I'm about to start a project for a customer who wants CMS-like functionality. They want users to be able to log in, modify a profile, and a basic forum. They also wish to be able to submit things to a front page.

Is there a framework or barebones CMS that I could expand on or tailor to my needs? I don't need anything as feature-rich or fancy as Drupal or Joomla. I would actually prefer a framework as opposed to a pre-packaged CMS.

I am confident I could code all this from scratch, but would prefer not to, as something like a framework would significantly cut down on my time spent coding, and more on design and layout.

Edit: I should have been more specific. I'm looking for a Content Management System that will be run on a Debian server. So no .net preferably.

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tinyCMS is about as barebones as you can get. (edit: fixed link, I had gotten a little click happy and linked to the wrong thing)

@modesty, I would definitely NOT use SharePoint, as it is anything but barebones. It is a fairly expensive product (especially when compared to the many free alternatives), and it has quite the learning curve to do anything interesting.

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if you are looking .net you can take a look at umbraco, haven't done much with it (company i work for wanted much more functionality so went with something else) but it seemed lightweight.

Edit : if the customer wants a tiny CMS with a forum, I would still probably just go Drupal with phpBB or simple machines forum, almost positive they can share logins. Plus tomorrow the customer is going to want more and Drupal might save you some work there.

Kevin Sheffield

Might want to check out Drupal.

Here are the details of the technology stack that it uses.

I have never used it so I can't vouch for the quality etc but definitely worth a look.

David HAust
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Woo, another Debian nut!

I think you need to be a bit more specific here, Forum != CMS. Is this for internal company or external customer use? What language(s) do you know/prefer? There's no point in recommending a Perl or PHP framework if your language of choice is Ruby. Do you need to plan for scalability?

What's wrong with Joomla or Drupal? I would argue that they can be successfully used on small sites. Maybe a framework isn't what you're looking for, maybe you just need a library or two (eg. PEAR?). If you need something smaller, maybe writing your own backend library that you can reuse for future projects would be a better solution.

For a one-size-fits-all framework have a look at Turbogears. ("it's a big hammer, that makes every problem look like a nail")


Expression Engine is fantastic. It's free to download and try but you must purchase a license if you are making a profit with it.

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I've been obsessing over TikiWiki lately. Although it has "wiki" in the name, its full name is "TikiWiki CMS/Groupware" and it's an interesting piece of software. It has a real everything and the kitchen sink feel. It includes support for wiki, blogs, articles, forums, and files out of the box (and a ton of other stuff too). I think the real appeal to me is that most of the stuff can all be integrated together, wiki pages can include other wiki pages and articles (which is more useful than you might think). It's in RC stage for release 2.0 and is still missing a ton of features, but I think I might keep using it and contribute some of the features that are missing, it's a really interesting base right now.

The Mozilla support site is implemented using TikiWiki, for an example of a really beautiful implementation.


I think i may end up going with Drupal, and only adding modules that I need. Turbogears looks a bit daunting, and i'm still not quite sure what it does after it's 20 minute intro video...

TinyCMS doesn't look like it's been touched since... 2000?!?


@kevin d Expression Engine has its own problems, mainly the super clunky implementation of table relationships (or "blogs" as they are called in EE). The one super cool feature of EE is the multi-site manager module (which is relatively expensive).

Jarin Udom

I would suggest PmWiki, it's something between a framework/wiki. By default there aren't even users, just different passwords, for different tasks, but using PmWiki Cookbook 'recipes' You can add additional functionality. You can check their philosophy to get main idea what it's about.

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If you want a Rails solution, Radiant CMS is a good option. It's simple, elegant, extensible and, of course, comes with all of the benefits of being based on Ruby on Rails.

Charles Roper

how about you use drupal but scale down and code it according to your needs.

definitely will be faster than code-from-scratch-with-framework

Niko Gunadi

I have been working with Joomla for some time and I believe it one of the best CMS for starting off a Website. I have tried others a lot, But Joomla is better because it has Numerous Extentions (Components , Modules) and also its very Easy to Customize. You could also look at the Community Builder Extension for joomla.Other requirement like Chnage Fronpage Articles etc is a Breeze....


For some reason Joomla Does not Suit you try Drupal.

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Drupal's include system should keep everything relatively lightweight as long as you only include what you need. Despite the fact that it comes with a smattering of modules, what you choose to enable is all that will be included at runtime. If you have to get under the hood and make modifications, I'm also a firm believer that Drupal is a more friendly and elegant system than Joomla. We use Drupal at my work-as much as a framework as a CMS-and it has proven pretty reliable in keeping development practices at a high level.

William OConnor - csevb10
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I think the best is CMS Made Simple. Seems like drupal takes awhile to customize.



WordPress actually has a forum plugin - it's nothing fancy but it's there. It handles user management et al and has a big community for plugins and themes. I think it is probably the easiest CMS to install & run (I've done some legwork here). There are plugins that update the core & plugins automatically (take that Drupal). I've tested these and they seem pretty solid. As usual - backup beforehand.

For .NET MojoPortal looks pretty good and is lighter than DNN. I saw the edit but thought I'd include this anyway since it looks like it's worth checking out.

Drupal is a language unto its own - I wouldn't tackle it unless you're going to do so with some regularity, otherwise it's just another different framework to learn. The uplink into my brain is at capacity already so I gently pushed it aside. The themes tend to look the same too.

Joomla may suit your users for usability.

I'd go for a pre-made framework myself because it would have a community and expansion capacity. What your client wants today will pale into insignificance tommorrow.

CAD bloke

Wordpress is a very powerful but simple CMS.

bbPress is a very simple but integrated forum (easy, Wordpress user account integration with cookies and all).

Since you have programming experience you may find Wordpress to be the perfect match (PHP, MySQL) with plenty of plugins and hooks to help you achieve what you need. For example, there is a featured posts plugin that will put selected content on the front page.

Devin Reams

I need to jump on the Umbraco bandwagon here. As far as ease of use from a developer standpoint goes, there is nothing easier than umbraco and v. 4 has full master page support and a tone of other stuff... and it's free.


For windows take a look at the DotNetNuke is asp.net based, free and open source and easily skinned and modified, there is also a thriving market in add-on modules. In addition most hosting companies offer it as a pre-installed application


Hi guys!!! is there a very very simple PHP CMS (of course comes with a DB connection and necessary tables) that I can simply call and insert into an "iframe" into a previously static website so the owner can then change content on their own without my having to help them all the time?

My alternative was to code a set of PHP files (ie: editcontent.php, viewcontent.php, etc) then call viewcontent.php as the iframe content from within a static website. But that'd add a day or so more just to complete satisfiably.

I've tried to take Joomla apart and just get to the CONTENT view module, but doesn't seem to be holding out well. Any other bright (and quick) ideas?


I realize I'm a couple years late to the party but I was looking for something like this myself and ran across this post while doing Google searches for 'barebones cms'. Along with this post, this turns up:


There is also a forum on that site.

A similar combination could probably meet or exceed all of your criteria. Although, as others pointed out, you weren't particularly specific on the details.

While the original author is probably long gone, hopefully someone else finds this useful.