Composr 10: ocPortal’s WordPress alternative

UK-based open source software ocPortal is a relative newcomer to the content management scene, having started with a first prototype in February 2004. Since then, it’s improved significantly but failed to take a big market share, despite excellent reviews from critics. Now, ocPortal is back with its first version update since 2012’s ocPortal 9. The latest version features a rebrand to Composr 10, but many of ocPortal’s hallmark features and standards remain.

ocPortal: the all-in-one CMS

ocPortal, like its successor Composr, is a free, open source content management system (CMS). But unlike many other CMSs, ocPortal software remains free to use even commercially, with no license costs whatsoever, and no need to upgrade to more advanced packages. In August 2012, version 9 of this all-in-one program was the last to be released under the ocPortal name. Despite remaining a relatively small player within the market, ocPortal 9 received strong reviews, ranking higher than market leaders WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla in the Top Ten Reviews comprehensive study of the best content management system software. The checklist provided on the Top Ten Reviews list acknowledges ocPortal 9’s impressive range of features, the majority of which have been carried over to Composr 10.

No plugins necessary

Priding itself on security, flexibility and usability, Composr 10 is a simple and secure CMS that can be personalized to create a truly unique web project. It uses HTML5 as standard, with PHP scripting language and a MySQL database. But what really sets Composr 10 apart is its built-in functions. Part of the ocPortal philosophy has been to provide a CMS that doesn’t require numerous extensions and plugins in order to achieve sophistication. Unlike WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, and other CMS competitors, who rely on extensions to improve specific functionality or design, Composr 10 has the following built-in features:

  • Setup Wizard to create unique, personalized design layouts with customization of features, colors and templates from the start
  • News and blogging feature to keep site visitors up to date, with scheduled publishing
  • Newsletter function with a ‘double opt-in’ feature to filter for real subscribers
  • E-Commerce and subscriptions function with an extendable framework and a shopping cart for inclusion of an online store
  • Events calendar featuring event reminders and advanced ‘recurring event’ settings
  • Wiki+ tool allowing you to create an encyclopedic database for your web project, featuring a unique tree structure display of the wiki+ for increased usability
  • Quiz section that includes competitions, surveys, and tests to gather data or entertain site visitors
  • Membership system to allow your site visitors to register as members for your web presence

Other features include an intuitive and automatically handled search engine optimization (SEO), an organized downloads database, and a WYSIWYG editor. Composr 10 also boasts an impressive built-in affiliate tracking service that allows you to track when a site visitor clicks on an affiliated ad. This can remove the need for additional affiliate tracking software and enable users to sell ad space on their sites. Composr 10 isn’t hard-coded with a traditional separation between front end and back end, but offers complete control over permission and privileges, allowing the creator to authorize exactly which sections of the site are visible to visitors, members, editors, admins, and so on. You can see a complete list of features in detail on the corresponding Composr website section.

Composr 10 hosting requirements:

  • Apache, IIS, or Nginx
  • 50MB of disk space
  • MySQL 5.5.3 or higher
  • PHP 5.1 or higher, with GD2 and minimum memory limit of 32MB

Designing your Composr 10 website

When it comes to designing your website, ocPortal’s Setup Wizard is on hand to guide you through the creative process behind a Composr 10 web presence. Rather than relying on third-party community templates, Composr 10 aims to provide users with all the necessary tools to design their site themselves. This makes it possible to create very unique and sophisticated websites without any worry about finding plugins or template extensions. Instead of using a simple drag-and-drop function, Composr 10 offers an ‘Add block’ tool. This increases flexibility by offering users complete control over the dimension and position of content on the website. There’s also a variety of different display modes to choose from, like tables, boxes, lists, and more.

Two examples of websites created using ocPortal’s previous software include The Warsash Association and Accessible Property.

Security, accessibility, and support on the Composr 10 CMS

ocPortal has always been known for its security, and Composr 10 continues this trend. The 2016 CMS features secure APIs, encrypted stored data, SSL and session security, and proactive hack detection. Part of the idea behind including so many built-in features instead of extensions is to make Composr 10 websites safer to operate, with no concern over the security of third-party plugins. Accessibility is also part of the ocPortal philosophy, and they’re fully compliant with the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). Both security and accessibility are outlined in detail in Composr 10’s handy Developers’ guides. The Developers’ Code Book and the Developers’ API Guide are also available to help new users get to grips with the specifics of the CMS. There are over 200 free tutorials on the Composr 10 homepage as well as a free community forum and chat room for ocPortal members to discuss topics and help each other.

If your query isn’t covered by the range of free guidance offered, it’s possible to pay for professional support from the ocPortal team. This is organized via a credit-based system: users can purchase credits and then spend them whenever they need professional help. 50 credits cost around $350, and you can outline your support type – ‘Budget’ or ‘Normal’. Budget support is cheaper but can take longer so is best used for less urgent issues. Normal is a little more expensive but comes with a guaranteed response time of 2 business days.

Who should use Composr 10?

Due to its high levels of control and customization, Composr 10 claims not to be suitable for complete CMS beginners. But because a lot of this control is carried out through the built-in Setup Wizard, it’s also not ideally suited to programmers either. If you’re inventive and have a clear vision for the way you want your website to look, then Composr 10 might be the perfect solution. Its built in e-commerce function makes it a good choice for users wanting to start their own webstore, while Composr 10’s WAI compliance means it is the best CMS option for those with online accessibility issues, like the blind or the visually impaired.

The ocPortal team take an honest approach to their product through a ‘What Composr is not’ section. This explains that other CMSs may be more suitable in some instances, like WordPress for bloggers or eZ for Enterprise Intranets.

All-in-one, and one-for-all?

ocPortal’s new CMS rebrand, Composr 10, offers a great deal of control for users wishing to create an entirely unique web presence. With high security, unmatched accessibility, and impressive flexibility via the Setup Wizard, Composr 10 can certainly be considered an alternative to WordPress. This open source CMS is free to use even for commercial use, and has numerous built-in functions, designed to limit the need for external plugins and templates.

However, when compared to other popular CMSs, Composr 10 could be seen as both complicated and limiting, as it has no initial templates to help with inspiration and a much smaller selection of community extensions to choose from. At present, it isn’t suitable for international markets because it has no multilingual function.

To see what other CMSs are available, view our comparison of the best CMSs.