edit · print · PDF

Please note that all the SIEpedia's articles address specific issues or questions raised by IAC users, so they do not attempt to be rigorous or exhaustive, and may or may not be useful or applicable in different or more general contexts.

Web Collaboration and CMS tools

There exist several types of web applications to develop web sites for research groups and projects, depending on the type of content and use, all of them built on some server-side language such as PHP, Python or Perl. In general, there are three types of tools: the Content Administration Systems (CMS), Collaborative tools and Wikis. However, the division line between them is a little fuzzy. Here we describe them briefly, and comment on which tools we have selected and use here at the IAC.

Content Administration Systems (CMS)

They are the most widely used and they are geared to build general purpose web sites. With a CMS you can create and modify web pages on-line with an ordered structure and usually with a navigation menu system and other utilities. More complete CMS includes modules with image galleries, forums, and many more.

There are hundreds of CMS written in different programming languages. For small personal and research project sites, we recommend Website Baker, a very simple and easy to use Open Source CMS; it requires PHP and MySQL. Here at the IAC we use Website Baker to develop Web sites for Conferences and Meetings. If you are thinking of a bigger site, you can consider Joomla!, a very complete portal-like CMS full of features, also Open Source with PHP and MySQL. Joomla-based Web sites are Consolider-Ingenio-GTC and the HELAS IT platform.

Collaborative tools

They are web applications with a set of tools to organize working groups. They usually contain calendar events, address books, time sheets, task managers, etc. which group members can use in a restricted area. They are commonly used in intranets, but can be installed anywhere.

We are using eGroupWare, a very friendly and complete collaborative work system, which includes also a small wiki as well as other useful tools. Another option is tWiki, which is actually a Wiki, but with several modules for project management available; twiki is widely used by the scientific community.


Wikis are among the most collaborative tools. With them, anyone can create web sites fast and easy using a simple code; pages can be open to anyone, or be password-restricted. Wikis are ideal when there are many people who need to write many things (for instance the Wikipedia), but can be maintained by just one user to write guides, meeting minutes, short articles, etc. Wikis have many success because they are very flexible, though they have some limitations and are not so easy to maintain and organize if many people are contributing and if they expand quickly in size.

For a wiki we recommend PmWiki, a simple but powerful wiki which we use with success in our Intranet SIEWiki, and is also the engine of this SIEpedia. PmWiki is written in PHP and does not require a database. Again, tWiki is a more complete wiki with a bigger user community, but it usage is a bit more complicated.

A more exhaustive and detailed account of collaborative Web tools can be found in http://www.opensourcecms.com/.

edit · print · PDF
Page last modified on April 07, 2008, at 10:11 PM