Notes All these content management systems

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From building the website with the free and wonderful MODX, I now paid €30 for a text-file based CMS. And it's made everything so much easier.

Any website of any dignity pretty much needs a content management system behind the scenes. This is to make it easy to edit, publish, list and search for content.

A brief recap

Throughout the years I tried numerous content management systems, to find the perfect companion. Some were made as websites for others and ended up going live and some only lived on my local machine.

One of the first I played around with was of course Wordpress. After trying to tweak Wordpress in the way I wanted, I started to look for something else, something with total control over the HTML output. And something way simpler to customize. Frog CMS was a very simple CMS I enjoyed working with. But the lack of upgrades and bugs made me again look for something else. After trying a couple of different systems over and over, I feel in love with MODX Revolution.

Out of all the open source content managemenst systems I've tried, MODX is definitely one of my favourites. The version prior to the late 2012 re-design was running on a MODX Revolution installation.

It's a very lovely tool with an active developer community, just enough amount of plugins, making it easy to get you going pretty quickly. And the most important part for of all; you've got total control of the output.

Why I changed

Although I think MODX is a really good tool, I really lack the skills to fully use it. It's actually a bit complex for my needs. I found myself not being able to solve problems along the road. But I don't blame MODX.

One of the things that annoys me with any CMS running a database is the lack of ownership, or rather control over the content. Everything is in a database, yes, but to move a site, to copy a site, to keep a local environment running, or just keep an old version is too much of an effort for me. I do sometimes buy a new computer. With the MODX-installation, upgrading an old installation to a new one basically made me copy-paste all the content. It's definitely something eating hours. And that's hours writing content. In the end, the CMS was slowing me down. I was putting in hours in the wrong end.

Instead, to really feel in control and ownership over my content, the less-is-more approach invited me to look at a text-file based CMS. After looking around with the help of Google, one star was shining bright; Kirby CMS.

Why pay for a text-file based CMS

For starters, I was looking around for an open source, free text-file based CMS to begin with. Paying for one just never struck me. Probably because I knew about Stacey App from earlier. Stacey was the one I started playing around with but the current website felt outdated in comparison with the 3.0.0 version on Github. The lack of a login area was sort of a bummer as well. Somehow, some article told me there's another one, very simliar called Kirby.

Kirby is very easy to get you started. It's good to know some programming but I'd say you'll get pretty far with just some HTML skills and the Kirby documentation. I definitely recommend it. What made me go for the Kirby CMS was the ability to actually download it and start playing around with it before paying for a license. The other killer feature that made me go for Kirby was the great documentation and tutorials covering all my needs, at least at the moment. All-in-all, important parts I'm very happy to pay for. The only negative side so far; it's a one man show. Without Bastian Allgeier, the developer behind behind Kirby, we're left all alone, orbiting the planet of Kirby.

My setup

I keep a local version of the site. Since the entire site is files, it's very easy to keep a local copy. Images, custom stylesehets and content is in the same folder. Templates are created in a snap, page variables added eqaully as easy. Everything is on my Dropbox as well, so it's also lightweight version control included--I've already used it to save some lost content. Kirby has made it much easier to maintain my website and archive each version easily.

At the moment I write all the content with Mou. Mou, still in beta, is a free Markdown text editor with live preview. If you write a lot and don't know what Markdown is, you should definitely have a look at it. It makes sense and writing is easy.

After the writing is finished I simply logon to my Kirby Panel and create the page. If the page requires an art directed page, I create it locally and write some custom CSS and/or javascript.


Well, lots of CMS are really good, smart and beatiful. But the database scares me and with all my content in a database I don't feel in control where it's at. This made me go for a text-file based alternative, with great documentation; Kirby CMS. The ease of use helps me to focus on writing content and to try out new things and keep evolving the website.