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content management systemWhether you’re setting up a corporate website, a standard blog or just want to announce your presence on the web, the age of hand-coding HTML pages and CSS is long behind us. These days all it takes is to purchase hosting and install a content management system (CMS) and within minutes you can have a website that looks highly polished, displaying the very content that you wish to share with the world.

Of course, there are many different ways in which you might use your website, from displaying a gallery of images to advertising your services, running a technical support page or even an online magazine. This is why, despite the popularity of the WordPress platform, there are many other content management systems available, each with its own strengths.

The following list of content management systems are free to download and use unless otherwise stated.


Easily the most accessible and possibly the most commonly used, the strength of WordPress is in its quick installation and the massive user and developer community that results in a vast array of plugins and enhancements for the platform.

content management system

Throw in the added bonus of a vast template library and easy PHP and CSS file editing from within the admin screen and it becomes quite clear why WordPress is used for everything from personal blogs to e-commerce websites.


For an in-depth look at setting up a WordPress blog, check out James’ manual called WordPress: Your Ultimate Guide.


A quick trip to the Joomla website will reveal the claim that millions of websites are running on the software, and the reason for this is simple – it is extremely customizable, suitable for pretty much any purpose.

content management

This is why Joomla is often used by small and medium businesses, large organizations, non-profits and individuals. Joomla’s admin section is easy to use and with the vast array of options from templates and styles to adding feeds, content blocks, menu management tools and more, you can see why this is a popular choice.

You can visit the Joomla website to try a demo version and download a copy.  Also, don’t forget to check out our Joomla manual.


You need little or no coding knowledge to use the best CMS applications, and ModX is a strong example of this. With over 100,000 websites ranging from enterprise-scale businesses to sole traders, ModX  is easy to use, allows non-technical staff to create content and affords various advantages such as using multiple styles on the same page.

content management

Additionally, ModX – available from – minimises the need for SEO expertise as it is developed as a “blood brother” of search engines, presenting all of the information required by Google, Bing, etc. without additional plugins.


With a minimalist, direct admin interface and flexible design engine, TextPattern is another ideal solution for producing blogs and corporate sites alike.

content management

Equipped with import tools (ideal if you’re thinking of transferring content from another CMS) and featuring a native anti-spam system to block unwanted comments, TextPattern will also allow you to extend its basic functions thanks to a range of plugins that can be installed via the browser window.

Further information can be found at TextPattern.


Based on the Ruby on Rails framework, RefineryCMS embraces the same conventions that have made that platform a success, adopting a strong focus on the end user when developing the user interface and providing an easy hook to add new functions and redesign both the front end and the admin screens.

web content management

Featuring a range of different engines (blogs, membership, search, image gallery and many more), this is a CMS that is suitable for businesses of many different kinds.


A popular free and open source CMS, Drupal is often one of the first choices when building a new website.  Like many of the other tools listed here, Drupal can be scaled for personal blogs or enterprise mega-sites, and like WordPress there are thousands of modules that can be added to increase functionality.

web content management

Clicking on the link above will take you to the home page where you will be able to take a look at the showcase of sites made with Drupal. It is worth noting that questions from the user community about perceived failings in recent versions are yet to be fully addressed by developers; however Drupal remains a popular solution.


Aiming to make it possible for anyone to build and manage a website without investing a lot of time and money, Concrete5 has a tough job on its hands, but appears to be doing well.

web content management

This CMS is positioned as the ultimate time saving solution to designers, developers and site owners alike, which probably accounts for its popularity. Easy to use, with a strong focus on the end user, website designer and developer alike, Concrete5 is certainly worth a look.

You can find out more by visiting Concrete5.


The world of CMS solutions is chock-a-block full of software written in PHP. DotNetNuke, meanwhile, is a rare exception. Software written in Microsoft’s ASP .Net is more suited natively to Windows servers, and this consideration (along with the fact that many corporations host their intranets on Windows servers) is one very strong reason to opt for DotNetNuke.

Another is the ease with which developers can customise a web application in DotNetNuke thanks to the open API, while end users benefit from an easy to use system.

Unlike many other of the solutions listed here, DotNetNuke is not free to use, although a demo site and trial can be used.

Full details are at DotNetNuke.


Another ASP.Net solution, Umbraco is free to use, with optional paid-for services such as support and training.

With open source licensing (a rarity in ASP.Net) and that all-important need to keep things simple for the web publisher, this software is hugely popular among corporates, boasting Heinz, SanDisk and the pop group Take That as some of its users.

The user interface for article creation might be more familiar to any web admin who has used a browser-based web server administration console, but its clear layout is popular with website editors.


There is every chance that the solutions listed previously could be complete overkill for what your website is trying to achieve. Sprawling SQL databases and endless pages of active server-side code could be sitting redundant if all you need to do is display a few useful pages with the odd bit of functional eye candy, which is where TinyCMS comes in.

content management system

Ideal for small sites and for keeping things simple, TinyCMS uses the TinyMCE article submission tool and a few PHP files to create the website. There is no database, meaning that once the pages are cached on the server they should open pretty quickly.

Full details and a demo can be found at TinyCMS.


If you’re reading this looking for a good reason to choose a particular CMS platform over another, then your best bet is to hit each of the links above and either download the software and install it to your server or find the demo version (these tend to exist on most CMS developer websites).

There are various things you should consider when choosing a content management system, and these are all informed by your own expectations, your aims and the purpose of the website. Simply choosing one and using it without being aware of how you will use could waste a lot of time.

Do you have any favourites among this list? Is there a particular CMS that you felt should be included with these? Let us know, as well as your reasons for suggesting.

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  1. Jason Kidd
    July 8, 2016 at 4:34 pm

    There are a ton of Content Management Systems to chose from. This can make it very stressful, as we are all looking for the most dynamic CMS to satisfy ourselves. Of the many vendors I have sat in on demos, they are all equally confusing. Part of the issue is the 'label' of what it is in the first place. I mean, yes, it does involve content management, but also document management, and then single sign on, integration, there is just too much. Open Text does a great job calling it a 'Enterprise Information Management' system (EIM), but even that is a little vague. Oxcyon, who makes a product called Centralpoint, calls it an 'ecosystem', or Digital Experience Platform, which seems to be closer to mark because the management of information goes 'both ways' so it is an ecosystem. My experience with centralpoint has been great. I have 5 years experience using the centralpoint platform. I used to use Constant Contact for my email broadcasts, now I use Centralpoint's RSS broadcast. It lets me create multiple feeds, and it knows what posted last week so it's always up to date. I have one scheduled to go to myself only, then if I see anything wrong the day before...i just clean it up and let the robot do it.

  2. clippingusa
    October 24, 2015 at 11:38 am

    There are a few CMS names that were unknown to me even till today. Just got the information from here. Among all the CMS I used wordpress, joomla and dropal before. I would like to recommend for wordpress. Thanks for lovely sharing.

  3. Ahmad Balavipour
    August 10, 2015 at 5:22 am

    My opinion best cms systems are wordpress and joomla and if you know both of them you can create any website

  4. Lillian Oliver
    August 4, 2015 at 4:57 am

    As a developer with 10 years of experience. I can admit that their are a lot of big names in this list but the world of web design is being invaded by enterprise solutions like SharePoint, Google Apps and CentralPoint by Oxycon. None of these systems should be placed out of a list like this.

    • Christian Cawley
      August 5, 2015 at 10:20 am

      Google Apps was in its infancy when this list was compiled, while SharePoint can never be a recommended CMS for running an efficient website.

  5. Sheryl Roger
    May 19, 2015 at 7:43 am

    Great article. All CMS which you discussed here are very useful. Although i did not have use these personally except drupal and my experience went really well.

  6. Tomasz J DEC
    May 6, 2015 at 4:21 pm

    Hi to All,

    We are developing sites for our clients since 2000, but for last 3 years more of them are thinking about "the CMS" as a part of business workflows not only "a news" deliverer. We have just rewrite two big sites from WordPress into our jCMS ( - not because WordPress is bad - but because client decide to have more business oriented worklows. Nowdays "a news" can be composed onfly and be based on data coming from scanners, detectors, readers, robots, websites, erp systems etc. But a huge and massive types of interfaces and data formats before will be published has to be stored, indexed and then published - my question is does it make sense today e.g. in 2015 only talk about HTML5, CSS3 and how the page looks and how easy I can setup a portal page? May be "the Content" today is no longer "a news written in tinyCMS" - so Chiristian could you make an update to your material - what has changed since 2012 ?


    Tomasz J DEC

  7. Christian Cawley
    April 23, 2015 at 3:51 pm

    Drupal isn't number 1 because, well, it isn't number 1. While still widely used, it isn't as popular as it once was.

  8. Daniel Keith
    April 20, 2015 at 5:56 am

    Nice information. But Drupal should be on number 1. Also, Weebly should be in the list. It is very good CMS.

  9. mohammad
    March 31, 2015 at 2:58 pm

    tiny CMS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


    • rei
      April 27, 2015 at 7:00 pm

      what problem!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
      tiny CMS used tinyMCE

  10. Philip Ireland
    February 28, 2015 at 6:14 am


    seems like your review was perhaps more contentious than expected! Personally I have little clue about CMS and found this really helpful. It is good to be able to get an honest and direct review of what is on offer.


    • Christian Cawley
      March 2, 2015 at 8:17 am

      Glad you found it useful, Philip, thanks!

  11. Rob
    January 22, 2015 at 3:11 pm

    You missed SilverStripe, the best CMS to date.

  12. Sufalam Technologies
    October 19, 2012 at 10:29 am

    A characteristic feature of CMS is its capability to give non-technical users an opportunity to make changes to their websites. CMS greatly facilitates control, editing and auditing processes. Content management systems have automated templates that can be applied to the existing or new content.

  13. PixelPinch | Abhash
    October 14, 2012 at 7:38 am

    Lots of CMS which I didn't even know of. Thanks for the list!

  14. Lebron
    October 5, 2012 at 11:43 am

    Nice article and some great comments.We have been using Contrexx cms, its quite easy to use and the admin area is great.

  15. Christine
    September 13, 2012 at 2:19 am

    WordPress and Joomla are great CMS.

    I have another website to recommend:

    I use it as my homepage, notebook, album and as a to do list as well.

  16. vanila
    September 12, 2012 at 10:27 pm

    WordPress and Joomla are great CMS.

    I have another website to recommend:

    I use it as my homepage, notebook, album and as a to do list as well.

  17. Tom Kisielewski
    September 1, 2012 at 8:50 pm

    Very general list of CMSs, ordered by popularity? Should be WordPress, Joomla , Drupal....Easy of use -> probably Wordpres Drupal Joomla.. How did you measure popularity, would be nice to know source of information. Anyway good list.

  18. monis
    August 21, 2012 at 7:21 am

    I am afraid, where is TYPO3 in this list?

  19. James Brock
    August 20, 2012 at 4:05 am

    This was the best post ever... if I ever have another question about my pokemon site I will email you, thanks man!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  20. uxzeal
    June 27, 2012 at 10:28 am

    I guess WordPress is the most popular CMS and no other CMS can beat it.

  21. SlackNetics
    June 5, 2012 at 10:59 am

    Why do you CamelCase the name of our favorite CMS. It is and has always been spelled Textpattern.

  22. Dan C.
    May 29, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    Interesting article but not entirely accurate - why do you claim Dotnetnuke is not free? DNN started as an open source community project and remains as of today.

    I think you should revise your article with the number of production/public websites built on each platform.

    In God we trust, all others must bring data - W. E. Deming

    • Christian Cawley
      June 2, 2012 at 7:47 pm

      Hi Dan

      This is an error on my part - of course DNN is free, and I had intended to state something along the lines of (you'll forgive as this article is a few weeks old now): "although DNN is free, support and extended options are not".

      Apologies for the confusion.

      As to your second point, I'm afraid that is out of the question. Other than being completely unreasonable (requiring a level of trust in the claims of platforms that cannot be verified), it is bordering on the insane!

  23. Sithu
    May 21, 2012 at 10:30 am

    Of these listed CMS wordpress can be picked up as favourite by most of them. But i feel some professional functionalities are missed in wordpress. Infact i find joomla as the best CMS for building and maintaining a good, catchy, interactive website.

  24. Spence Hackney
    May 18, 2012 at 2:04 am

    Just wanted to suggest a correction for you. DotNetNuke Community Edition is absolutely free. They do have a Professional edition that has som additional features targeted at enterprise clients that costs money.

  25. diogo
    May 16, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    I recommend
    I've been using it for 2 years now, and couldn't be happier about it. Among other things you will find:
    - low learning curve for the basics
    - flexibility and markup freedom
    - very good user management
    - very helpful community
    - fast development

  26. Offlajn
    May 10, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    I personally only reccommend WordPress of Joomla. There are thousands of free and commercial plugins/extensions for both cms systems. Also, the support great for both of them.
    In fact I'm a Joomla extension developer myself:

  27. brad_j_davis
    April 30, 2012 at 7:15 am

    WordPress wins without doubt as the most popular free CMS and it is exploding in popularity as well. World domination is just around the corner!

    • Jarrod Mosen
      September 5, 2012 at 9:49 pm

      Which is a massive shame... that lumbering beast is meant for blogs; and countless have smashed plugins and hacks into it to make it a 'CMS'

      • Eric Admati
        September 19, 2012 at 6:29 am

        I agree. I have used WP, and find it that the blogging section is hard to turn off. I use another on this list. I feel it doesn't have the professional, crisp look which I like in WP. They have a marketplace, but the categories are messed up. Hard to search for plug-ins/add-ons.

        So I am looking for a good WYSIWYG CMS alternative. Professional, clean looking, no blogging by default, and good forum support.

      • Eric Admati
        September 19, 2012 at 6:54 am

        Another idea - it would be helpful to know:

        - how many times each of these CMS, and maybe some of the ones in the comments have been downloaded (MODX boasts more than 1,000,000)
        - how many sites are up with each of these CMSs (I don't know how hard that is to find)
        - how they the CMS has been around

        that would help me narrow it down.

  28. Tyler
    April 26, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    We appreciate you including our CMS, TinyCMS!

  29. indiandigitizer
    April 26, 2012 at 6:53 am

    Hey Christian,

    Great post for the uninitiated, good point to start from researching about CMS.

    I know, how I felt when I started out - which CMS to use???? This could have been helpful then and might be helpful for others just starting out.

    Keep up the good work.


  30. Carl Vinken
    April 25, 2012 at 8:32 pm


  31. Dominik Lukes
    April 25, 2012 at 7:27 pm

    I'm afraid that this is a rather uninformative post. The vague slanderous aside about Drupal and no mention of systems like Typo3 or Plone aside, there is no meaningful basis of comparison. The platform is not always mentioned, nor are distinguishing features, notable downsides and prominent example websites. No mention of hosting support. For instance, it might be useful to compare PHP systems, with .Net, RoR, etc. Level of community support, conferences, paid vs. free support. I understand that this would require more research than a single blog post deserves but how about a series of features?

    • Mike
      April 25, 2012 at 8:18 pm

      I agree. Also it doesn't mention ExpressionEngine which I believe to be fairly popular since it's been around for ages. What measurement is used to consider the mentioned CMS's "most popular?"

      • Christian Cawley
        April 25, 2012 at 8:39 pm

        Well, since this is MakeUseOf, Mike, ExpressionEngine doesn't make the grade since it isn't free :)

        • nutan
          August 18, 2012 at 5:20 am

          hi give me a cms web content management system source code it's aurjent

    • Christian Cawley
      April 25, 2012 at 8:24 pm

      While I appreciate your comments and agree that a series of articles would be good, there are a couple of points here that I want to address.

      First, Drupal *has* had some issues of late. This doesn't mean that it should be discounted - it's still on the list!
      Second, the list was compiled based on ratings and reputation. There are items on here that you would have a hard time finding genuine reviews for online, so to be on the receiving end of a tough critique is a little galling...
      Third, detailing hosting support for 10 very different CMS' would be akin to spinning plates.
      Fourth, I think your penultimate point about comparisons PHP/.NET/RoR would also be more suitable to a series.

      I'm not promising anything :)

      • Jim Venus
        September 2, 2012 at 8:54 pm


        I would like to ask you to watch this video on Centralpoint, by Oxcyon. We have been called the alternative to Sharepoint, offer source, and have been in business for 12 years, with over 320 clients. The biggest differentiators are: We integrate wtih LDAP/AD (out of the box), and support Audience, Taxonomy and Roles based filtration for each record (which no other CMS can claim), making us the most robust and universal platform out there today...

        Centralpoint in Action

        Centralpoint Powerpoint overview

        Thank you