compiles its output into HTML pages that are prebuilt, rather than having on-the-fly server calls build the pages. This can make many MT sites seem “snappy” in terms of load times, which can be a plus if you have complex layouts.

Other Considerations

WordPress and Movable Type both work with MarsEdit, a wonderful Mac app that allows for offline post authoring (good for your dialup authors) and integrates with several popular Mac text editors (e.g. TextWrangler, BBEdit, SubEtha Edit). Joomla should also work with MarsEdit, given that it supports the AtomPost protocol, though I’ve yet to test this out.

Frankly, given your goals, any of these three options should fit the majority of your needs. The main bottleneck will be the import of your flat HTML files, but it’s not an impossibility, either. There will be some short-term pain, yes, but the long-term gain in terms of productivity will more than make up for the issues inherent in a big-time switch.

I hope this helps! Given that I was in your shoes for quite a while, running a large, flat-HTML site that took up a lot of time, CMS was a revelation. Yes, I had to make a few sacrifices, but after a few months with CMS, I didn’t miss the old way. :)

Cheers from DC!

Rudi Riet


Thanks for sharing your broad experience. Migrating the existing pages over won’t be a high priority, but over time I’ll want to move as much as possible to the CMS. We’re now using PHP and MySQL, so a solution that could use my existing data would be a real plus.



From Gaz:

Hi there,

Have you looked at Joomla? It seems relatively new-user friendly to set up – they have a demo site where one can mess about and see if it fits the bill.

top level site is here –

the so-called ‘Absolute Beginner’s Guide’ is here – maybe it can help you decide if it’ll work for you or not –

I do believe the test drive link is in the Beginner’s Guide.

I’m looking at working with Joomla to manage my company’s websites. Like you, I’m still looking for something that fits well and doesn’t require a significant amount of time to configure.

Hope this helps,


Thanks for the suggestion. I just read through the Joomla Core Features PDF, and it looks very promising – WYSIWYG editing, able to use existing HTML. I’ll have to play with it to see how it feels.


Bricolage CMS

From Matt Rolf:

Hi Dan,

I work for a liberal arts college called Denison University. We use a CMS called Bricolage. It is mod_perl based and very powerful. You can see what we’ve done with it here:

Word to the wise – it takes some knowledge to install and set up. But once you have it running and get a handle on the templating language, it is very flexible.

It meets your needs regarding things like WYSIWYG, CSS, images, importing HTML, flexibility, workflow, users, templates, publication dates, meaningful file names, and I believe can be customized to meet others.

Hope that helps. Feel free to e-mail if you have any questions. I’m also available for consulting work (wink, wink, nudge, nudge, know what I mean?) if you’re interested.



Thanks for writing. I’d never heard of Bricolage, but it definitely sounds promising!


My Experience with CMS

From Keith Winston:

Hey Dan,

Just thought I would share my experience. First, a great place to test out CMSes is <>

You can login as admin and try things out, but like you said, you don’t really know if you can bend a CMS to your needs until you hack around on the code.

I’ve run sites with Postnuke, WordPress, and run my current site,, with Geeklog. All are PHP based. I choose Geeklog mainly for the good reputation it has for security. It has been a success from that standpoint, but I have not been able to customize it as easily as I would like. It does have a fairly good comment spam filter built in.

Where I work, we use Drupal for the public web site, but you have already tried Drupal. It seems to be the most popular right now.

The last major web site project I did was done using templates and no CMS. However, it didn’t have all the user/editor/admin features.

I’ve found that using a CMS is a trade off between the features it has and flexibility. Moving to a CMS usually means giving up some formatting flexibility you have with a template system in order to get work flow and automation improvements.

I’m still looking for a CMS silver bullet myself but haven’t found one in more than 5 years of looking.

Best Regards,


Thanks for sharing your experiences. In 11+ years publishing Low End Mac, I’ve learned a bit about a lot of things – HTML, include files, CSS, PHP and MySQL – and know that I’d never be able to build what I want. I can give up some flexibility for efficiency and added features, such as comments.


CMS Comparison Site

From Andy Hegedus:

One place to look to narrow the choice is

You can search on attributes you want to have, and it can narrow the choice. One hint though if you select Mac as an operating system, you might miss some because they are platform independent and don’t specifically list Mac in their listing.

I have been looking for related system for enterprise document management.

Andy Hegedus


Thanks for suggesting CMS Matrix. Biggest problem I’m running into is that because there are so many content management systems, it keeps giving me this message: “Your search returned too many results. Either select up to 10 products from the list below, or specify more criteria.”



From Ariel Jones:

Hi Dan,

I couldn’t find the comment section on your request for CMS help, so here’s an email.

I know it’s heresy, but I’ve actually had good luck with DotNetNuke(.com). I work for a Microsoft-heavy shop (although I do my work on the Mac), and we’ve installed it for several of our clients. Some web hosts will even install it for you.

It does most of what you’re asking for, so it’s probably worth checking out despite it using IIS and SQL backend.

You might also check out – it’s a site for comparing all the various CMS options out there, with a really sophisticated search.

Good luck!

Ariel Jones


Thanks for writing. Our host uses Linux, and I would be ashamed to host Low End Mac using Microsoft’s proprietary system.


That’s what I figured, but I thought I’d mention it. I’m not fond of IIS either, but the DNN CMS is open source.

Do check out cmsmatrix tho, they have basically every one listed, with a very detailed search.

Ariel Jones



Joomla is emerging as easy, flexible, and “robust.”

I was looking for a CMS solution for a school and came across Joomla in Libraries and then just Joomla.

Wow, was I impressed, but must admit, never installed it, the higher ups weren’t having anything non-Microsoft….

I can send you info on other PHP-inspired CMS systems if you like.

For starters, take a look at Joomla.




At this point, Joomla has been recommended by more people than any other CMS, so I’ll probably begin with it.

Thanks for writing!


Your Search for a CMS

From Danny Vargas:

Hi Dan, this is Dan Vargas.

I feel your pain. I too went through the process of searching for an easy-to-use, easy-to-manage CMS for some of my clients. I researched many of the top CMS options, including PHPNuke, Drupal, Mambo, and others.

My background and needs were very similar to yours. I want something that look goods, works good, and is easy to manage.

After hours of research the choice I made was Joomla 1.5.

The toughest thing I found was wrapping my head around the concept of a CMS and dynamic content. Being so used, as I was, to coding static pages or pages that made straightforward calls to a database, the way CMS’ work and the terminology and workflow of Joomla took me a fair amount of hours to understand. The good news is that there is no shortage of manuals and books to help you out. And they’re written for non-geeks like myself that are impressed by utility and not technical minutiae.

After making the mental leap, using Joomla was surprisingly easy!

Adding content is as easy as using it’s text editor, which allows you to easily add images, links, even HTML! Images are managed by Joomla’s asset manager so that they are always at your reach. Templates are plentiful, and if you are so inclined, you can design your own. I love being able to dramatically change the look of the whole site with the flip of a switch.

I think based on your needs that Joomla has what it takes. You can assign access rights to contributors (an awesome feature that really impresses). You can manage user emails from within Joomla and you can add functionality via Joomla’s installable widgets.

In addition, you can install some add-on software to have meaningful filenames for usability and SEO purposes.

Well, that’s about it. Just wanted to share some of the information I discovered. I am by no means an expert in Joomla but I have been amazed by its flexibility and ease-of-use even for non-techie like myself.

I hope I was of some assistance.

All the best,
Danny Vargas

PS. Love your site! It’s a gem!


Thanks for sharing your recommendation. Joomla is far and away the most recommended CMS based on reader feedback. It’s probably the one we’ll try next.


Drupal Usability

From Jonathan Ploudre (a former Low End Mac columnist)

Hey Dan,

Long time, no contact, huh? I still occasionally read LEM even after writing my article about ‘abandoning the low end’. It was about 68K though. I’ve got a G3 iMac I still use, so I guess I’m low end again. :-)

I’ve got a lot of experience with Drupal. They are all a bit complicated to set up, but Drupal actually has usability as part of it’s core mission. About no other CMS that I explored (at that time) did nearly as well.

Although it looks opaque, when you have it set up right, you’ll adjust quickly. It has fabulous support with plugins etc. I would be interested in helping you work on setting it up, if interested.

Jonathan Ploudre


Good to hear from you! It’s been six years since your last Back & Forth column. :-)

I haven’t looked at Drupal in a couple of years. I’ll put it on the list of possibilities, but Joomla and WordPress are getting the most recommendations at this point.



From Philippe Dambournet:

Hi Dan – I’ve been intrigued by this app for a while. No direct experience, but maybe you’d like to contact the developer and a couple of power users:




Thanks for writing. I’m going to try free content management systems, but if none of them work, the price of Tinderbox isn’t bad.


Don’t Give Up on ExpressionEngine

From David Russell:


I was hunting for some information on Mac hardware and came across your site, Low End Mac. I noticed an invitation to readers to recommend a new content management system for the site. I know you reviewed ExpressionEngine as a candidate for a CMS and ran into a couple of issues with it. I’d like to recommend ExpressionEngine to you, as I believe it can do what you need for your site. True, importing old content may be somewhat time consuming, but there may be a few tricks that can help expedite that process. There are even solutions for several of the problems you’ve perceived in the system.

It might be simplest to chat over the phone about EE. Or, if you’d prefer a dialogue via email, that’s fine. Just let me know if you’d be interested in talking with me about EE, and I’ll send over my contact information to you. I’ve used EE for about three years and love it. I very rarely find a problem that can’t be solved with ExpressionEngine.

If I don’t hear back from you, good luck with your search for a CMS.



Thanks for writing. EE came very highly recommended, which is why I installed it and gave it a try. The biggest issue for me is being able to massage existing HTML to make it work – EE seems to be about an 80% solution in that regard, and I consider that a deal breaker.

If you know of tools that will help with this and my other issues, please email me.



Success with Joomla

From xonox:


I am an occasional reader of LEM. Very interesting website. I am sad that most people think a 3-year-old computer isn’t worth it anymore. Low End Mac helps to keep older computers in use instead of going to landfills. And I love Macintosh computers :)

I’ve did some CMS research at work, since they wanted to go with such a system. I am currently testing a CMS for my own website. My website is and the new CMS version is

I used Joomla for my website because out of ignorance I thought my web host only ran PHP4. Turns out I had to enable PHP5, and it was easy.

Joomla wouldn’t fit what you want out of the box. The workflow of having multiple editors wouldn’t work with the base install, maybe some add-ons would fix that, but I don’t know. Joomla user management is a let down to me, but since I worked many hours on the website, I do not want to go back.

You might want to try out a few CMS here:

You can try out Drupal, Joomla, and a bunch of others. TYPO3 is supposedly quite popular too. I’ve been told that Plone is very flexible too.

If you have any questions, let me know. I’ll try to answer the best I can. I’m no CMS expert, but I fiddled with a few of them.

Have a nice day!

xonox / quikphix


Thanks for sharing your experiences. I once had a site up and running in TYPO3, but I couldn’t wrap my mind around the way it worked, so back to HTML. With some long trips planned in the coming year, I need to get a CMS installed so our writers can keep plugging away when I’m away from the office.


Suggesting WordPress

From Eric Schwarz (another former Low End Mac columnist):

Hey Dan,

Thought I’d suggest WordPress for your site. There are tons of add-ons and plugins to make it very flexible. Editing the template is also pretty easy (I created the original SchwarzTech one from K2 and then tried something new later on). Also, you can customize how your links are formatted, and there’s a media library. Give it a try – there’s tons of stuff out there to mess with.



Thanks for writing. At this point, WordPress is #2 in recommendations behind Joomla, so I’ll put it on my list to try if Joomla doesn’t meet my needs.




I know this is not a CMS but I found it through MacNN and thought it was an interesting advanced XHTML- CSS editor, though I haven’t tried it yet. My webpage is 20 pages+ so not as big as yours, but a real pain to update (so I haven’t done it in a few years!) A CMS would be really nice.


Russell – Idaho USA


Thanks for your suggestion. If I were looking for a tool that would let me continue to work locally and then post to the Internet, it might tempt me – although its system recommendations (Mac OS X 10.5 and a G5 or Intel Mac) are pretty steep for a longtime low-ender like me.


Joomla + FCKeditor

From Corrado Fiore:

Hi Dan,

My name is Corrado, and I work as a web designer. I have reviewed a couple of CMSes for my work and, according to your needs, I would suggest you to check out Joomla + the latest FCKeditor (which features an online image editor/librarian).

I’m not telling you that the above will cover 100% of your needs, but chances are that it will reach maybe 75%, which could fit (of course you are the only judge).

Please let me know if you need some more insight into it.

Have a nice day,


Thanks for the tip. Joomla is far and away the most widely recommended CMS, so I will be investigating it.


Roll Your Own

From Sean McKay:

Hi Dan,

I came across your article today about trying to find a Content Management System and have to echo some of your frustrations. The open source content management systems out there like Drupal and some of the others (Textpattern) have been very frustrating for me to implement. When you’ve been publishing a site like yours for so long, it’s hard to jump to a CMS that requires you to adjust to its workflow instead of keeping your own.

One of my colleagues often encourages me to not jump to a full-blown CMS but to use PHP to add CMS-like features to a site without the overhead of managing the security updates and patches that are released on a monthly basis for software like Drupal.

If you were to carefully add some PHP code to your site, you might be able to programmatically reduce some of the tedious parts of posting your pages and updates to the site. It seems that you like to have a hands-on approach to the site, and it would work well with that.

Anyways, I thought I’d pass that advice on – I’ve always loved your site and appreciate the fact that there are other people out there who understand that just because a computer is old, doesn’t mean that it has outlived its usefulness.

Take care,


Thanks for writing. We’ve been using PHP and MySQL for years, but I don’t know enough or have enough time to learn enough to do what needs to be done. First and foremost, that means getting away from the hands-on approach so our writers can submit content and have it proofed and edited online, which would eliminate one big bottleneck of having a single editor, proofreader, and designer. This would also mean that Low End Mac could post new content when I’m on vacation. My honeymoon coincided with the release of the iPhone last summer, for instance, so we didn’t post anything new until the iPhone had been out for 10 days.

The other thing I really want to add is comments. It’s nice to receive emails, but sometimes it’s easier for someone to post a comment for all to read. I think that would make the site more interactive and further build community among our readers.

At this point Joomla and WordPress appear to be the top contenders. I hope to do some more research and start further testing later in the week.


Keywords: #cms #contentmanagementsystem

Short link:

serachwords: cms, contentmanagementsystem