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Contao

Characteristics

Programming language: 

PHP

Initial release: 

2006

Open Source as of: 

2006

License: 

Current major release: 

3

Registered users: 

> 11 000

Core contributors: 

~ 36

Total downloads: 

> 800 000

Available languages: 

30
Nov 01, 2015

The browser-based content management system Contao was first released in 2006 under the name TYPOLight and was renamed in 2010, for it was often (mistakenly) held for a derivate of TYPO3.

Features

Templating system

Contao provides a simple and powerful templating system with a template for nearly any desired function, either based on web standard-compliant, accessible XHTML or HTML5.

By only using these standards, templates can be modified without any further precognition – no requirement of learning a proprietary script language.

File management

With the database-driven file system, content can be added and organised in folders through the Contao interface. It is also possible to uploaded multiple or larger files via FTP and synchronise them with the database.

News and events modules

News and Events functionality is already included in a basic Contao installation. In only a few simple steps a fully functional news area with comments, RSS-feed, archive and multiple topic channels is set up. List views or calendars for events are equally simple to configure. News or event posts can be created using module-specific settings or using default content elements, which allows for great flexibility.

Newsletter module

This streamlined module provides an easy newsletter registration and distribution. Visitors to the website can choose to subscribe to one or more newsletter channels via double-opt-in. Every newsletter can be sent as HTML or plain text with an individual input area for each version. Newsletter content can also be created using content elements instead.

Form generator

The powerful form generator provides all common form elements such as input and select fields, check-boxes, text areas, file upload, hidden fields and much more. Even complex forms can easily be created.

User and Permissions management

Contao categorically separates users (backend access for input and management of content) and members (frontend access for viewing and downloading of content). Using frontend modules, a password protected section of the website can be set up, not only providing members with login/logout but also optional account registration, password reminder, editing of personal member details and cancellation of accounts.

User rights can be set on several levels, may it be for editors or administrators with limited or full access privileges. They can be defined on a page, article or the file management level.

Multi-lingual and multiple websites

With Contao multiple websites can be comfortably set up in a single installation. For each site language and layout themes can be individually configured and domains assigned. Depending on the level of complexity even modules can be set up for multiple languages, thus reducing the number of required page layouts and themes.

Extension repository and live updates

Available extensions can be accessed and installed directly from the Contao backend (SOAP network protocol required – usually enabled with most hosting providers). The repository indicates available updates for installed extensions.

Given a ‚Live Update‘ ID (can be purchased for approx. 10.- Euro/year), installations can be updated straight from the backend.

In case SOAP protocol and/or live update ID is not available, updates and extensions can be manually installed and updated via FTP.

Search engine optimization (SEO)

Contao caters for all-important aspects of search engine optimisation and is ideal for on-page-SEO, providing among others:

  • clean source code
  • meaningful URLs and page titles
  • individual alternative text input for images
  • tools for internal cross-links
  • XML sitemap
  • Google Analytics and Piwik connectivity
  • meta references

Administrative planning relability

At the end of 2011, long-time support (LTS) was introduced to new release intervals for added planning reliability. Since autumn 2012 the release cycles have also been further refined. Apart from the clear regulations for backwards-compatibility administrators now also benefit from added planning reliability. Fixed release dates have been set: There will be a Contao feature release every six months, in May and November of every year. Bugfix-releases will continue to be published as and when required.

Advantages and characteristics

The greatest advantage of Contao is the powerful and expandable system architecture. Apart from ‘classic’ websites Contao also supports and caters for highly demanding projects. Webspace requirements are still minimal so that even basic hosting packages are sufficient for smaller Contao projects.

In the German-speaking regions there is a large and dedicated support-community which drives the development of Contao and its free extensions. A great choice of Contao documentations from the editors’ guide to the designers’ textbook, video training and the official community forum, are available for the day-to-day work with Contao.

The friendly and problem-solving oriented dialog in the community forum makes for a valuable first point of contact for exchange, know-how and support.

For professional support more than 240 registered Contao partners from over 10 countries are available in the categories web design, seminars, development and hosting (www.contao.org/de/partners.html). Additionally, a Contao training center is based in Aachen, Germany (www.contao-training.de).

Disadvantages

Contao does not natively cater for building large-scale online communities with self-contained blog, forum or content creation by frontend users. However, there are extensions enabling blog features in Contao.

Culture of dialog

In addition to the community forums several activities enable the dialog between users, developmers, the Contao team and those interested, whether it is the annual 2-day Contao Conference or the Contao Camp.

Many larger cities host a regular get-together.

The members of the Contao Association further promote and support the development and dialog with users.

Who can use Contao?

Contao is suitable for both committed beginners and professionals in website building. A well-thought-out system architecture makes for a very flexible use of the webCMS, with which small club sites as well as complex and highly frequented corporate websites can be built and managed.

Data of an international corporation shows that Contao caters for the highest of requirements:

  • 260 GB monthly traffic
  • 60 GB disk space
  • 570.000 data sets in 165 tables
  • 6,500 pages on 82 domains in 21 languages
  • 69 backend user (including 10 administrators)

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