Digitalus CMS: Open Source and (Mostly) Simple

6 minute read
Irina Guseva avatar

Digitalus CMS 1.5

Digitalus CMS is a fairly new player in the simple CMS market. Their first open source Zend/PHP-based version 1.0 was released in August 2008.

Recently, version 1.5 came out and caught our attention with new features like simple globalization capabilities, web-based installer and the 960 Grid system page layout management.

Some of Digitalus features are strikingly simple, others definitely call for some geeky brains.

While Digitalus CMS is still in very early stages of product maturity, it has made some good strides in improving the system and adding features that are usually found in any self-respectful CMS. With distances to go, Digitalus 1.5 brings the following features to the table today.

Installing Digitalus

In version 1.5 Digitalus started offering a web-based installer. There are many substantial updates in the core which are not visible, but make the CMS more configurable.

Digitalus works best in Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome. Compatibility with other browsers is in the works. If you want to install Digitalus, it requires a Web server to run on. There are many different configurations that may work, but the vendor recommends PHP 5.2+, Apache and MySQL 5.x.

Digitalus CMS Internationalization Features

Small initial steps were taken by the makers of Digitalus from multilingual, global content management perspective.

The following features were introduced in version 1.5:

  1. Multiple language versions of content pages
  2. Translatable admin interface

Option #1 gives you an opportunity to create a new, blank version of the same page and manually insert content in a different language. As of now, French, German and Polish languages are supported. Note that there’s no automatic translation here, which can be a good thing.

Once you create a page in, say, French, footer at the bottom of the page will update to “You are reading this page in english. This page is also translated into french.” The French hyperlink will take you to the page with French content on it.

In Option #2, admin interface is set to English by default, but you can localize it to one of the three available languages. The tabbed GUI we must note is quite simple to use.

internationalization digitalus.jpg

Digitalus CMS GUI Internationalized to French

As you can see, not all parts of the interface are localized into the language we selected. But, in general, you can certainly navigate the GUI, which is better than nothing.

Page Creation in Digitalus CMS

This task is pretty straightforward and doesn’t require much brain power. At the same time, there’s enough flexibility if you want to customize default pages.

digitalus new pages.jpg

Digitalus CMS: Creating a Page

Your site’s tree structure updates automatically once you add a new page.

Design Management in Digitalus

The new version of Digitalus CMS (finally) allows you to manage design and layouts from the GUI. But you really need to know what you’re doing when it comes to managing layouts in Digitalus. It doesn’t seem to be a trivial task.

digitalus page design.jpg

 Digitalus CMS: Layout and Design Management

We ended up with this after just selecting the 2-column default template, attaching a couple of default CSS files to it and entering some content:

not a pretty page.jpg

Sample Page Created in Digitalus CMS

The teaser text is the same design as the body text, as you can see. Not sure what happened to the logo in the top left corner. Left nav is kinda funky-looking. Granted the page is not that pretty, but it took us mere minutes to throw it together.

However, if you’re willing to put in some development effort, you can create some decent looking sites in Digitalus. At least that’s what they say in the product's user forum.

Templating With 960 Grid

One of the highlights of Digitalus CMS 1.5 is integration with the CSS framework called 960 Grid. The 960 Grid System aims to streamline Web development work by providing commonly used dimensions, based on a width of 960 pixels. The Grid 960 helper builds the CSS grid for this technique. This approach also helps in building cross-browser friendly layouts.

A helper is basically a CSS PHP class in the Zend Framework (which has tools that "would make a .NET programmer green with envy," as they say on digitaluscms.com). By default, the class is prefixed with 'Zend_View_Helper_', and the last segment of the class name is the helper name. The grid 960 helper has grown into what Forrest Lyman, president of Digitalus Media, refers to as a component. It is now part of the core library.

The component builds an XHTML layout grid and adds all proper classes to integrate with the Grid 960 CSS framework. While this component is very useful it is not mandatory, you can still build standard Zend_View scripts for the layouts, emphasizes Lyman.

In Digitalus, you start with a new grid control:

$grid = new DSF_Interface_Grid(16);

Learning Opportunities

Then add elements to it and populate with content:

$header = $grid->addElement('header', 16);
$header->setContent('sample header content');

When you are done you call the render() method: 

echo $grid->render();

Sample Grid.php source code can be found here

New Content Types

We all have different interpretations of what a “content type” is. In case with Digitalus, we’re referring to support for WYSIWYG, textile and raw HTML.

Digitalus CMS Image Manager

There is no Digital Asset Management in its true sense with versioning, metadata, workflow, etc. But there are some image management capabilities in Digitalus CMS, including creation of media subfolders and uploading images.

Note that when you want to insert the uploaded image into a text field, you’re up for a surprise. Instead of some sort of a user-friendly selection box, you are faced with a URL source option.

image insert huh.jpg

Inserting Images in Digitalus CMS

Resizing, cropping and otherwise messing with digital assets from the GUI is not an option either. We haven't tried uploading file types other than .jpg. Give it a try and share your experiences.

Digitalus CMS Permissions and User Management

Version 1.5 boasts enhanced security features with “fine grained control over user permissions.”

digitalus user permissions.jpg

Digitalus CMS User Permissions

User management in Digitalus is quite simple. You can create two types of users: Site Administrator (granular control) and Super Administrator (access to everything). Authentication is also specified in the GUI by setting an e-mail as username and password credentials.

Adding multiple users can be a “tedious task” as they say in the Digitalus Wiki. That is why the CMS allows you to clone other user's permissions using Copy User Permissions feature.

Overall, user and permissions management features are quite simplistic and could use more work both in functionality and user-friendliness. At this time, you can add individual users and set permissions, but user groups are apparently not part of the offering.

Digitalus CMS in the Simple CMS Microcosm

Overall, Digitalus has made a good effort updating their CMS in this point release. In the saturated open source CMS market, it’s all about what suits your needs best and which cons you can live with. This micro CMS is quite new and may not be functionally suitable for all scenarios.

Compare Digitalus to SilverStripe, Zimplit, SkyBlueCanvas and Edicy in the open source and micro CMS markets.

It is also worth taking a look at some of the blogging platforms like WordPress, if you’re on the market for a new CMS/publishing tool.

Digitalus CMS installer and more information can be found here. Check it out and let us know your thoughts.