Overview: CMS systems without databases

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©Pixelblisss, 123rf.com

©Pixelblisss, 123rf.com

Blogs Without Boundaries


When you think of CMS and blogs, names such as WordPress, Typo3, and Joomla come up. But often, much leaner solutions will suffice.

Whether you're dealing with photos, holiday journals, or game descriptions, content management systems (or CMSs, for short) allow simple publishing and management of content on the Internet.

However, you don't always need to use a big, complex system, such as Joomla and WordPress. Often, slimmer and, above all, simpler tools can do the job just as well.

The overview of CMS tools that we provide in this article shows you some quite notable systems that do without database connectivity and require very little setup.

GetSimple CMS

Developers of the GetSimple [1] CMS name the Apache web server and PHP 5.2 or later as requirements. To use all its features, you also need PHP modules cURL , GD Library , and ZipArchive [2].

$ sudo apt-get install apache2 php5 php5-curl php5-gd

Now for GetSimple itself. The project website lists the current version as 3.3.2. Download the zip archive, decompress it, and load its content via FTP to your web server. To try the CMS locally, copy the files within the unzipped directory into the public Apache directory. For Ubuntu, that is /var/www/html/ . You may have to change the ownership of the files to the default Ubuntu Apache user before everything works smoothly:

$ sudo chown -R www-data:www-data /var/www/html/

Visiting the URL http://localhost/admin begins the setup. You only have to enter your webpage name, username, and email address. After the installation is complete, the system sends you confirmation to the specified address with your username and automatically generates a password. The reason for this eluded us, because the setup already shows the generated password on the web interface.

To change the CMS's language, download the matching localization from the project webpage [3] into the ~/admin/lang/ directory. The choice of languages occurs during installation or through Settings (Figure 1). Navigate to Language: and select the language from the drop-down menu, then click Save settings .

Figure 1: The GetSimple CMS settings let you set the important parameters, among them localization and your password.

GetSimple isn't a blog system in the conventional sense, but a simple tool to manage webpages. The admin back end has few menu items, so entry is relatively easy. The sample page clearly conveys the necessary functions.

To create your first test page, go to the first tab, Pages , and click Create a New Page on the left. The WYSIWYG editor (Figure 2) provides basic formatting options and lets you add images and links to your text. Alternatively, you can edit the text as Source code .

Figure 2: GetSimple includes a simple editor that lets you add images to your project.

To add locally saved images, go to the Files tab and click Upload files and/or images to load the files to your server and make them available in the image dialog of the page editor. To be able to access the page later on, click Options+ for more setting options. When you click the Add this page to the menu box, the start page is linked with the main menu. In the menu text entry field, enter the name of the menu and set the priority of where you want the menu to appear. You can change this in the Menu Manager by dragging and dropping.

To customize the page appearance, the templates that you find under the same menu item will help. The GetSimple homepage provides a big selection of themes [4] – from simple text presentations to image-rich portfolios. To use them, copy the desired ones into the ~/theme template directory, after which they will start to appear in the theme management drop-down menu.

GetSimple additionally provides numerous plugins for downloading [5]. These plugins significantly extend the functional scope of the CMS. You can install, for example, anything from a FAQ manager to a photo gallery.

Installing plugins is similar to installing themes: Just unpack them in the ~/plugin directory, after which they'll appear on the Plugins tab. The project cheekily makes a default setting Send Anonymous Data that sends usage data off to the project. This data includes PHP, Apache, and CMS version information but also the number of used plugins and themes and uploaded files. You may want to deactivate this setting if you have privacy concerns.


Kirby [6] is so basic it even lacks an editor on which you can write your articles. You need a simple text editor to maintain your pages or the entire website. Unlike the other featured systems, Kirby has a free installation on the local computer only. If you want to run your website with it, it'll cost you 30 euros.

To set up Kirby, you download the installation file from the homepage and unpack it in a directory on your web server. When you call up the URL later in your browser, a simple sample page appears.

The CMS uses plain text files as a basis, which it uses with its own, very simple and intuitive markup language (Figure 3) to format the themes in HTML. A simple page has just a title and the text flow (Listing 1). You build in links and images with the image: tag, such as image: 01.jpg .

Listing 1

A Simple Kirby Page

Title: Article Title
Text: article text
Figure 3: With Kirby, you carry out all the work and management in a text editor and an FTP client.

To whip the whole webpage into shape, Kirby relies on nested directories. Each folder under ~/content corresponds to a single webpage on the home page. This folder contains the text data in the previous example. Additionally, you put all the accompanying media, such as images, thumbnails, and files in this folder. The individual directories get a numbering scheme that appears as links in the appropriate order in the menu. Unnumbered directories don't appear there.

If you're new to setting up a webpage, a system like GetSimple might be a better choice, not least of all because of the nifty page editor. Beginners may have a hard time imagining how the raw text later shows up as a webpage with Kirby.

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