Not everyone’s completely tech-savvy, which is the main reason why a lot of businesses or individuals spend large sums of money to get a website up and running. Many of these people don’t realize that maintaining a website on a budget can be much simpler and cheaper than you would expect. In fact, all you seem to need nowadays is a good web host and the rest can be done quickly, and at almost no cost whatsoever.
But what about the rest? With a really nifty content-management system called PyroCMS, this needn’t be something to worry about. In this article, I’ll be showing you how to get PyroCMS installed on a LAMP web server and the basics of creating content and working with the highly-extensible system it offers.
PyroCMS is a free and open source content management system — meaning that it’s always being improved and the working files can be accessed before each official release through the code repository. Sporting a great design and one of the best interfaces out there, the control panel is one of the easiest to use, regardless of technical skill.
Despite being a newcomer, it has already gathered a community of fans, ensuring that fresh addons and themes are developed to ensure webmasters can make the most of their shiny new Pyro-powered websites.
To install PyroCMS, you’re going to need the following:
- A web hosting account or a server with Apache installed (other HTTP servers may work but for best results, Apache is recommended).
- PHP 5.2 or higher and MySQL installed and configured for use.
- The GD2 graphics library (optional) configured to work with the server (some hosts may install or enable this upon request).
- The cURL library (optional).
I’m not going to go into the finer details of finding a web host but for the purposes of this article, I’m going to be using a web server running Linux with Apache as the HTTP server.
The first step to using PyroCMS is to install it onto your web server or hosting account. To do this, navigate to the PyroCMS website and download the latest version of the script. Either by doing this on your computer first and then uploading the files, or doing it entirely on the server, extract all of the files to the desired location.
For example, if you’re going to be installing the script in a sub-folder of your website (such as “http://domain.com/pyrocms/” ), all you need to do is rename the folder contained within the ZIP file to “pyrocms” and then upload this to your website’s root folder. You can then begin the installation process by visiting the location on your server in which you placed the files.
The first step of the installer requires you to enter your the MySQL user details associated with the database that will be used. If your website is hosted on a shared hosting plan, chances are that you’ll be able to modify and create users through your control panel quite easily.
Once you’ve got these details, enter them into the PyroCMS installer along with your database host and port (in most cases, these can be left as “localhost” and “3306”). You’re then required to choose which server you’re running and the configuration for it you’d like to use. I’ve chosen “Apache (with mod_rewrite)” because I prefer to use pretty URLs where possible and I know that my server is correctly configured but if you don’t know if your server is set up to use mod_rewrite, keep this setting as it is.
After this step, the script will automatically check your server for the necessary requirements and if they are all met, setup will continue.
The script will then check for the required file permissions on each of the folders that is required to be made writeable. Should these be incorrect, you can modify these manually using a file manager, FTP client or via the command line (which is probably the easiest option as the installer automatically generates the commands that need to be run).
Finishing the Installation
The final step requires you to enter the name of the database and also some basic details for the main administrator user account of the PyroCMS installation. To add the database details, the database must already exist on your server but failing this, it’s possible to let the installer attempt to create it for you or you can use your hosting panel, a web-based database manager such as phpMyAdmin or the more lightweight SQLBuddy, or even create it at the command line.
Once this is complete, you’ll be presented with the login credentials you entered as well as the links to access your new website’s homepage and control panel. You’re required to delete the installation directory (“http://domain/pyrocms/installer/”) from your server for security reasons but once this is complete, you can begin to take full advantage of PyroCMS.
Update Site Settings
Now that PyroCMS is installed, one of the first things that you’re going to want to do is update the settings to reflect those of your website.
The main things that are going to need changing are the site name and slogan which are shown throughout the website but there are many other aspects of the installation that can be edited to provide a better experience using the CMS.
Some of these settings include Google Analytics integration, to allow site usage statistics to be gathered using Google’s popular service and a graph showing these to be shown inside the control panel. Additionally, there is also fairly good Twitter support, allowing new articles to automatically be pushed to a Twitter account as they are published, as well as support for Akismet spam removal and many other useful integrations without requiring third-party plugins.
Managing content is what PyroCMS is good at and its built-in editors ensure that it can be done in the easiest and most user-friendly way. All of the settings are self-explanatory, making them ideal for the less technologically-advanced users and there are several types of content you can create using PyroCMS:
News: This is a blog-style system in which administrators can post content regularly and allow visitors to comment on them. Articles can be added and categorised for easy-navigation for visitors and it’s also possible to add an introduction if you’d prefer users to click onto the article’s link before being allowed to read the remainder of the article.
Pages: These are static pages that contain content that is unlikely to change regularly. It’s possible to enable comments on static pages as well as an RSS feed where any child pages will automatically show when created. Typical uses for this type of page are “about us”, “contact us”, etc. pages.
Galleries: This is self-explanatory and using this method, administrators are allowed to create virtual image galleries and upload files to these without having to go to the trouble of uploading each image manually and then linking to or including them on another page.
Comments can also be easily-managed within the PyroCMS admin panel through the link in the sidebar.
Themes & Modules
Because PyroCMS has a focus on simplicity whilst still giving full control, this is no different in relation to the various extensible aspects of the CMS. It supports the installation of third-party themes and modules, giving administrators an easy environment in which they can install and manage these.
Themes and modules can be downloaded from the PyroCMS store either for free or for a small fee, and can then be installed to a PyroCMS installation by using the purpose-built uploaders in the “Theme” and “Add-ons” sections of the control panel.
I’ve been following PyroCMS since before its first beta release and from the start, I’ve had high hopes for the CMS. Despite being fairly new, it looks and feels incredible to use, and the fact that it’s still the early days for the software certainly holds a lot of promise.
PyroCMS takes everything good about some of the more powerful CMSes and brings them to the table without making the mistake many others have made — implementing them in a way that makes the features impossibly difficult to use. I think that one of the current problems is the lack of community-contributed plugins, but as the software grows, I believe that this will cease to be a hinderance.
Overall, I believe that PyroCMS, while still a newcomer in this field, has managed to do the impossible and make managing content both simple and pleasant.