Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Open-Source Content Management Systems that You can Use to build the website of your dreams

Terms and conditions (unfortunately) apply

Gone are the days when people used to turn towards developers to create content and feature rich websites for them. The developers, in turn, created large groups and used (almost religiously) different programming languages/platforms to build the web application of their choice. But specialized software have made this process largely automated today for general purpose websites.
These are called Content Management Systems (CMS), and are highly customizable web applications. To put in other words, a CMS is a fully built web application that is just waiting for you to customize it.
A CMS features a dynamic website, complete with different modules, types of users, extensibility/add-on options, exporting, tagging, commenting, etc that can be created by a web based GUI. Technically, a CMS website has a two tier architecture involving the website and the database. Generally, there is little or no support for middleware, web services and other subtleties. As most of these are written in PHP with MySql as the database, knowledge in these areas definitively help. However, for purists in other language platforms, there are CMSs written other platforms too.
However, the use of CMS doesn’t mean that there would be end of customized (conventional) websites that are created by programmers today. CMS is largely targeted towards creation of web content for individual use and by small and medium scale organizations. What you need is just a basic set of skills like knowledge of servers, etc to get it up and running. Occasionally, you might run into problems and might search from the web based resources and communities for your problem redressal. This process might also involve some hacking inside the application, but broadly speaking, one person having some, if not all, knowledge in website maintenance can easily cater to a large number of such applications.
Broadly speaking, CMSs can be categorized into the following categories:-

1. Portals or General Purpose
These are the most generic versions of CMSs and can be used by non-technical users to publish their own content. Various community websites (like, online resumes, etc can be created using these. They support plug-in architecture, which is used to add specific feature into them. The top CMS solutions for these are: - Joomla( and Drupal(
2. Blogs
Specialized versions of CMS are there that are aimed towards ease of creation and usage for weblogs or blogs. As millions of people use different kinds of blogs today, there is need for ease of creation of these blogs. Best known CMS in this category that comes into my mind is Wordpress (
3. E-Commerce
Even after the dot com burst, there is a steady demand for e-commerce as internet is the way of future. By and large, e-commerce websites provide facilities for product inspection and purchase. This involves both the buyer and seller party in different aspects. So, there exists a well defined category of expectations in this area.Magento( alongwith many others offer easy e-commerce website creation.
4. Wikis
Given the popularity of Wikipedia ( and usage of wikis, both internally and externally. It is not a surprise that wikis are an integral part of Web 2.0 technologies. For ease of creation of wikis, there are a large number of specialized CMSs like MediaWiki( and DokuWiki( alongwith others.
5. Forums
Searching for problems over internet aren’t limited to googling or yahooing (or whichever mutant you decide upon), but involves a community oriented approach. Most of the websites today offer forums and some are even dedicated towards running of these forums. One of the reason Ubuntu is so compelling to use is that for almost any Google search involving ubuntu problems, there is a link to ubuntu forums. Having said that, I'd like to point towards JForum( and MyBB(, whose implementations I use almost every other day.
6. E-Learning
This is also a facet of society that is going to be affected by internet. Usage of this avenue is still in a nascent stage. However, like BPO, this is also expected to pick up and has a large potential, especially from Indian IT Industry point of view. Some of the CMSs that came to my knowledge are Dokeos( and Moodle(
7. Collaboration
Information Systems (IS) begin inside an organization. In order to build a successful intranet, various organizations have gone on that extra mile and created/purchased an in-house solution for themselves. However, open source CMS solutions are also there for the technology and budget constrained crowd. These are also specialized versions of their counterparts and can be used to collaborate between different IS within an organization like MIS and ERP, and between different departments like production, marketing and HR. Alfresco( and Nuxeo( are some of the well-known CMSs aimed at enterprise collaborations.

Thus there are a large number of CMS that are waiting to be used (with minimal of programmer intervention) and are available free of cost. These are also open source software, so if you are interested, then you can see how they are actually coded and can tweak to your needs. Being open sourced also has the added benefit of a community driven approach that helps people to learn and help troubleshoot their problems.

After reading this, I am sure that you must be itching to get started. Wishing you the best of Luck, go add some wings (or webs ?) to your dreams.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Importance of a Build Utility-3

Wrapping up my discussion about the build utilities, I’ll be covering Maven ( Build Tool in this blog post.
As already discussed, there is a continuous thirst amongst developers to streamline and automate their projects/applications. Going one step further from the build routine leads to the application creation and maintenance, which is automated via Maven?
Maven is a departure from the existing build technologies, which follow a procedural route, and instead, provides a declarative way, using an xml file, to describe the project.
In large scale projects, there is a need for a large number of libraries. This requires external files in the programming context (read as .jar files in classpath). In Maven, we specify these requirements as dependencies. When the application is executed, these dependencies are downloaded from a central location and kept in a directory at the local computer for usage.
Note that in Maven, we use a lot of the Convention Over Configuration stuff, so if you try to ‘bend’ the defaults on your own, it can cause some headache-inducing  problems (which means that Maven is not for everything and everyone).
Project Types:  Archetype
An Archetype is a template for a project that is created to create a module. This gives us a starting point for our application. We can create such an archetype by :-
mvn archetype:generate
Now we have to answer some values for our project. This is our project type, the group ID, maven ID, Version and the package name of our application.
After the successful execution of this command, the project structure gets created and we have a pom.xml file at the project root. This file is called as POM (Project Object Model) as it contains the information that Maven needs in a declarative and reusable across different projects.
When we build our project, it undergoes a lot of stages or phases (like compiling, unit testing, packaging, deploying, etc) in an ordered manner.

A Small Example

First we will generate our project skeleton using the archetype:generate command

Now, we will get this :

Here, we would set up the project type (in this case, I am setting up 18, for a blank web application).
Then, we will specify the GAV(Group, Artifact and Version) values as well as the default package. After confirmation, our project structure would be created.

Now we can start developing our applications. As soon as we are finished, we can package our application as mvn package command.

Note that we did not created any build scripts ourselves; Maven only asked us about the type of project that we need. So our productivity increases as well as we can adhere to unified build standards.
If you look at the /target folder, then there would be a simple-webapp.war file, which can be deployed in any web server. To run this on tomcat server, for instance, simply issue a mvn tomcat:run

Apart from the build lifecycle discussed here, there are other lifecycles such as cleaning and site generation.  It is worth mentioning that, we can make the project an Eclipse project by mvn eclipse:eclipse and so on for other tools.
Now, mainly, we have to take care of the pom.xml file that contains the dependencies, which may arise as and when we expand our application. Rest everything is left to the build utility.

Although it is early for me to comment upon the future of this or any other build tools, but we can expect more automation in future.
Cloud based application servers can provide for automatic classpath management (like IDEs) and maven would not only take on ant as the de-facto tool in java, but also result in numerous spoof offs for other technologies.