Comparing Plone to WebGui – Part 1

As a long time “user” and “integrator” of Plone I wanted to evaluate the difference between two Open Source cms communities as I have the opportunity to work with Plone and WebGui on two projects simultaneously.

Initial differences (I could be mistaken on some of these points, so please correct me if something has changed):

  • Plone is written in Python, WebGUI is based on Perl
  • Plone uses the Zope Application Server, WebGUI uses WRE (WebGUI Runtime Environment)
  • Plone has both a browser interface (Zope Management Interface) and filesystem access, WebGUI has a browser based interface for customization and development.
  • Plone has multiple third-party products for things like blogs, forums, ecommerce that are developed by multiple authors (examples, GetPaid, EasyShop Quills, CoreBlog, Scrawl), WebGUI has one blog, one ecommerce offering, one forum offering, all included in the core, all worked on by the core development team (I’m planning an entire blog post about this particular topic). Add-ons for WebGUI are feature enhancements and themes.
  • It’s easier to install Plone for testing and development (thanks to the unified installer), WebGUI has a VMWare image but I wasn’t able to get it installed, my very technical boyfriend had to set up an instance for me.
  • Plone is supported by the Plone Foundation, WebGUI is supported by Plain Black, Inc.

According to ohloh.net Plone has a much more active community but the WebGUI project is in the top 10% of javascript projects for their commenting practices .

Initial similarities:

Plone and WebGUI cannot be hosted on $8.00 a month environments (WebGUI requires root access to stop and start mod_perl, apache, mySQL, etc, although you can restart them through the WRE browser interface too after you get everything setup)
Plone and WebGUI can be installed on any OS
Plone and WebGUI both have a high learning curve (we purchased 4 WebGUI books just to get started, which we are still waiting for, hoping we get them next week)
Plone and WebGUI are being used in University and Government projects
Plone and WebGUI have been around for a long time (both went official in 2001)

Plone as a community is much larger than WebGUI. WebGUI appears to be a core group of developers, very tightly knit and controlled. No questions like..”Who is maintaining project x?”. I haven’t decided yet which is better, we will see as I get further into actual integration. So far the WebGUI guys (and gals) have been very accepting of a couple of Plonista’s encroaching on their channel. They know I am a long-time Plone integrator and yet they are extremely helpful.

Next article – Comparing Plone to WebGUI – Part 2
Quality vs Quantity: Comparing offering multiple “third-party” products to including core products that have been tested

Comparing Plone to WebGui

We are moving one of our Plone clients to WebGui. After extensive evaluation of all the other CMS’s out there, WebGui scored the highest based on the clients requirements and plans for expansion. WebGui is as “big” as Plone in that it’s definitely overkill for your standard brochure-ware site.

I am tasked with creating the “theme” for this new WebGui website. After some initial reading and talking to the WebGui guys I’m left with the feeling that we (Plone) are making skinning sites way too difficult. The primary culprit? Viewlets. When one of our star programmers has to create a third-party product (GloWorm) just to allow designers to change a footer or header in the site we need to rethink the way we are approaching this whole theming scenario. Deliverance is great, but really guys, how many of you really believe someone who is focused on the “visual” aspect of a site is going to learn xslt? It’s easier, but it still isn’t easy enough to attract more designers. We have less than a dozen individuals in our community of over 400 (guessing here) who actually can take a .psd and convert it to a Plone 3 theme (and most of us are still struggling, I’m not the only one). Look at our paltry offering of themes available now,? The OOTB theming group is working really hard to get as many out as possible.  We need to step up theme creation but that is not going to happen if there is not a dramatic change to the process of theming. It’s too painful. I do have to say though that buildout and eggs rock! I just hate viewlets (ok there I said it). As someone who works directly with clients in determining their requirements, there hasn’t been a single theme that we’ve done that didn’t require extensive changes to the viewlets (including different banners on inside sections and changes to drop downs in horizontal nav based on where you are located, etc etc). The fact that we have to turn off viewlets first, then add the new one and have to change at least 4 files to do that?? configure.zcml, viewlets.xml, viewlets.py and umm there was one more.

Now back to the WebGui theming. I’m just getting started and I’ve already ran into one thing that Plone really does right. Filesystem skin development rocks. WebGui does not offer filesystem skin development, yet. All “theming” has to be done in the browser (or offline in Dreamweaver and then pasted into the browser). They are working on this but as someone who has been doing file system development for a few years now, it’s something I’ll miss.

I have a large Plone project starting next week along with this WebGui project. I will write about the difference, what I really like and what bugs the heck out of me.