Saturday, February 09, 2008

Over the last month I've been looking very closely at competing open source content management systems. Typo3 is my goto CMS due to its power and flexibility but no tool can be perfect for every task and Typo3 does have issues with end-user friendliness.

The main ones I've checked out so far are Drupal and Joomla. Both have large communities, local user groups and development books. This post will cover my first impressions of Joomla.

Joomla is most like Typo3 of the two but there are some strong differences too. Where the core organizational principle of Typo3 is the site tree, Joomla has a two layer heirarchy of Categories and Sections. Content is categorized that way and then pages and menus are built based on that. This is an interesting approach and would work well for certain kinds of content especially a news or magazine style site but I do feel the rigid two level approach is a weakness. If this were a more open category tree like Typo3's News category approach it would be a lot more interesting. I would see the category approach as weaker than the Typo3 sitetree approach for high pagecount sites.

One thing I did like about Joola is the interface look and feel. While the category approach isn't completely intuitive, the overall interface is bright and modern looking. Typo3's interface is fairly busy and old-fashioned looking in comparison. While the upcoming Typo3 4.2 interface makes some progress, this is still a weak spot.

As I expected after my experience with commercial CMSs, one area where Typo3 is way ahead is with advanced graphics support. Typo3 is the only CMS I've seen with support for complicated graphic based menus and headers as well as auto sizing images to fit layouts.

There is a large Joomla commmunity, both local and internet-wide. The local community is mostly entreprenuers who are using Joomla as part of another goal. My personal interest would rather see a developer centric community so this is a weak spot for me. The larger community surprised me in that many of the extensions are commercial. This makes sense in terms of a userbase who are using Joomla as a product but isn't what I want after being involved with Typo3's very open-source community.

The templating is pretty flexible and I didn't have a lot of issues with mimicing one of my typo3 sites layout. This wasn't a site using any advanced Typo3 features like Fexible Content Elements but most of my Typo3 sites haven't needed those either. I didn't try to write any extensions for it but from what I saw so far I don't see following up further with Joomla. While it appears to be a capable product, I'm looking for something more different than Typo3 so Joomla isn't offering enough advantages to switch or enough differences to use where Typo3 isn't a good fit.