CMS, Umbraco

The Whole Truth About Umbraco

The other day my colleague was providing an Open-source .Net CMSs overview . In this article I’d like to discuss one of the most popular and long-playing of them-Umbraco CMS.


Umbraco is a non-specialized content management system platform for creating web-solutions of scenarios ranging from simple to incredibly complex. Niels Hartvig, a Danish programmer, was the man who started developing Umbraco. Since it was released as open source software in 2004, its development is continued by Niels Hartvig’s team as well as by a wide developers community.

Umbraco is developed on ASP.NET platform, which is popular among professional programmers and is one of the most frequently used in the Internet along with JSP and PHP.

Umbraco and DotNetNuke are the most well-known ASP.NET CMSs. At the official Umbraco site it is said that the CMS currently powers more than 85.000 websites worldwide. In fact, it is much more than that. To finally convince you that Umbraco is a rather serious thing, it is appropriate to mention some large projects using it –,,,,, Denmark MSDN Community.

Unlike many other CMSs, Umbraco is not a turnkey program solution right after installation – it’s impossible to start editing site content without preliminary actions. At the same time it provides developers with an easy and convenient environment, allowing them to create a site that would meet specific requirements.


1. Right after installing Umbraco you get a fully featured environment for storing and editing any data. Need to store content of the articles, information about employees, friends, companies, photo albums etc.?-no problem! You don’t have to study principles of work with databases, HTML or programming languages to do this. Type of documents is created with the aid of visual means, as well as fields belonging to it; places for these data on the site are also determined. Afterwards, documents content is added in the section of content editing. If needed in the future, it is possible to change required data fields as one pleases: f.ex. you can add a new field for contact information to the card of an employee.

2. Extension by standard tools – a developer doesn’t have to study some special language. One can use a favorite HTML editor – Visual Studio or Dreamweaver. All development is lead with standard ASP.NET means: master-page, HTML, ASP.NET controls. Plus there are add-ons on the basis of XSLT or Razor technologies.

3. Full control of the site appearance – such notions as themes and skins, that to a much extent limit web-developers possibilities, are not basic here. Everything a developer can do with ASP.NET master-pages tools, HTML, CSS is available in Umbraco development.

4. A convenient environment for filling a site with content is prepared for end-users. For formatted content one of the best editors TinyMCE is used. It has been improved for choosing and pasting media files. Users work with various data on the site in a common style, whether it is a photo gallery or company’s clients list. Therefore, it doesn’t cause much trouble for the users to learn the administrative part.

5. A very quick development of the sections that require only viewing information; API to organize various types of feedback.

6. A great amount of accessible extensions at the official support site. The CMS is quite popular, so the community is pretty large. That is why it is quite possible that there is already an answer to all your questions or a ready extension module has been already developed.

7. Splendid possibilities for code reuse. Once created a macros or a control can be easily applied in different places of the ongoing project or any other one.

8. Multilanguage support: terms dictionary, translation of the content 1 to 1 or an independent language site sections. There is a special functionality for translators in the administrative part.


1. It’s quite challenging to use the system right after installing. Umbraco is intended for developers and requires customization for a specific project before users are to see the site pages and to perform content editing. However, while installing one can choose a starter package that installs an appropriate initial structure for a blog, a personal or a news site. But still, customization is necessary.

2. A programmer, who is not familiar with the CMS, will not be able to start developing a site straightway, having to spend his time on studying the system and its possibilities.

3. The standard release of Umbraco requires full trust mode with extended rights for site work. Not all the hosting services permit it.

4. Site content support in XML may cause some complications with productivity on very big sites (several thousand nodes). In this case it is recommended to remember about page caching, macros output. Also, if there is a big amount of data, it is advised to store the records in the databases tables exclusively, not in Umbraco node-documents.

These are all advantages and disadvantages of using Umbraco we have experienced so far. You are welcome to add your own points to the list.

As usual, I’d be glad to see your comments, thoughts, sharing of experience, impressions and everything related to it right under the article 🙂


Nadya Klim

Business Development Manager


8 thoughts on “The Whole Truth About Umbraco”

  1. Pretty accurate. I myself am attempting to “start learning”, but I’m finding it difficult. The coming v6 doesn’t make my life exactly easier b/c there are no tutorials available at this point :/ Unless someone can proove me wrong (which I’m hoping for)

  2. Hello,

    Two things you need to correct concerning the cons :

    1 : Umbraco can run in Medium Trust, just update the web.config

    2 : Umbraco has no problem with performance with its XML caching, I have a site containing exactly 3200 documents and it generates pages in ~60/100ms. it’s important to know that the XML cache is stored in memory, and is refreshed (async) only when a modification is made to the contents. In fact, I chose Umbraco because of it’s very performant cache system.

    Personnaly, I found this CMS very easy to use and develop with, the learning curve is really short and straight. But I understand this might be a matter of experience with CMSs.

    1. In my experience the XML cache is only really a problem when content changes are frequent. The XML cache is a bit of a lazy solution for performance – sure, it ensures that performance is good even with a slow database but it should really be swappable for something more elegant.

      Am I wrong in thinking the XML cache was motivated by XSLT support? Now that XSLT has been more or less exorcised I think the XML cache will disappear sooner or later.

      I’d agree that Umbraco is very easy to use but the documentation is terrible and the reliance on screen-casts drives me totally barmy.

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