An Introduction to Concrete5 CMS — Part I

Articles January 18, 2012

When we talk of CMS, the options are plenty. For a start, we can opt for some of the biggest names in the game – WordPress, Drupal or Joomla! However, in this article, we shall take a look at one of the fastest growing and light-weight CMS, that is, Concrete5. Since this is Part I of the two-part series, we shall be familiarizing ourselves with the CMS by taking a look at each of its menus. In the concluding part, we shall delve into deeper details.

A BEGINNER’S PRIMER TO Concrete5

Overview

Concrete5 is an extremely easy to use CMS that has a fairly simple mode of operation and can be employed to power various genres of websites, including blogs, portfolios and enterprise sites. It comes with a WYSIWYG Editor and in-context editing toolbars, along with drag and drop support, native Flash support as well as Youtube, Google Analytics and Google Maps integration. Not satisfied yet? Well, Concrete5 also offers native SEO in the form of clean URLs, RSS syndication and pre-formatted dynamic HTML tags.

Getting Started

To begin with, you will need to download Concrete5 from here. If you are not into coding or manual installs, fear not – there is also a one-click installer file.

Once you login to Concrete5, you will be presented with the sample page of the website and a toolbar on top. Concrete5 boasts of its WYSIWYG abilities and thus, you won’t take time in noticing that the entire page and all of its components can be edited simply by selecting and/or clicking on them. Neat, isn’t it?

Interface

If you have been a WordPress user, you won’t take much time in getting used to the admin area of Concrete5, except for the few additional features that are otherwise not part of the native WP installation. The major tabs in Concrete5 are as follows:

Sitemap: This section gives you access to, well, the Sitemap! Also, you can have a bird’s eye view of your entire website including taking a look at files and scripts. Note that you cannot modify any files/scripts from here.

File Manager: File Manager lets you update the files and directories. You can upload, download and modify or remove files and directories. Further more, you can perform functions such as backup and/or restore. Interestingly, Concrete5 lets you set attributes and access permissions on the fly! Just select a file for modification, and its attributes and access permissions shall be highlighted by default!

Reports: This section contains data collected via forms and logs. By default, Concrete5 creates a log of daily activity (and a special log for error messages). Of course, you can specify the frequency of maintaining logs as well as alter the time limit for which data from logs and forms is to be retained.

Users and Groups: Users and Groups let you manage the user accounts associated with your website. Just like WordPress, in Concrete5 as well, you can sub-divide the user accounts into groups such as Administrators, Editors, Contributors, Subscribers, and so on, thereby restricting the level of access that each user group has to the website’s content.

Scrapbook: Scrapbook lets you maintain a record of your notes for personal reference as well as sharing them with other users. The content you save in Scrapbook does not go public on the website (unless you install a script that makes it publicly visible). Personally, I find the Scrapbook ideal for keeping reminders and making notes while developing the website. You can also selectively provide access to users or user groups for each Scrapbook. As long as the available system memory allows, you can have an unlimited number of scrapbooks.

Pages and Themes: This section lets you tweak the look and feel as well as layout of your website. You may compare it with Appearance menu in WP. Concrete5 comes with 3 pre-installed themes, while more can be downloaded from the website itself. The number and quality of themes in the repository is good, though obviously Premium/Paid themes do not match those available for WordPress.

Add Functionality: Nothing too grand here — you can install custom themes and addons or plugins (extensions) from the admin panel itself. Alternatively, you can also FTP the required files and they will automatically show up in this section.

System and Maintenance: This section provides options such as backup, cleaning cache files, updating Concrete5 and other site-wide settings.

Sitewide Settings: You can tweak the security of your website here by specifying rules for user login, comment moderation, etc. Further more, you can also setup features such as RSS feed if you are hosting a blog.

With this, we come to the end of Part I of this two-part series. I hope you’ve liked what you’ve seen about Concrete5 so far. In the next part, we shall take a closer look under the hood and learn how to accomplish general tasks using Concrete5. If, however, you can’t wait for the next part, feel free to give Concrete5 a spin yourself by downloading it from here. Be sure to let us know your experiences in the comments!

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Sufyan bin Uzayr is a 21-year old freelance writer, graphic artist, programmer and photographer based in India. He writes for several print magazines as well as technology blogs. His prime areas of interest include open source, mobile development, web CMS and vector art. He is also the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of an e-journal named Brave New World. You can visit his website or friend him on Facebook and Google+.

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