Joe Workman’s Easy and Total CMS Stack Suites

Easy CMS & Total CMS | $49.95 one off and $99.95 per domain | Joe Workman

Rapidweaver stalwart (and all-round force-of-nature) Joe Workman has released two content management systems (CMS) for Rapidweaver. These allow anyone to edit parts of a website directly from a web browser without having to own Rapidweaver. This is obviously useful for anyone who builds sites for money because they can now offer clients the ability to maintain their own websites rather than having to keep going back to the developer every time they want to change something.

There have been a number of successful CMS offerings for Rapidweaver before, including Armadillo, Dropkick CMS, Kuler Edits and Client Edit (no longer readily available but still good) but Easy CMS and Total CMS take a rather different approach. Before we get into it, let’s look at the differences between the two.

Easy CMS allows the user to edit text and individual images. It has a one-off cost of $49.95.

Total CMS adds support for a whole load of other content types – picture galleries and slideshows, file downloads and uploads (all popular types are supported including PDF, ZIP and JPG) a newsfeed for photos and text, stacks for password protecting the CMS and logging out and the ability to add a video URL from YouTube or Vimeo. It has a one off cost of $99.95 per domain; which means you have to purchase the product every time you want to use it on a new website.

The concept behind Easy CMS and Total CMS is the same and quite different to any other content management system for Rapidweaver we’ve used. It works like this. Every element that you want to make editable is made up of two stacks – a content stack and an admin stack – which are linked together using a unique ID of your choice. To begin, you create an admin page (this is just a Stacks page) and add the Admin Core stack which contains some basic settings that are reflected throughout the whole CMS, such as the colours used for icons and buttons; in addition you can specify which formatting controls will be available when anyone uses the built-in Hipwig text editor. Then, if you want to create some editable text you drag out a Text Admin stack, give it an ID, then save it. Next you create another new page – let’s call it News – and drag out a Text Content stack onto that. Give that stack the same ID as the Text Admin stack and then publish your site. You can now open your Admin page, add text to the Text Admin stack and have it appear in the Text Content stack as soon as you save and refresh the page. There’s no database to set up and no back end settings to fiddle with – something that casual or non-technical users will appreciate.

For professional or part-time Rapidweaver developers who make sites for other people, it’s a great opportunity to build a really nice set of Admin pages for their clients that – courtesy of Stacks 3’s Partials feature – can be used again and again. Alternatively, you could build a single Admin page with a tab or toggle stack and assign editable pages to the tabs or toggles; remember too that because Admin pages are just Stacks pages they can be branded with your logo (or the client’s logo) and include purpose-built instructions to help people navigate through the features of whatever stacks you choose to include. For someone who want to periodically change a rotating banner for example, you might remind them that the file needs to be a JPG and should be 1200×500 pixels, or whatever.

Of course, this means you have to design every editable page twice (once on the content side, once on the admin side) but although this will take time initially, such pages can be re-purposed for other websites which will save time in the future.

In addition, although Total CMS ships with a collection of stacks for displaying content, you can also use any stack that allows you to enter text into the stack itself. That’s because Admin stacks are linked to their respective Content using a simple macro (this is what an Admin/Content stack ID is) so if you’ve got a stack like Doobox’ Tab stack which allows you to double click and edit each tab title, then you can make each of these tabs editable via the CMS.

The CMS also does something else interesting – it allows you to edit content within Rapidweaver as well as in a web browser. This means you could create, for example, some initial content in the project itself as a guide to the client before publishing the site and passing the whole thing over to them. The CMS stores all of the content – text, images, video – in a folder on the web server and the Rapidweaver project file pulls the data down from that so it’s always up to date.

Total CMS is a remarkable piece of work and one that will have a significant impact, especially for anyone who builds websites for other people. We now have a solution that allows us to compete with alternatives like WordPress on a much more level playing field (and without any of the pesky security concerns asssociated with using database-driven sites). The cost per domain (a spit under $100) is negligible and can easily be incorporated into any quote – and it will also be transferable, so if the domain associated with a particular copy of Total CMS stops being used, that license can be transferred to another, new domain. At $49.95, Easy CMS is a great budget solution that allows your clients to edit their text and images in a simple, intelligent way. One caveat: EasyCMS doesn’t include a way of setting up a client login page as standard, so you’ll either have to buy a third party stack (Joe Worman bundles it with PageSafe for a few dollars off) or control access to the admin folder at the host server end. This is a baffling omission.

As with many of the more complicated Rapidweaver-related products, we wish Total CMS came with a manual. There are video tutorials, verbatim Google Hangout recordings with the author and various users along with some online documentation, but it’s scattered in different locations and not coherently organised enough for our liking**; there are still too many simple or basic questions that you’ll probably have to ask the developer directly. In addition, we’d also like the icons for the content and equivalent admin stacks to be differentiated more clearly; the recent update addressed our concerns about an over-reliance on Markdown (loved by techies, but bamboozling for ordinary folk) and the new Hipwig editor seems much better.

For the odd bit of text management, we’ll still probably use Kuler Edits and Yuzool’s Dropkick CMS is still a powerful way to control your content for those confident in setting up a MySQL database, but Total CMS has taken Rapidweaver content management to a new level. Think of it: any stack that you can type text into – overlays in a slideshow, tracks in a media player, tabs in a tab stack, together with all the standard text stacks – can have its content controlled by the CMS.

The author has already announced the first ‘companion’ stack for the CMS – the Impact slideshow – which will be integrated more tightly with the main system and allow users to control the content of both the slides and text overlays, and we’re convinced that Total CMS will develop from here in leaps and bounds. Really, it’s a whole new world.


[**Joe tells me you can now find everything in one place, including a link to a YouTube playlist with 20 videos on the CMS. Ed.]


Rob Beattie

Rob Beattie is a freelance copywriter who designs sites using Rapidweaver. He's been reviewing computer hardware, software and web services since 1981. Yes...that long. And he's also the author of 101 Things to Do in a Shed , Fishing: A Very Peculiar History , and The Bluffer's Guide to Fishing