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Best Open Source CMS Reviewed

Best Open Source CMS Reviewed

Wish to drive maximum amount of users to your project? Need a system that will let you manage website content with minimum time, effort or budget investment? Then you won’t go without using one of the open source Content Management Systems available out there?

All kinds of content, be it images, videos, graphics, texts etc., don’t just add value to your project, but also attract the attention of users looking for quality info on the web. What’s more, such projects rank high in the search engines, which contributes to quick and effective traffic growth. These are only a few reasons to go for a quality CMS.

As far as the choice of these systems is quite extensive in the modern web design niche, it makes sense to review the most popular and professional platforms. What you should know is that open source CMS mostly take time to be explored and mastered, but each of them covers specific web design objectives and comes with certain parameters that make it stand out from the crowd. Wish to find out more about the most trusted services? Then go ahead to read their reviews.

Best Open Source CMS

What are the features that make open source Content Management Systems prevail over other web building tools? What are the reasons to use them and does it make sense in the long run, considering the complexity of the programs?

The use of CMS really makes sense in a great variety of cases. Despite the complexity of the platforms and the need to spend time and effort to master them, these systems can ensure quality and professional result in the long run.

They come with advanced functionality, versatility of designs and customization tools, extensive integration options and lots of other undeniable advantages. When using CMS, you’ll be able to create and then manage one-of-a-kind projects that don’t have any analogues in the market. This is one of the surefire ways to establishing successful online presence.

Another thing you should know about open source Content Management Systems is that they are free for download and installation. This, however, is not altogether true, when it comes to publishing ready made projects. The thing is that most platforms don’t offer integrated hosting, which triggers the need to look for a trusted hosting provider on your own. There are many of them on the web and each service offers certain features and plans.

One of the most credible and popular hosts is Bluehost. The service is recommended by WordPress as the all-in-one system that covers the prevailing amount of web hosting needs. Bluehost currently powers over 2 million websites worldwide and offers a list of undeniable advantages, including free domain name for the first year of use, 24/7 support, free SSL Certificate, fast page load speed etc. The cost of using the service will also be a bonus for each and every user. The cheapest Bluehost subscription will cost you $2.95/mo, granting access to myriads of features.

If you are right about to launch a large-scale project, then you should realize that maintaining it is a mammoth process, successful completion of which would be close to impossible without the use of CMS. Are you ready to get started? Then it’s high time to review and compare the best open source platforms that can really make a difference for your project.

1. WordPress


WordPress – is a veteran of the web design niche and the most popular contemporary Content Management System. It abounds in integrable plugins and themes, unveiling truly unlimited design customization options.

WordPress does not require download and installation, but it takes time to master the system nuances. It’s also desirable to possess at least basic coding knowledge not to waste time, while working on a project. Here is a quick overview of the major WordPress features:

  • Plugin Integration – WordPress has a number of ready-made plugins, but there are still hundreds of free and paid apps developed by third-party users. Basically, you can find external plugins for any website type – just make sure they are quality and safe to work with.
  • Template Collection – The CMS offers a pretty good choice of integrated themes, but, again, you can come across hundreds of designs on the web. They are also free and paid, which triggers the need to choose a suitable design wisely not to face malware threats.
  • Gutenberg Editor – The updated WordPress version has introduced Gutenberg Editor as a worthy means of website customization. The editor is block-based, which makes it similar to standard website builders. It allows creating websites out of content blocks the system offers. This innovation has made the CMS a worthy web building solution for non-proficient users.

WordPress works equally great for professionals and beginners. Although, the latter user category needs to be at least a bit code-aware to create stunning projects with the system.

2. Joomla


Joomla – is another trusted Content Management System that is worth the attention when it comes to choosing a credible CMS. With around 3 millions of installations worldwide, the system currently ranks second after WordPress in terms of popularity. It is somewhat more complicated as compared to it yet it allows for convenient and professional website development process.

Just like the rest of CMS, Joomla is the downloadable software, which implies plugin and template integration for more powerful website performance. Some of the major advantages of the system include:

  • User-Friendly Dashboard – The system offers one of the most intuitive and understandable control panels, which does not require precise exploration. The required web building tools are all in one place here. It doesn’t take you long to get used to the dashboard to start uploading content, adding modules and integrating plugins.
  • Quick Installation – You don’t have to be a tech pro to install and master the system. Instead, you’ll cope with installation and website customization with ease even without preliminary preparation – so simple the process is.
  • Multi-Purpose Application – Joomla works great for the creation of all types of websites, be it a business project, a portfolio or even a web store. Updates and new extensions are released on a regular basis to give more functionality to Joomla projects.
  • Functionality – While WordPress functionality depends a lot on plugin and template integration, Joomla provides a large pool of built-in widgets, designs and apps. However, it is also possible to pick and add your own plugins to boost your website performance.

The software is geared towards the needs of newbies and web design professionals. But it’s more complicated compared to the niche leader. You have to understand the basics of SQL and PHP databases to get the most out of the web development process, while working with the platform.

3. Drupal


Drupal – is a full-fledged open source software, which holds the third position in the list of the most popular CMS. It’s more complicated than WordPress and Joomla yet it unveils a broad range of features and design customization options.

If you are not a code-aware user, you’ll have to browse the tutorials and guidelines before installing and working with Drupal. However, the result you’ll avail in the long run, is really worth the effort and time invested. Have a look at some of the most distinctive Drupal features now:

  • Module Integration – Just like WordPress, Drupal implies the need to install modules (plugins) that are needed to add functionality to the project. The amount of modules to be integrated, though, is less than that implied by WordPress, while customization options they unveil are quite extensive. Mind that integration of extra modules should be done via FTP, which definitely requires specific coding knowledge.
  • eCommerce – Many users give preference to Drupal, while working on the development of eCommerce projects. This is because the range of features, tools and modules the software offers is tailored to the creation of online stores and eCommerce portals.
  • Community Projects – Apart from eCommerce functionality, Drupal also places strong focus on the development of community and social publishing projects. It works great for the development of forums, blogs, web portals and other types of small/medium community websites.
  • Multi-Domain Management – A variety of Drupal extensions allows implementing company portals with multi-domain structure support. Administration of these projects, requires special degree of expertise and skills.

The platform focuses on the development of community and social publishing projects, but it’s also used to launch and manage web stores. Module integration is possible here, but it’s done via the FTP servers, which becomes a complex process for non-techies.

4. OpenCart


OpenCart – is a full-featured and powerful open source eCommerce software used to build and manage multiple online stores from a single backend admin panel. The platform, which is based on PHP, requires download and installation and it’s absolutely free for everyone.

At the same time, it implies the knowledge of programming to be used to the advantage. Here is an overview of the major OpenCart features:

  • Extensions – The software follows the core+extensions model. This means that it comes with a set of built-in tools and options, but it also requires plugins or add-ons to let users complete high end functions to effectively manage their web stores. If needed, you’ll find plenty of extensions for language, currency, eCommerce set up as well as marketplace management, payment processing, SEO and site building online.
  • eCommerce Features – OpenCart has a strong eCommerce focus, granting access to myriads of niche tools and features. These include data security, CRM, email marketing, mobile access, multi-language and multi-store management, inventory tracking, website promotion, niche templates, SEO options and more.
  • Shopping Cart Features – The software also comes with a list of integrated shopping cart features. Some of them are as follows: abandoned shopping cart recovery, product catalogue management, credit card processing, coupon/discount management, shipping, refund, tax and returns management etc.

The software comes with lots of integrable extensions, multiple eCommerce tools and abundance of parameters that are a must for successful web store creation.

5. TYPO3


TYPO3 – is another popular open code CMS that provides extensive enterprise management options. The system is regularly updated to comply with latest tech requirements. Thus, this is a great choice for the development of large corporate websites and eCommerce platforms.

The system delivers extensite integrated management options. Among the most remarkable features it provides, the following ones should be the first to mention:

  • Expert Coding Knowledge – Professional use of the platform requires expert knowledge. Application and understanding of coding nuances allows for effective implementation of complex website structure combined with multilingual content.
  • Integration of Business Apps – The system makes it possible to integrate classic and popular business applications like ERP and CRM systems. This eventually allows creating full-featured enterprise projects.
  • Extendability – The platform comes with thousands of extensions available on the web that are easy and quick to install. These add-ons can notably expand the functionality of the system via the use of discussion boards, image and video galleries, eCommerce tools and more.
  • Backup Creation – The service allows restoring previous website version without any restrictions. This will come in handy to users, who share website access rights with other developers.

TYPO3 is perfectly optimized to launch and manage landing pages, business websites and small/medium eCommerce websites. It is regularly updated to stay compatible with modern apps and extensions.

The software comes with lots of integrable extensions, multiple eCommerce tools and abundance of parameters that are a must for successful web store creation.

6. PrestaShop


PrestaShop – is an open source CMS that has distinguished itself as an international shopping cart solution. Founded in 2007, the system has quickly become popular with users, who aim at setting up professional online stores. PrestaShop is free and highly customizable. It offers excellent customer support and boasts a strong user community that simplifies the process of system exploration and use. The list of PrestaShop highlights includes the following issues:

  • eCommerce Focus – The CMS has a strong eCommerce focus and, thus, offers a list of niche-specific features. These include bulk product import/export, digital and physical products offered for sale, inventory features, SEO options, exclusive mobile-ready eCommerce templates, various checkout and payment alternatives etc.
  • Customer Relationship Management – The system makes it possible to set up and modify major customer relationship parameters. These encompass abandoned shopping cart notifications, automated email marketing, customized promotions etc.
  • Website Editing Options – As an open source eCommerce software, PrestaShop grants full code access users can edit and modify, while working on their web store development and promotion. However, the system also comes with the WYSIWYG editor that allows non-coders make edits in the default theme.
  • Integrations and Add Ons – The system offers thousands of add ons, apps and integrations available in its rich marketplace. These extensions can be free and paid, while some of them may even cost a fortune. Mind this aspect, while choosing suitable apps.

PrestaShop is free, but it still implies integration of external plugins, some of which may be quite expensive. What’s more, the service allows for code editing, which helps make your eCommerce project truly unique.

The software comes with lots of integrable extensions, multiple eCommerce tools and abundance of parameters that are a must for successful web store creation.

7. Zen Cart


Zen Cart – is another great sample of an open source CMS with a powerful eCommerce focus. The system is a nice pick for web-savvy users as it requires the knowledge of coding basics and certain web design experience. Based on PHP/MySQL, the platform is absolutely free to download and install and it’s also completely customizable. Let’s have a look at the major feature set of the service:

  • Integrability – Zen Cart also follows the core + extensions model. Thus, its integration options are quite powerful and versatile. Apart from the built-in features, the system allows integrating third-party apps and add-ons available in the following categories: Buttons and Graphics, Admit Tools, Language Packs, Payment Modules, Marketing Tools, Miscellaneous Plugins, Pricing Tools, Template Alterations, Product Types, Geographic Zones, Shipping Modules, Sideboxes, Troubleshooting Tools and more.
  • International Features – As an international eCommerce solution, Zen Cart provides extensive multilingual and multi-currency options that make it possible to create and manage storefronts to sell digital and physical products across the globe.
  • eCommerce Features – As a niche eCommerce CMS, Zen Cart cannot but offers multiple powerful eCommerce features geared towards successful web store creation and management. These include marketing tools, product management options, shipping and payment processing options, SEO and International features and many more.

The need of code editing, versatility of design customization and integration options as well as multiple eCommerce-specific parameters imply the need to deliberately master the system before running projects with it.

8. Magento


Magento – is a Content Management System that comes with open code structure and is initially built with eCommerce focus in mind. The service offers one-of-a-kind web store creation tools, unique management options, advanced pricing parameters and features needed to complete the entire web store building process with ease. The system grants access to the following features:

  • eCommerce – As a niche-specific platform, Magento offers tons of eCommerce features to cover all the must-have web store building needs. Some of the most popular options include inventory management and tracking, shipping and tax parameters, coupon and discount management, multiple payment gateways, built-in multilingual support, SEO options, product management and marketing tools, order processing features, customer support and more.
  • Extensions and Add-Ons – The CMS grants access to more than 5000 extensions available online. You can choose between free and paid apps to be integrated into your eCommerce website.
  • Flexibility – The platform offers multiple tools to effectively set up shipping, billing details as well as invoices in its integrated control panel. What’s more, it stores website data and statistics to further apply them while analyzing web store performance.

Magento doesn’t require deep understanding of coding nuances yet it still implies some awareness of programming nuances needed for proper web store code editing.

9. osCommerce


osCommerce – is an open code self-hosted eCommerce CMS. The software can be installed on any website, which comes with MySQL and PHP support. It is free, but it still requires integration of paid extensions to let users get the most out of its eCommerce functionality.

Over 260,000 web stores are currently operating on the basis of the osCommerce platform, which puts it into the list of the most popular web store building platforms. Here is the list of the trendiest highlights of the platform that make it stand out from the crowd:

  • Integrable Program – osCommerce is the feature-laden web store management an eCommerce software program, which can be integrated into any web server or website with pre-installed PHP and MySQL databases.
  • eCommerce Focus – The system initially has a powerful eCommerce focus, providing access to lots of niche-specific features. The most popular of them are as follows: payment and shipping processing tools, customer and tech support, PHP 4 compatibility, unlimited products and categories management, virtual and physical product support, email marketing, backup creation and restoration, invoice printing, integrated statistics, multi currency support, quality eCommerce templates and many more.
  • Extensions – The platform allows choosing from more than 7000 high quality and functional add-ons users can pick and integrate at no cost at all.

The open-code structure of websites built with the system allows for effective code editing and customization. This, however, requires the knowledge of coding basics. If you are not proficient in web design, it makes sense to look for a simpler alternative.

10. Concrete5


Concrete5 – is a powerful full-featured open source Content Management System, which allows creating all types of websites and web applications at no cost at all. Working with the service is not quite difficult, if you possess at least basic web design knowledge and coding skills. This is because the system allows for code editing to get the most out of its functionality. The list of Concrete5 features involves the following parameters:

  • Intuitive Editing – This is the key component in the system’s technology that lets users edit website code to fully customize it with regard to their needs. The system also allows for intuitive WYSIWYG in-context editing, thus being a great choice for non-coders.
  • Extensive Customization Options – The platform provides a great deal of project customization to fit your needs. It comes with lots of integrable extensions, add-ons and apps that can give your project high-end functionality.
  • Advanced Feature Set – The system comes with features that contribute to proper performance of projects built with it. These include form builder, one-click updating, responsive template collection, user permissions, regulated content workflows, integrated reporting, social sharing buttons, core supported add-ons, modular structure and many more.
  • Quality SEO – As far as Concrete5 is optimized for the search engines without any add-ons and extra code required, websites built with it also rank high in the search engines.

It’s possible to customize Concrete5-based projects via code editing, although, visual website editing is available here as well. This is what makes the system a good pick for all user categories.

Bottom Line

Open source CMS make it possible to create stunning, full-featured and functional projects that rank high in the search engines and help boost traffic flow. The use of these systems, however, implies a certain degree of programming knowledge due to the necessity of code editing and further website management. This is the major issue users may come across, while working on their projects as it is quite easy to overlook crucial nuances and mix something up here.

Even though, CMS are quite popular with web developers, the prevailing amount of users still give preference to simpler alternatives like SaaS website builders. They are not only more intuitive, easy-to-use and convenient, but they are also more affordable and time-saving in the long run. It’s up to you to decide, which option to go for. Just consider your web design skills, budget and objectives to pick the option that works better for you.


About the Author

I'm Howard Steele, the founder and editor-in-chief of this website. With over 10 years of web building I know how complicated and tiresome this task can be for a non-IT person. Can’t decide which service to choose? Feel free to ask me for advice. Just describe your website needs, and I’ll gladly help you.

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