Open source CMSes prove well worth the price
We look at five free offerings boasting solid Web publishing features that challenge their commercial competitors
A smart folder structure similar to what you'd find when working with Web content holds documents – which enabled me to create rules to reduce manual processing. For instance, after users responded to an "approve/reject" e-mail, Alfresco moved the draft document to the appropriate folder and performed any additional steps.
I liked the way Alfresco automatically extracted metadata from documents and then categorized them. Afterward, the Google-like OpenSearch (available from Internet Explorer 7 or Firefox) helps users find material quickly in the repository.
Records management (which meets U.S. Department of Defense 5015.2 requirements, but is not yet certified), works much like document management, and thus is likely to have a high adoption rate among end-users. For instance, documents can be dragged into the Alfresco repository from Office, Exchange, and Open Office desktop applications. I set up Alfresco to automatically classify records based on predefined types and then assign retention and archive policies. Further, it's easy to perform full-text searches or queries by file plans, categories, or types.
Image management relies on the same JSR-170 content repository and also let me reuse business policy rules I'd created for Web content and documents. There's also metadata extraction plus transformation among many image formats including TIFF, JPEG, GIF, PNG, Office, PDF, and Flash.
Combining document, Web, records, and image management, Alfresco 2.1 is a full-fledged EMC (enterprise content manager). Although such breadth often signals extra complexity in commercial offerings, Alfresco doesn't succumb to this problem. Using Web 2.0 techniques (such as lightweight scripting), native Office integration, and one common Web interface, users submit material to the common repository. And with integration throughout the modules, administrators can reuse components, such as business rules for publishing content.
DotNetNuke's built-in features -- generally broad and centrally managed -- make it appropriate for quickly deploying small Web sites or intranets. This solution is well-suited for moderate-sized e-commerce sites because it supports banner ads and referral programs.
Moreover, DotNetNuke's ASP.Net foundation contributes to its extensibility and usability. Therefore, you might consider it for larger, custom corporate Web projects. One notable enterprise feature is multiple portals within one software instance -- each site with its own identity and access rights.
DotNetNuke doesn't exaggerate its usability statements. Within an hour of downloading the software I had a functional site that incorporated many of this product's more advanced features. One tip is to get DotNetNuke's automated installer utility that you'll find hidden in the company's download area; even if you're familiar with creating .Net sites, this tool may save you time -- it automatically installed .Net prerequisites and configured IIS for me.
Overall site settings, security roles, and user settings are all easily managed from a single administration menu. More important, finding your way around the forms doesn't require much experience. For example, customizing the user registration form to make certain fields mandatory just requires checking off a few boxes.