In the previous article, we took an introductory look at Concrete5 as a CMS. In this follow-up part, we shall learn about the salient features of the CMS and learn to accomplish common tasks using its admin panel.
Just like WP, Concrete5 also has its own Dashboard. Once you login to the admin panel, you will see it. The Dashboard gives you access to site updates and traffic stats. There is also a widget that lets you search the official documentation for help. Finally, a basic but nifty note taker widget is also available.
Adding Users and User Groups
You will need to navigate to the Users and Groups tab in order to add new users and/or groups. The process is simple – you simply need to specify a username, an email address and optionally upload an avatar image. In order to create groups, you need to mention the group’s name and description. User privileges can be specified after a group is created. If you intend to create a temporary group, you can also set a date and time for automatic deletion of that group.
Managing Appearance and Layout
Concrete5 offers many themes in its repository, both paid and free. In the Theme Options page, you can see a list of all the installed themes and templates. With each theme, there are options such as ‘Inspect’, ‘Preview’, ‘Customize’, ‘Install/Uninstall’, and ‘Activate’. Inspect lets you verify the integrity of the theme files (compare it to MD5checksum) while Customize allows you to manually modify CSS and other style sheets.
The default page types (or templates) are Blog Entry, Full Width, Left Sidebar and Right Sidebar. Full Width offers a simple one column layout. Blog Entry page type is automatically activated for the blog section of the website. You can merge the Sidebar page types to create multiple columned pages. Special pages such as Sitemap.xml and Contact forms have their own separate types and templates (yes, Concrete5 offers native support for Sitemaps and Contact forms and you do not need to separately install plugins yourself).
Plus, Concrete5 makes it very easy to edit the meta data (such as HTML <head> tag) without the use of any code. In the Attributes section, you can simply specify the text for pre-defined meta tags.
Addons and Plugins, Maintenance and Tweaks
Concrete5 comes with pre-installed addons such as support for embedded SWF files, RSS feedburner as well as native support for video playback (AVI, WMV, QuickTime/MPEG4, FLV, Youtube URL). However, you can easily install additional themes and addons from the Add Functionality tab. Themes and addons can either be installed by performing a search (which queries the default repository and any custom repositories that you specify), or by uploading a ZIP file from the admin interface or via FTP. (alternatively, you can also provide the URL to the theme or addon).
Concrete5 offers automated backups that you can schedule (the file is saved on the server itself). You can also encrypt the backups if you so desire, using the System and Maintenance Tab.
In WordPress, how do you make your website load faster? By using a caching plugin, perhaps? In Concrete5, you technically do the same – but in this case, you don’t really use a plugin! Concrete5 comes with inbuilt caching support for faster page loading. You can setup caching in the Sitewide Settings section. By default, basic caching should suffice for a regular website. However, for the blog section and other dynamic content, you may consider activating Full Caching. You can also tweak the admin interface and add or remove the toolbars. Needless to say, such native functionality goes a long way in making the CMS nimble and light-weight.
Still not happy with the goodies? Concrete5 also comes with a basic email settings management section. You can either use the Default PHP Mail() Function, or the External SMTP server (in the latter case, you’ll need to provide additional settings). However, as far as my guess goes, you’d probably prefer reading your mails in your desktop mail client and/or GMail account and thus, Concrete5 need not be bothered with the same.
You may also block or whitelist users and visitors on the basis of IP addresses for the sake of security (mischief?).
Thus, on a concluding note, Concrete5 is an awesome CMS if you are looking for easy customization along with security for your website. If you wish to try it before downloading, you can visit the demo site here. And finally, you can explore additional features of Concrete5 in this video: