Choosing a CMS: so far, pMachine looks like the right tool for my project

I’ve been looking for a content management system for a new community project I’m working on.

My requirements were simple. It had to be easy to set up and maintain. It had to be template-driven and the templates had to be editable by someone more proficient at HTML than Perl, PHP, or Python. It had to use either a weblog or Slashdot-style structure, but be flexible enough to accommodate changes in the structure and menus. I had to be able to use it on a virtual host where I didn’t have access to the http server. The software also needed to support registration and posting by users, without a lot of intervention from the administrator. It needed to be a finished product with good documentation and an active community of users. Finally, I had to be able to find the software, install it, create a prototype, and set up my site without using a lot of time.

Movable Type would have been ideal. It’s what I use for MediaSavvy and my family sites, but it doesn’t support user registration and posting.

I spent a lot of time examining open source CMS’s, but none seemed to be both broadly-supported and really simple. But it’s really hard to tell sometimes. There is still not enough information available on open source CMS’s.

I looked at wikis, but that was a frustrating experience. I never found one that was both easy to install and able to support more than minimal design improvements.

I looked at Scoop, which I liked a lot. I went so far as to get an account on a Scoop host, create a prototype site, and modify the templates to use CSS. But it didn’t work with my virtual host and required too much Perl to make the modifications I needed. It became clear I would need to hire a Perl wizard to maintain my site.

Postnuke looked great and has the best installer of any package I’ve used. But its formatting wasn’t flexible enough. That’s too bad, because it’s a great piece of software in many ways.

I installed pMachine this morning, and I think it’s what I’m looking for. It’s not open source, but at $45 for a noncommercial license it’s hard to beat. It’s as impressive as Movable Type in its power and ease of use. Plus, it has much better support for multiple authors.

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