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Content Management System

by Nicolas Bossut last modified 2007-02-07 09:58

A content management system (CMS) is a software system used to assist its users in the process of content management. A CMS facilitates the organization, control, and publication of a large body of documents and other content. A CMS often facilitates the collaborative creation of documents.

Excerpts of Thomas LOTZE, Christian THEUNE, Content management with Plone: Handbook for authos and editors, Updated for Plone 2.1, Berlin, 2006 and Thomas LOTZE, Christian THEUNE, Content Management mit Plone: Handbuch für Autoren und Redakteure, Neue Ausgabe für Plone ab Version 2.1.2 (Buy the book of our German partner SME, gocept)

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What is a CMS ?

Content management with Plone“Content management,” describes the process of organizing content, specifically in dealing with electronically generated documents. This can include text documents, as well as images, sounds, e-mails, databases, or event announcements. As a rule, it concerns any kind of information which can be saved onto a computer.

Through the prevalence of computers and data networks, especially the Internet, most of the information dealt with in many companies and institutions is now available digitally. A content management system makes it possible to organize joint information collectively. A CMS is primarily used in creating an intranet or establishing a presence on the Web. For doing this, there are customized as well as general solutions within these areas of operation. A customized CMS, for example, might be specialized in dealing with files, customer information, or images, whereas a general type CMS can be administered in a wide variety of applications.

Plone is a general type of CMS. At the same time, it can be customized to fit the special needs of various organizations. Examples of some of these might include Internet magazines, or public agencies. Alongside the storage of files, a CMS offers its users a wide variety of further advantages, which are listed as follows.

Freedom and Independence

  • Data is accessible twenty-four hours a day. You do not need to depend on the presence of a co-worker, or wait in getting through to a certain department when needing to access a statistic, read a report, or review a file.
  • Documents are specially processed automatically, so that you can review a document regardless of whether or not it has been formatted as a PDF file, as one of the application specific formats from programs like Open Office, Word, Excel, Access, or another format.
  • CMS can also make content available for physically disadvantaged users. A blind person can use a Braille display or screen reader to access text documents. In addition to that, adherence to standards such as “WAI-AAA” ensures that the user interfaces retain an appropriately high level of quality to meet the special needs of these people.
  • In the search for information, you no longer need to know which format the information has been saved in. Full-text searches gather information from documents of various formats (PDF, Word, Excel) as well as files, images, events, and databases. Sophisticated technology also makes it possible to find information without having a precise knowledge of wording.
  • You are not dependent on working out of a specific location. You are free to access a CMS using your laptop, mobile telephone, or PDA, just as you would using your desktop computer.


  • Through the storage of systematic information known as “metadata,” confusion caused by unnoticed application of conflicting or old documents is avoided. This increases the reliability of content which is managed by the CMS.
  • Publishing processes offer the option of automating the handling and release of company specific content corresponding to desired terms of reference and usage. In this way, the proper individuals retain current and reliable information over tasks to be completed, or carried out by others.
  • The inclusion of an archive also makes information which is no longer frequently needed accessible. This helps to avoid information which is still needed from being deleted.

Cooperative Work

  • The interlinking of the various types of information makes it possible to attend to numerous everyday tasks, bundeled together under the umbrella of a single system. A number of people, for instance, can be authorised to work on one page. Saved images from other users can be applied, and automated overview lists show recently modified items or give reminders concerning events.
  • Adherence to open source standards makes possible the application of information, taken from a CMS, in other information processing systems as well. For example, a CMS can consolidate news and events from other content management systems, such as one used by a press agency, and present these in edited form to the user.
  • A CMS allows for various forms of communication. On the one hand, a CMS supports a so-called “Push” communication form, whereby a centralized editor disperses information on outwards to the user. At the same time, users are able to enter information themselves, and make it available to others. It is often the case that a CMS includes areas which make use of screening and verification, in addition to having open areas with no screening. Blogs and forums belong to this latter group.
  • CMS users can be placed in roles according to their responsibilities and areas of work. Thus in a CMS, there are users who are responsible for the creation of content (authors), as well as those who review and release information (editors). At the same time, a user can be an editor in his or her own area, whereas he or she may be an author in another area, or even be limited to viewing information which has already been released. The assignment of roles to a single person not only enhances security, but also allows users of a CMS to make contact with the responsible parties.


  • Through managing content using security guidelines, a CMS ensures, on multiple levels, that documents be created, edited, released, archived, and viewed by authorised users only. Through accommodation of company specific demands, a CMS can be seamlessly integrated into the existing workflow.
  • Clear separation of security guidelines for users, roles, and specified groups in various areas of a CMS allow for flexible and secure handling of confidential data.