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Concrete5 (news, site) looks to make further in-roads into the CMS open source market with its latest batch of improvements.

Smoothing The Surface

After making waves in the open source CMS market over the last few years, and adding some big-ticket features in 2009, such as an ecommerce module, concrete5 is now solidifying its CMS with a range of improvements to refine the administration and design/creation experience.

Among the standout updates from the feature list are:

  • Improvements to the layouts engine with support for columns
  • Design engine update to paste custom designs into areas or blocks of a page
  • Now, updates and properties changes occur without the need to reload
  • Performance improvements by adjusting loading sequences and speeding up previews
  • Improved File Manager statistics and properties
  • Use of Zend to improve cache performance

These changes must go some way in helping concrete5 live up to its creator's billing last year as more friendly than its rivals Joomla and Drupal. The update was unveiled at SXSW:Interactive earlier this month and, while it's early days to get accurate comparisons, some forum posts and tweets suggest things are speeding along:

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How Friendly Is Friendly Enough?

On the other hand, and naturally enough, some users are having trouble with the upgrade, alas we can't print those posts due to the use of sailor language! We also noticed an awful lot of Asian-text tweets, suggesting that the update will be popular out east, with translation for the new version ongoing.

While Drupal has a specific page for usability claims, and Joomla is renowned for its designer-friendliness, it is often down to the individual developer or team as to what they get on with. But in numbers terms, concrete5 has a long way to go, claiming only 35,000 sites to the endless horde of Drupal and Joomla sites. 

Under the Hood

New Layouts Tool

Among the many fixes and improvements are the new new layouts tool, which is categorized as very "new" but this lets users divide a block area into multiple columns. This can be very handy for site owners who don't want to code new templates and ideal for users without much HTML experience -- of which concrete5 has a great many -- who are using concrete5 to run their websites.

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Splitting areas into columns allows for closer customization

Improved Sitemap

The sitemap was a problem in older versions on large sites. concrete5 noted that it would tend to slow down when users had thousands of pages at a single node. Thanks to some consulting from a  Kuwaiti developer -- highlighting the multinational efforts that keep these projects rolling -- there is now a folder detail and search view to the sitemap which makes it easy to manage a site with hundreds of thousands of pages at a single level.

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Editing or using any element with the Scrapbook is easy to do

Connect to the Community

Also, the connect to community functionality has changed. You can now join your stand alone concrete5 site to the concrete5.org community and automatically install add-ons and get support from the developers who built them, making improving a site with extras a less challenging task.

From a quick test, a natural reaction is that it would be better to edit directly onto the page, rather than wait for the pop-up but there is no denying the helpful, practical nature of the CMS.

If its new features add flexibility and speed, then concrete5 could well be on its way to taking more market share from the major players.