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Review: Radiant CMS – A Simple, User-Friendly CMS

Radiant CMS is a simple Content Management System built using Ruby on Rails. It is licensed under the MIT Licence, which means it is freely redistributable and can be employed for both commercial and non-profit usage. Radiant CMS is ideal for small enterprises and teams.

INTRODUCTION

Radiant has a fairly simple and minimal admin interface that has barely four tabs – Content, Assets, Design and Settings. We shall take a closer look at the admin back-end later on.

Radiant is a simple CMS built in Ruby on Rails

Radiant is a simple CMS built in Ruby on Rails

In Radiant, you can create Pages using Markdown, Textile or plain HTML, among several others. Also, if you re-use certain parts of your content multiple times, you can save that as Snippets.

Pages can be given a hierarchy such that Child Pages come below Parent Pages.

Radiant also comes with a custom macro language called Radius (you may compare it to HTML).

The CMS has been localized well and there are native language packs for English, German, Russian, Italian, Dutch, French and Japanese.

And lastly, Radiant CMS comes with support for custom text filters as well as page caching.

THE ADMIN PANEL

As already stated, the admin interface has just four tabs:- Content, Assets, Layout and Settings. Let us now analyze each tab.

Content:

In Radiant, you build your website with Pages. Pages can have any hierarchy – you can have Company History under About, and Vector Drawings under Graphics, for instance. By default, Radiant comes with pre-defined templates for Home Page, Error 404, RSS Feed, Site map, etc.

Pages tab in Radiant CMS

Pages tab in Radiant CMS

Assets:

This tab is a fairly recent addition to Radiant CMS. It enlists external uploaded files such as audio, video, pictures, PDFs, documents, etc. You may compare it to the Media tab of WordPress.

Design:

The Design section has four parts: Layouts, Snippets, Stylesheets and Javascripts. Layout page lets you organize the look and feel of your entire website.

Layout tab in Radiant CMS

Layout tab in Radiant CMS

Snippets are handy pieces or chunks that can be added as and when needed. They are mostly used in regions such as sidebars and comment mechanisms. Radiant comes with predefined snippets for Articles, Comments, Footer, Header, Newsletter, RSS, Site Map, Navigation, etc.

Settings:

Settings Page has four sub-tabs – General, Personal, Users and Extensions. The first three tabs serve the same purpose as their WordPress counterparts.

Settings tab in Radiant CMS

Settings tab in Radiant CMS

Extensions, on the other hand, are the equivalent of WP plugins. They can enhance your website’s features. Radiant comes with several pre-installed extensions such as text filters for Mark Down, Textile and Smarty Pants as well as few language packs. Further extensions can be downloaded from the website of Radiant CMS.

Many extensions come bundled with Radiant CMS

Many extensions come bundled with Radiant CMS

IMPLEMENTING THE CMS

So far, we have taken a close look at Radiant CMS. We shall now try to analyze the functioning of the entire CMS. You can download the CMS from here. Once installed, it is time to explore the CMS!

The true worth of a CMS lies in its ease of use. Put simply, the easier it is for users to add content, the more popular the CMS will be! Radiant does not miss out on this front. As we shall now see, using the CMS is extremely simple.

Adding Content

In order to edit a page, simply click on the page’s name under the Content tab. On the Edit Page screen, you can specify the Title, slug, breadcrumb as well as the content of the page. You can also choose from pre-defined page types, such as archive or even error pages! Lastly, you can add sidebars and other content to your pages from the Edit Page screen itself.

Adding a Page in Radiant CMS

Adding a Page in Radiant CMS

Adding Media/Assets

You can upload new media from the Assets tab. You need to specify the Title and Caption for the uploaded content. Radiant generates thumbnails on the fly for most file types, including pictures, videos, audio, PDFs and Office documents.

Adding external Assets in Radiant CMS

Adding external Assets in Radiant CMS

Tweaking the Design

You can specify the layout and snippets under the Design tab. Simply click on the name of the Layout file and off you go! In order to properly accomplish the editing, however, you will need to employ a certain amount of HTML, though. You can edit snippets such as header and/or footer along similar lines too.

If you are fluent in CSS or Javascript, you can add the same under Design–>Stylesheet and Design–>Javascript. All in all, tweaking the UI in Radiant is not as simple as uploading a theme in WP. In order to obtain the desired results, you’ll need to perform certain level of ‘designing’.

Further Customization

You can specify different website-wide settings under Settings–>General, such as website title, URL, time zone, default language, size of media attachments, etc.

General Settings in Radiant CMS

General Settings in Radiant CMS

Similarly, you can add new users by navigating to Users under Settings and selecting ‘Add New User’ option. Recall the user roles in WordPress – Subscriber, Contributor, Editor, Administrator, etc. However, Radiant is not essentially a blogging CMS, so its user roles are rather minimally defined – Administrator and Designer. Also, one user can have both the roles as well.

Adding a new user in Radiant CMS

Adding a new user in Radiant CMS

Coming to the last (and, arguably, the most important) component of a website – the extensions/plugins. Radiant comes with pre-installed extensions such as Page Archives, Module Exporter, Debugger Tool, etc. Apart from that, it also has native support for many filters such as Textile and SmartyPants. You can administer the extensions from Settings–>Extensions.

TO SUM IT UP…

As of now, Radiant CMS does not feature on the list of many automated script installers. Yet, it is one of the most popular CMSs built using Ruby on Rails. So, if RoR is your preference, Radiant is the way to go!

Pros:

  • A no-nonsense, minimal CMS,
  • Powered by Ruby on Rails,
  • No complex admin back ends of other CMSs,
  • Easy to get a small sized website up and ready,
  • Lets you tweak code to your heart’s content.

Cons:

  • Not many commercial themes/templates,
  • PHP-lovers: sorry, this one isn’t for you.
  • Definitely not powerful enough to build grand websites,
  • Requires some amount of coding (not as WYSIWYG as it appears to be),
  • Certain features, such as modifying the Permalink structure, need to be worked upon.

VERDICT

In today’s Content Management spectrum, not many CMSs have a specific target audience — WordPress is being used as a CMS and Drupal can power blogs. However, Radiant CMS strives to be different. It is nimble and easy to use and offers most of the commonly used features that one could ask for. Besides, it is one of the few CMSs that are powered by Ruby on Rails. There seems to be no reason why you shouldn’t at least give it a spin!


You The Designer

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