Free Tools and Programs for the Web


Build an Awesome Blog or Website with These Resources

With the advent of Open Source in the programming community it has become quite easy to get pretty much any type of program one would need to use on a computer. Building and maintaining a website is no different. While for a truly excellent site paying for hosting and a domain name is a good idea, one shouldn’t have to pay for the programs needed to develop and maintain a website.

Blogging Software

Currently the most widely recognized free software is WordPress. This software, which many hosts have set up for one click install for their clients, is fantastic in all respects. It has a simple user interface and an easy learning curve.

Version 2.8 is better and easier to manage than all previous versions, and newer additions are coming out on a regular basis to make it more powerful and easy to use. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of add-ons to WordPress that can cost nothing or can be paid for, depending on the level of complexity required (most are free). These allow extra functionality, including memberships to blogs, spam protection on comments, advertising, and much, much more.

A competitor is B2evolution. The strength of this system is that it has a great “skinning” system that allows the creation of multiple blogs within separate categories, so that there is a different feel to each section. Truly cool!

Nucleus Blogging Software is yet a third blogging platform that is quite good. The biggest strength of Nucleus over its competitors is that it offers the ability to optimize the URLs for each page, as well as the ability to show the contents of multiple weblogs on one page, which makes it ideal for SEO.

Each of these blogging platforms allows custom blogs – it is really a matter of reviewing them directly and seeing what suits the long term plans for a blog. For personal blogs, WordPress seems to be the current leader in the market.

Website Content Management

Two good content managers are Joomla! and Drupal. Each has its strengths and weaknesses. Drupal appears to be much more centred on the blog style of website, whereas Joomla is more centred around the concept of articles. Neither is a true blogging platform, however, and each allows much more flexibility that a purely blogging platform such as WordPress.

If one is looking for a more commercial and professional looking website, then one of these is a better choice than a blogging platform. As well, in order to make either of these operate as a blog, add-ons are required. These are more about content, meaning page and article management, than blogging are well suited to commercial sites and community (multiple contributors) sites.

Each of the above has free templates and add-ons that increase the flexibility and use of the site. It’s a good idea to review some sites built in each before deciding which one to use and spending all of the time required to set up a website, only to later discover and decide that a different system would have been better suited.

Either makes a great blogging system, but don’t look as spiffy as WordPress or other more standard blogging platforms. Or at least they don’t look like one usually expects a blog to look. Make sure to check out the templates to help in customization and a more personal feel to sites using these systems!

Other Useful Website Programs

PHPBB – This is a great bulletin board system that can be added to any website of blog. Fairly easy to use and administer, however, some of the initial learning can be difficult. Be sure to visit the help forums in order to learn quicker.

MediaWiki – This looks just like Wikipedia once it’s installed. Of course the website owner and others who visit have to add the content to it. There is a fairly good help and forum on their site.

phpList – At first this one is very confusing, as the documentation isn’t exactly straight forward. Once it’s understood that logging in to it and copying a lot of code is required, then the use becomes a lot easier. It works as well as any commercial package available, but isn’t as user friendly. There are some free templates available for this to make response and sign up pages look more professional or stylised, as well.

ZenCart – One of many free shopping cart systems available. Make sure to visit the website. This one is easier to implement and understand than some others, such as OS Commerce, which is also free.

If one is into internet marketing (running a business though the internet), using these programs in combination should allow a complete business system to operate through the web, without the need to spend a lot on outside sources, add-ons and programs, since everything one could need is supplied through some permutation of the above.

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