Get Back to the Basics with GetSimple CMS

It’s no secret that I am a huge WordPress advocate. It’s full-featured, extendable, and super powerful. However, depending on the project it could be overkill. You need space and a database backend, and you’ll end up with a lot of features that some clients might not use. Especially if you’re making a site that won’t be updated often, most of WordPress’ features will go untouched.

Luckily, there are a bunch of lightweight CMSs. One of them is GetSimple CMS, a promising newer CMS that . Today, we’ll take a closer look at that.

GetSimple CMS is a lightweight, XML based content management system (CMS) that is quick and easy to install, and even easier to use. Since there is no database, there is minimal necessary interaction with the server (just FTP), and its goal to cater to small (1-15 page) sites means that the features are only the ones necessary. Let’s take a look!

GetSimple CMS Homepage

Install and Setup

Install and setup is super easy. Just FTP the GetSimple CMS files to your server and visit the proper URL. The first time you’ll be taken to a 2 part install. The first part is making sure everything you need is on your server. The second part is the initial settings and actual install!

Install - Server Check

Once you complete the install, you’ll be emailed your username and password and you’ll be good to go! To get to the admin panel, point your browser to www.yoururl.com/admin/.

Install- Site Settings

On the admin panel, you’ll see tabs for: Pages, Files, Themes, Backups, and Plugins. You’ll also see a Settings link to the right. There is no dashboard like other popular CMSs. Just login and start editing!

Let’s go ahead and walk through the GetSimple CMS Admin!

Managing Pages

Obviously the most important part of the CMS is creating and managing pages. GetSimple CMS makes that incredible easy.

Pages Panel

Under the Pages tab you’ll see a list of your pages, the last time they were each updated, and a way to view and delete them. The only page you cannot delete is the one you’ve dedicated as the index page. Add a new page using the button on the right, click on a page title to edit the page itself.

When you go to a page’s editor (screen below is editing my “Hello World” page), you’re presented with an editor a few simple options for rich text (bold, underline, etc.) as well as a way to edit the HTML.

Page Editor

From here you can change the text of the page, format it as you’d like, add links, and insert already uploaded files (images, PDFs, etc.) into the post. To edit the source, simply click on the “Source” button. There are also some more ‘administrative’ options if you click the “Page Options” button.

Page Options

You can change the slug (for the URL), add keywords/tags and a description for SEO purposes, assign a parent page and template (if your theme support multiple page templates), and make the page private. There are also a few menu options for adding the page to the navigation and changing the menu text and order.

One issue I have with the page edit is while it’s very simple (which is good), you cannot upload files from the page editor. You have to do that in the Files section, which I feel creates too many steps to do something as easy as inserting an image. That being said, lets head on over to the Files tab.

Managing Files

Managing files in GetSimple CMS is incredibly easy; the interface, much like the manage pages tab, is clean and simple. There is a list of your files, each size, and the date each file was uploaded. There is also a way to delete each file.

Files Panel

You can upload files by clicking the Upload button on the right. It’s a flash uploader, so it supports adding several files at once. You can also upload any file type you’d like, though there is some added functionality if you upload images.

Clicking on most files will bring you to the file itself. However, for images GetSimple CMS has a basic image control panel where you can grab a set of links/html for the image as well as modify the thumbnail of the image.

Image Control Panel (image is a screenshot of the editor)

While CMSs like WordPress come with a full image editor, I like that GetSimple CMS stays true to its name and only includes the functionality needed here.

Themes

GetSimple CMS also allows you to manage themes. On the Theme page you’ll see a drop down to select any installed themes you have. To the right, you’ll see a number of options (including any theme specific options) to manage your themes.

Themes Panel

Most of the options are self explanatory, but I did want to mention the “Edit Components” area. GetSimple CMS allows you to create snippets of text/HTML that you can throw anywhere in your theme. Sidebar and Tagline are there by default, but you can create any kind of component you want and then insert it into the theme using the code provided to you.

Component Editor

This is a pretty interesting idea and while it might not be very user friendly to non-tech users, it can be incredibly handy for the developers who need to add a little something extra to a custom theme they’re developing.

Creating Themes

Creating themes could certainly be its own tutorial; however, I did want to touch on the topic for those looking to try out the CMS.

To create a theme, add a folder in GetSimple CMS’s /theme/ directory on your server. You only need one file: template.php. In it will go the mark-up that lays out eachpage.

GetSimple CMS will automatically add a new theme to the Theme tab, the name of the theme being the name of the directory you added (IE if the directory is named /Test/, the theme will be named Test).

Some other files worth including are (much like WordPress): header.php, footer.php, style.css, functions.php, and sidebar.php. If you’re familiar with WordPress, you’ll see GetSimple CMS is heavily influenced by it.

For a more comprehensive guide on GetSimple CMS theme development, you can visit the GetSimple CMS Wiki.

Backups

Under the Backups tab, you’ll find a list of older versions of your page, like a versioning system for pages you’ve created. This is a very nice touch by the developers of GetSimple CMS, who understand that..ummm…accidents happen.

Backups Panel

There is also an option under Backups called Website Archive, which will allow you to create a full, downloadable backup of the site.

Your server needs to support ZipArchive in order for Website Archive to work.

Plugins

The last major feature of GetSimple CMS is the Plugins manager. Much like WordPress, you can extend the functionality of GetSimple CMS by installing plugins.

Plugins Panel

To install a plugin, head on over to the GetSimple Plugin Directory, download the plugin and then upload it to GetSimple CMS’s /plugins/ folder on your sever. Then go to the Plugins tab and enable that plugin.

Settings

Finally, there is a simple Settings panel in GetSimple CMS.

Settings Panel

From here you can change the title of the site, create prettier links (permalinks), and change a few important settings like site URL, timezone, and admin password.

Again, there isn’t too much to the settings, but just enough. As the name suggests, the CMS keeps it simple!

Conclusion

GetSimple CMS is a lightweight, easy to install CMS with a very specific scope- allow people to update their website’s pages. While you can do other things like edit thumbnails and install plugins, GetSimple CMS is a lean way to allow non-tech people to update a site. Certain things, like installing themes and plugins, aren’t as easy as they would be on a full-featured CMS, so there may be a greater dependency on the developer. However GetSimple CMS can definitely serve a great niche- those who need a quick, lightweight site they want to update themselves without all of the bells and whistles of something like WordPress.

I can definitely see myself using GetSimple CMS for future projects. Have you ever tried out GetSimple CMS, or do you have any sites powered by it? We’d love to hear if you’re putting it to use, or plan to try it out in the near future!


Summary

GetSimple CMS is a lightweight, easy to install CMS with a very specific scope- allow people to update their website's pages. It's XML based, so no database required, and it best for 1-15 brochure sites.

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  • I have been using GetSimple for long time and I made a first client work with it too! (http://salonnakovammaiset.fi).

    Also, I’m translating GetSimple into finnish: http://get-simple.info/extend/language/finnish-language/106/

    I really like GetSimple, it’s easily one of my favorite CMS’s. Simplicity and well designed are the big pluses of GS.

    I’m hoping that in future, there would be one-click updates too :)

  • GetSimple looks pretty good, I’ll give it a shot.

    Another very simple PHP based CMS that I’ve used successfully in the past is Frog CMS: http://www.madebyfrog.com/

    • Ah, that’s interesting. I’ve never heard of a CMS made by a frog 😛

      But actually, that does look useful. I’ll have to check it out sometime. Thanks for sharing!

    • Nice- I used Frog a while back but didn’t give it much of a chance. I’ll have to revisit it!

    • Just had a look at Frog CMS, cloned the GIT Hub repo and the last push date was 12th May 2009 so looks like it hasn’t been updated in over 2 years !

    • FrogCMS is really simple and lightweight! Will give it another shot :) Glad that people are aware about it :)

      • I believe WolfCMS is very similar to Frog but it’s being updated more often. http://www.wolfcms.org/

    • Wolf CMS was originally a fork of Frog CMS which is effectively dead. Except for its project lead, all team members moved over to Wolf CMS due to differences of opinion on the future of the Frog CMS project.

      Since the fork happened, no commits were done on Frog CMS. After the Wolf CMS project was started, loads of fixes, features and security improvements were added.

      Note for transparency: I’m the Wolf CMS lead dev.

  • I used it on many sites already this year. I usually work in larger teams on large scale projects professionally (WebSphere, sops, …) , but for smaller clients I use GetSimple, ModX or WordPress.
    I actually hope to convince a very large customer to use GS for their landing pages…

  • I’m a German user excited about GetSimple. I’ll be frank about the fact that I am a forum moderator and one of the curators for the German support site.

    GetSimple has some fantastic plugin developers who wildly extend the out-of-the-box functionalilty: multi-lingualism, picture galleries, a blog system, mp3 player support, external commenting, enhancing the components feature with dynamic language addition and the ability to put components into pages instead of “only” the template, sitemap generation, linkrolls, random quotes, multi-user support… and the list goes on.

  • because GetSimple is such a good system, we made the german website for it, and our site proofs that it is capable to handle more than 1-5 pages, we have around 100 pages now
    and it will be more.

    So, if you need support in german language, tutorials, tipps and tricks, our site is at hand!

    Cheers and thank you for the positive review!

    Connie

  • I see no admin link/login for their demo. The feedback from users is pretty bad. Seems activex is used in some places? If thats the case, its pretty hard to respect any dev that makes that choice.

    • I didn’t see active-x used anywhere on the site. Whoever said that may be mistaken with the Flash uploader. I did the review on a Mac and everything (except for what my server didn’t have installed) worked fined.

    • We do not use ActiveX for any component, and those two reviews that seem bad are pretty much the only two on the site that are negative. (Most things they complain about are untrue) Try us out, I am sure you will be impressed.

      The OpenSourceCMS demo site is a little confusing at times… The login link is hidden in the toolbar at the bottom of the window…

  • Try this fast and lightweight CMS http://template-cms.org/

  • What’s happening?

  • To everybody who loves GetSimple CMS as much as we do and who’s looking for professionally designed themes for this awesome little gem, please have a look at the themes available at GetSimpleThemes

  • I use GetSimple for our smaller sites and works great, very easy to use and good community support. Also great to use XML instead of SQL which speeds things up a lot!

  • berta cms is a very simple solution, still in progress though. No database as well, but different approach to the whole process: http://www.berta.me

  • I wanted to create a simple educational site on Chemistry subject. Using GetSimple CMS, I was able to set it up and running in less than ten minutes though it was for the first I used any CMS. The best part is the backup option is included which has saved me many times.
    Well Done Chris! thanks a bunch

  • Hello from Toronto, I am a user of GetSimple and I love it. I keep discovering features that ven the new version of WordPress has troubles with them. At the moment I have three sites based on GetSimple: http://www.helcan.com/ my homepage, http://www.zk.ellada-mas.com/ and a brand new one at http://blog.helcan.com/ (ths will probably be for my 8 years old Grand Daughter. I am using the Default_Simple theme on all of them and I do have one problem with the header menu which has limited capacity for links. I have been trying a to find a way to increase the height (links jump in to second row, but then they block the titles and text below in the main area). But despite all that, I am very excited with GetSimple. I managed to add my links in groups and they behave like a category (especially http://www.zk.ellada-mas.com/)

    Good luck with your business and have a very Happy New Year

    Costas

  • very easy to use and good community support.

  • Two very nice get simple sites:
    http://www.lainasto.fi
    http://www.reissuvippi.fi

  • We are running a $1,800 giveaway for theme and plugin developers to help GetSimple fill out our Extend repository. Check it out here: http://get-simple.info/create-a-thon/

  • I made a lean, simple site in GetSimple for a real estate cient here: http://www.leitberg.de. It was totally different work, I am used to develop with TYPO3.