This is a series of post starting here, in which I look at different CMS installations and despair.

Magnolia came in late in my research but I immediately started thinking that I perhaps had found something good. As several other systems it comes with one “community” version and one “enterprise” version, but I don’t mind as long as the feature set isn’t too crippled on the community install.

The Good

  • Easy installation. Two WAR files dropped in and that’s it. Very good. Apparently comes with Apache Derby bundled so you don’t even have to configure a database. Although, more on this later…
  • Stage environment. Two separate installations, one for editing and one public. Very good indeed, although there’s a down side as well.
  • Uncluttered and very good AJAX gui.
  • Easy to editor pages. And easy to understand and change the site structure.

The Semi-Good

  • Multilingual content. It is not supported, but it is officially not supported with an “no, but of course you can do it, and easily” answer.  Meaning most sites will end up with  separate directories for each language, and when you really need one page/many languages, you can actually do it. 
  • No themes. But officially no themes. But very simple templates. This is counted on good in my book as I’ll end up designing the site anyway, starting from scratch with a clean and simple templating system is just as good as a full-fledged, community supported, themeing engine for my purpose.

The Semi-Bad

  • Bundled database. Good for installation but you should really document very clearly how to reconfigure it to use an external database, I can do with Derby but would prefer MySQL.
  • Stage environment. Although the idea is very good it means that you most probably will end up having two parallel applications running, thus cluttering up the site URL’s. This can be solved of course but it takes some tinkering. I was thinking of installing the stage installation on a separate domain instead, so you’d get, for example, “www.mysite.com” and “edit.mysite.com”. I shall have to think about that.

The Bad

  • Somewhat small community. Or I haven’t really found them yet.
  • No 3rd party modules? Is that because of the point above? Or have I missed something?

Conclusion
Very good package. And probably a winner. I really like the cleanliness. And the the easy page administration (saves a lot of support time). I like the templating. On the downside, I’ll be looking for 3rd party modules if I need them and may be forced to write my own, but I would need to do so in any case for any system to a certain extent, so that is only a minor scratch on the whole. Multilingual content? Well, considering the competition Magnolia comes out smelling of roses, I’d much rather take an honest “no, but it easy to do”, than a “yes, but it is rather complicated”.

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