The blogosphere is cluttered with more or less sophisticated journals, more or less professional and competitive, more than less identical in structure and functionality.
If you wonder why they’re so similar, one answer is that they use the same Content Management Systems — WordPress, for the most, but even Joomla! and Drupal that come second and third according to a recent survey report by W3Techs.
Yes, the Web is made of WordPresses, Joomlas and Drupals. But is that the end of it? What if all you need is a simpler blogging solution, one that won’t take up too many hosting resources but will still guarantee you reliable tools?
There are other (smaller) blogging solutions out there
Many are just not as known as the above-mentioned trio, either because they never got enough promotion in the first place, or because they lack some functionality or are not as flexible. However, a blogging solution is a choice to make on the basis of your needs, not of the popularity of the CMS.
What about a few names?
There are 6 little known blogging solutions that are free, customizable and open source. There are more out there, but these six lil’ kids are easy enough to get you started hassle-free — and they come with nice clean designs.
Here they are:
Feeling like experimenting with these platforms? Keep reading. I’m here to make introductions. ;)
FanUpdate was originally created by Jenny Ferenc for her website Prism-Perfect.net, but when she moved on from the project, the user base for her script continued to demand for support and updates, so a community of developers at Nepwork.com took the rains of the project and continued to develop FanUpdate (now at its third release). Fanupdate is distributed under the GPL license.
Vendor’s Website: http://www.jemjabella.co.uk/scripts/fanupdate/ (only version still available after FanUpdate.net was shut down)
FanUpdate is lightweight and easy to install and it only requires an HTML web template ready on your website to run on. Visitors can easily comment on your entries and have their own avatars through the Gravatar integration. Spam filters and comment scoring systems help protect your site from abuse. Version 3 also fixed a previous security bug.
For FanUpdate to work with your website, your pages must carry a .PHP file extension, because that’s the language the code interpreter will need to display your blog posts on the homepage.
Below is FanUpdate’s common code snippet to be placed where you want your blog displayed – generally, your index.php file:
// FanUpdate X.Y.0 blog
// subject: all posts
$main_limit = 5;
The screenshot above was taken from one of my websites that uses FanUpdate as a blogging solution. You can visit it at http://talla.robocity.me to get a preview.
One of the biggest disadvantages of using FanUpdate is its anti-spam system. The script can detect the most common forms of spam comments — even thanks to a list of words and phrases you can blacklist in the Options panel — but the sneakier spam comments will usually get approved without even sending out a moderation request to your email address. If you use FanUpdate, make sure to check your list of Approved, Pending and Spam comments at least once a week, because your blogging system might have approved a spam comment and put a legit comment in Spam instead.
Another downside is the impossibility to make anything else out of FanUpdate but blog posts. You can’t make pages, you can’t install plugins, etc. FanUpdate is truly a very basic blogging tool for small websites that run on a hosting package with limited resources.
Chyrp is a minimal CMS that aims to be a less bulky alternative to WordPress. Alex Suraci initially developed Chyrp as a hobbyist project in 2004, then it was later acquired by Arian Xhezairi in 2010, who continued the development. Recent versions come with extensive documentation and a supportive community behind.
- PHP 5.2+
- MySQL 4.1+ or SQLite 3+ (with PDO)
Vendor’s Website: https://github.com/chyrp/chyrp
Easy to install, nicely styled and lightweight, Chyrp is a safer and more functional alternative to FanUpdate. Chyrp can be extended via Modules and Translations so it’s highly customizable and, if you know a little templating and PHP programming, it can turn into a flexible tool. The documentation will provide you with a clear and understandable guide to speed up the process.
One interesting type of extension for Chyrp is Feathers. Feathers integrate the basic platform to add up more complex functions. An example is Article, a feather for articles that lets you add a headline and a byline to your posts.
The text editor is— well, just a text editor. There is no native WYSIWYG functionality with Chyrp. However, it can be supplied via Module with Redactor.
OpenBlog is a user-friendly blogging platform based on the CodeIgniter PHP framework. It’s simple and will not overload your servers, but like WordPress and Chyrp, it’s backed up by a productive community that provides themes, plugins and extensions. OpenBlog supports multi-language and is released under the GPL v3 license.
Vendor’s Website: http://open-blog.org
OpenBlog is as user-friendly as WordPress can be to a beginner, but it’s equally interesting to an intermediate to advanced user. Installation is automated and templates are customizable — and the community provides enough of a choice for templates anyway.
One interesting feature in the Admin Panel is the Database Backup: the button is read on your panel sidebar and when you click it you get an instantaneous .ZIP backup file to download. It’s that easy.
URLs are search engine friendly and the platform supports pages, RSS and a WYSIWYG editor. Plugins enable you to extend your platform and these are pretty much like WordPress, so nothing too complex there.
If you’re just starting out with blogging and you don’t want to try WordPress, OpenBlog makes a valid alternative.
Unlike WordPress, OpenBlog doesn’t allow template modifications from inside your Admin Panel. You will have to apply the changes manually and then reupload the files via FTP.
Initially created by Scott Evans for his band website, Pixie developed into a lightweight but efficient CMS — or like the developers like to call it, a “Small, Simple, Site Maker”. Pixie is portable, supports multiple languages and is released under the GPL v3 license.
Vendor’s Website: http://www.getpixie.co.uk
For starters, the software installation weighs only 2.28 MB, thus making Pixie one of the lightest CMS’s currently available.
It’s interesting that Pixie supports XFN’s Microformats. This is useful to keep all links across your blog semantically relevant to search engines and to human beings alike (that is, if someone actually checks the page source code and finds out what kind of attribute you used — ‘spouse’, ‘friend’, etc.).
Pixie supports CSS Themes and database backups. To backup your DB, go to Settings -> Backup -> Backup the database: the system will create a .ZIP file on server that you can download by clicking the link that will appear on page.
Pixie is not as user-friendly as it might appear. If you’re used to create blog posts and pages where you publish them too, you’ll be disappointed — to create new pages on Pixie, you have to hit Settings on the main tabs and create them from there. The Publish tab will only enable you to edit them. For posts, there is no tab — you have to go back to the Dashboard, scroll down to ‘Quick Links’ and click ‘Add new My Blog entry’ (where ‘My Blog’ is your blog’s name).
PivotX is an open source blogging solution developed by a team of volunteers and released under the GPL License. It supports multiple authors, Extensions and Widgets for additional functions.
Vendor’s Website: http://pivotx.net
It’s a 7 MB installation — not a feather but that’s still fairly lightweight for the canon. It comes with a dashboard similar to that of WordPress but it’s quite more stylish.
You can write your posts and your site pages within Entries and Pages, that is quite detailed at a first sight: under Entries and Pages you have every tool to create and maintain your posts and pages and even to moderate comments, trackbacks and to manage categories.
Manage Media is similar to WordPress’ Media and it enables you to upload your images, files and templates. You can edit your current template files in text view.
One thing I love about PivotX is that you can run multiple weblogs and subweblogs and you can differentiate them by assigning different categories and templates to each.
In addition, you can choose to store data either on flat files or a MySQL database. Flat files are not as safe, though.
The learning curve is slightly steeper than for WordPress, as its interface is less user-friendly, but this is no deterrent as the software is pretty good. The best way to get started is to read the documentation and to get acquainted with the terminology and admin dashboard sections, that differ from WordPress or other CMS’s.
Cutenews is a small blogging script developed by the CuteNews Team. It’s a simple backend-only blogging platform like FanUpdate, but it makes use of flat files instead of MySQL databases to store data.
- flat files for storage
Vendor’s Website: http://cutephp.com
The latest versions of Cutenews are more similar to WordPress in appearance and in functionality. Cutenews is extendable via plugins and modules and small businesses can purchase a license for commercial use. It comes with a search function, file uploads and the possibility to backup (and restore) saved versions. Cutenews also supports UTF-8 and IP banning.
As a platform that uses flat files instead of DBs for storage, Cutenews can get quite resource consuming as your website grows in posts and comments.
Why You Haven’t Heard About Them Before
When you’re just starting out with blogging, you’re more keen to follow the masses in the fear of getting lost. Even when you’ve never touched a CMS before, you can easily install WordPress (or just register a WordPress.com account) and get started with a premade theme. Or you can install Joomla! or Drupal, select a basic skin and start posting the most basic way, while you follow one of the thousand tutorials available on the Web to improve your blog’s appearance.
On the other hand, getting to know other solutions — and give yourself more options — requires research, time and dedication. So while it’s definitely a good idea to get your feet wet with the most popular CMS’s, consider dedicating some time to research and experiment with the alternatives.
I can assure you, it’s fun. ;)
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net