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Open Source content management systems

CONTENT MANAGEMENT systems facilitate the building/maintenance of dynamic web sites/portals/blogs. This week NetSpeak takes a look at the various open-source content management systems.

Thanks to the availability of content management systems, creating a feature-rich web site by a person/organisation is no more a skill-intensive job done by trained professionals. A content management system enables an author to create/alter/edit/delete content on a web page without any HTML or other web skills. Generally CMS tools come packed with many ready-made applications that include discussion board, user management, poll facility, search engine and chat module. Another highlight of these tools is the availability of the web-based data entry interface that allows the content author to directly feed the relevant content.

As with other areas on the Net, in CMS also, the open-source movement has a spectacular hold. Its widespread popularity has led to several open-source CMS programs with varying features. An obvious advantage here is that as the source code is freely available, one can customise a site to any extent.

Most of the open-source CMS programs are written in PHP/ PERL and run in the LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP/PERL) environment. That is, with minimum knowledge of such web scripting languages as PHP and PERL and access to a web server with database support, one can launch a web site in a few minutes.

Another point worth noting is that the installation requirements/procedures of almost all open source CMS tools follow a common pattern. In most cases, you need to run a set-up script, which will prompt you to provide such parameters as database name, password and the like. For example, to build a web site with the free CMS package, phpWebsite (, after extracting the archive to a directory under the web server's document root, run the set-up script, which will take you to a few input forms and ultimately the site. That is, you will have your site with all the features ready in a few minutes and to achieve this you need not be a highly skilled web technician.

As already mentioned, numerous open-source CMS tools are in place. Plone (, PHPNuke (http://www.phpnuke. com), Postnuke ( are a few examples. This abundance of choice presents a challenge to the netizen. Of course, he can download each one of them and test for suitability. But this is a cumbersome and time-consuming process. So, we need a service that steers a person/organisation in the direction of choosing the right CMS tool. This is where the on-line service, opensourceCMS, which provides the opportunity to test different CMS tools from anywhere on the web, becomes significant.


OpensourceCMS (http://www. open is an on-line service created to give the user a chance to experiment with "some of the best php/mysql based free and open source software systems in the world". The service features more than thirty powerful CMS packages that include Mambo (, phpWebThings (http://www., PrattCMS (, ezPublish ( and XOOPS (

You can select a tool of your choice and try out its features. The service allows a user log-in to any of the sites hosted at its server as administrator, who can manipulate its various elements in whatever way the user wants.

As the service provides full access to a site built through a specific tool, the user gets an opportunity to test all the features of the tool. This way the service enables him/her to arrive at an appropriate tool that fits his/her needs without having to download/install/configure the various packages one by one.

DNSStuff: an on-line DNS query service

While on the Net, you face situations that require you to know more about a remote server. For example, you may need to locate the IP address of the server whose domain name is known or you may need to get the registration details of a domain name. Sometimes your requirement may be to trace the route through which a message from your machine travels to the target. Tools/services such as Whois, Traceroute and the like enable you to obtain the details mentioned above. In this regard an on-line service that provides a common interface for invoking such services as Whois, Traceroute would be quite handy. The DNSStuff (, which can be used to accomplish such tasks as obtaining the domain name /IP details, checking the validity of an e-mail address, tracing a packet route and more, is a good example.

Another useful on-line service (brought to this author's notice by the NetSpeak reader S. Srinivasan) worth a trial is the Geobytes `IP address Map lookup service' ( that can be used to determine the geographical location of an IP address. Microsoft Blogging service

A few weeks ago this column mentioned the on-line news service MSN Newsbot (, which was launched recently by Microsoft. Now this company has entered another popular segment, the blog hosting service, which is currently being led by Blogger ( To start a weblog on the blog hosting service provided by Microsoft, access the link: http://www, and run through the sign-up process.

Beonex communicator

Here is another free open-source, multi-platform browser (Beonex Communicator — that loads pages reasonably fast. As the browser comes bundled with a chat program (chatzilla), you can use it for both web browsing and chatting.

J. Murali

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