TYPO3 – Open source Content Management

September 17th, 2004

typo3logo.gifWhilst blogging tools like Movable Type, Blogger, WordPress and Textpattern are exceedingly good for blogging, they all have their limitations. Notably, most do not do true content management. That is, none of them embrace XML as fully as they could. For example, link management, workflow and front-end editing are not utilised at all. The WYSIWYG interface that non-technical people like to use is not an option with these tools. That’s fair enough, but it means that whilst they make excellent blog and small-sized site tools, their pitfalls become quite apparent when you try to use the software in an organisation as sprawling and non-conforming as a university. Content management is always on my mind at The Open University as I work on a myriad of projects, each with duplication of information readily available somewhere else. Reusable content is used wherever possible but more often than not, content is reversioned. There is no content management system.

I accidentally stumbled upon TYPO3 whilst perusing the Textpattern support forum. Whilst the author of this particular post was quite antagonistic to the creator of Textpattern, Dean Allen (a brilliant thinker and pioneer in his own right) he did at least make me aware of this utopian dream come reality that appears to be TYPO3. Not only does it contain many of the typical blog software features but it also enters the realm of real, complex CMS features like workflow, link management, and detailed user management. Features we’re more likely to see in expensive applications such as Vignette and Microsoft Content Management Server are available for free as TYPO3 is open-source in the same way that Apache server, Linux, PHP and MySQL are free, open-source applications. The documentation seems to be of a very high quality and there’s even a printed manual available.

The creators make no bones about the software taking time to learn (it’s huge) but they assure you it’ll be worth your while. I hope to evaluate the software when I get a little time to myself. Installation seems easy enough – an all-in-one installer will slap Apache, MySQL, PHP and TYPO3 on your Windows PC (also available for Mac, Unix etc) and do most of the configuration for you. Amazing.

On the surface of it, TYPO3 seems to be extremely well thought-out and supported. For the lack of financial investment there’s plenty of time investment to be had learning the software and making it work for individual requirements. I’ll definitely be keeping my eye on this one.