Altabel Group's Blog

In Pursuit of the Best Open Source Java CMS

Posted on: June 12, 2013

Today comparing software on a market is a difficult task. Each product comes from a market / technology niche with great specific features developed by passionate people and open source lovers. There is no doubt the most appropriate CMS will depend on what one is trying to use it for, but let us try to have sort of a general comparison and see what definitely should be on our Java CMS shortlist.

There are so many Open Source Java CMS but let me focus on some of them which are considered quite popular now and they are Hippo, Magnolia and Jahia.


Hippo contains an optimal combination of enterprise architecture capabilities, fast development possibilities and values of open integration. It enables you to gain the power to be open for integration with any technology that you require to manage, optimize and create high-impact customer experiences.

This CMS is really about managing content for multi-channel publication: web, mobile, social, print, etc. Separation of content from presentation is the cornerstone of the product.

Speaking of analytics systems like Webtrends, Omniture and Google Analytics Hippo CMS makes it possible for you easily embed tracking codes into content to feed analytics systems. You can also observe your content effectiveness, as Hippo exposes data collected by analytics systems in the CMS.

In terms of ecommerce, Hippo has been integrated with many custom eCommerce solutions. Take ATG, Konakart, Magento and IBM WebSphere Commerce as example. Due to the open interfaces of all Hippo components, it works whatever eCommerce system you chose.

Hippo format neutral way of managing content makes it a great source for publishing into portals. So, if your extranet or intranet runs in a portal environment, then it is not necessary to rebuild it with Hippo if you want to increase it with centrally managed content. Hippo plays nicely with all major portals and has been integrated with portals like Liferay, JBoss, SAP and Websphere Portal.

Hippo Pros:
• flexible content structure & faceted navigation
• integration with some external applications
• portal alike functionalities/ integrations
• a lot of sub-sites with sharing content capabilities


Magnolia powers the websites of government as well as leading Fortune 500 enterprises in more than 100 countries on all continents of the world. It is a leading CMS favored for its ease of use and license. The page editing interface enables authors to lay out content exactly as it would appear to the Web site visitor.

Magnolia is similar to Hippo in lots of ways, except that it’s very much focused on managing smaller, “single” websites. Magnolia CMS is not a framework to build web applications, however can be used to manage data. You can for instance manage products and use them as content for web pages.

Authors no longer need to switch between different navigation mechanisms to make a small change, but they can instantly edit any page in their browser.

Magnolia’s inline-editing feature ensures that editors see content paragraphs in their right context at all times, reducing the switching between working modes.

Magnolia has been designed for heavy-load enterprise websites, having a low memory footprint, a smart cache, built-in clustering capabilities, a distributed deployment architecture that decouples authoring from publishing and the possibility to build load-balanced public servers to provide more throughput and availability.

Magnolia Pros:
• good for smaller sites (content related); although, Magnolia can be used on quite big sites as well
• need in page editing/inline editing (this is possible within Hippo CMS but Magnolia is bit easier to setup)
• you only have page(content) based site/navigation. Hippo solution is much more flexible in this regard.


Jahia delivers web content integration software by combining enterprise web content management with document and portal management features. Jahia is content centric depending on the type of project you envision, this is a major difference. The granularity of Jahia’s content model offers a deeper control on each content item. This provides greater benefit when it comes to repurposing, reusing content or controlling precisely how your content should behave (roles, workflow, layout, display options, etc.). Of course, these advantages need to be balanced with the specific objectives or your project. For a basic website scenario, this granularity is perhaps not necessary and Magnolia may be an easier choice. For intranet or portal scenarios, complex websites or content based applications, the Jahia model and its widely recognized flexibility may be more appropriate.

Jahia works great with structured content. For instance, Jahia offers options beyond the unique paragraph concept – more suited to create unstructured objects that must be displayed in a page, it offers a variety of additional objects with multiple properties you can manipulate, sort, validate, repurpose, etc. You can obviously decide to only use a simple, unstructured approach in Jahia but the ability to really declare, control and manipulate a wide range of additional object types is very powerful in more complex scenarios. Also important is that all Jahia editing UIs are auto-generated based on simple content definitions: not having to create your own input masks is a huge time saver and cuts development time.

Jahia embeds several frameworks that are very important if you plan to manipulate your content through API and code, and if you want your Jahia instance to interact with other apps / systems, some of the most important ones are) Jboss Drools, Apache Camel, jBPM.

Caching mechanisms in Jahia is based on long experience fine tuning performance for large and high traffic websites: there is a sophisticated and efficient caching solution that deals with both automatic invalidation and expiration. This allows avoiding dependencies and flushing management problems, which is key to complex, large and/or interactive sites scenarios.

Jahia Pros:
• deep control on each content item due to granularity of Jahia’s content model
• good for working with structured content
• good for large and high traffic websites

The CMSs under review have their differences but also have something in common. It might be interesting to note that all three products actually use the same storage technology: Apache Jackrabbit, which is the reference implementation of the Java Content Repository API. This ensures some guarantee as to the possibility to migrate in/out the content relatively easily.

You are welcome to make Java CMS shortlist of your choice longer with other products as well as to share your comments and comparative analysis details on the given ones. It would be really great to learn more on this subject as well as get to know your experience.

Thank you!

Aliona Kavalevich

Aliona Kavalevich
Skype ID: aliona_kavalevich
Business Development Manager (LI page)
Altabel Group – Professional Software Development

5 Responses to "In Pursuit of the Best Open Source Java CMS"

Hello Aliona,

Thank you for the nice review of our Jahia CMS. Just a quick question: I noticed that in the Hippo section you list Pros and in the Magnolia and Jahia section you only list “Cons” that actually read like “Pros”. I’m assuming this was simply a typo ?

Also it might also be interesting to note that all three products actually use the same storage technology : Apache Jackrabbit, which is the reference implementation of the Java Content Repository API. This ensure some guarantee as to the possibility to migrate in/out the content relatively easily.

Best Regards,
Serge Huber
Jahia CTO

Hi Serge,

Thanks once again for your kind and helpful comment!


Hi Aliona,
I’m one of the developers of Portofino
Can I suggest also it in your list? It is open source (LGPL), and written in Java e Groovy.

It is a CMS, but it can also connect with your legacy dbs and create CRUD pages with a simple wizard.

Best Regards,
Giampiero Granatella

Hey! Thanks for this amazing article!

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