Jan 11

Playing around with Orchard CMS

Had a little time today, so I decided to check out some of the new stuff that’s been coming out in the Microsoft web space lately.  Was going to play around with the Razor view engine in MVC3 a little (and probably still will), but got sidetracked checking out Orchard.

Orchard is a free, open source (BDS license) CMS.  Really more of a content framework or a way to build simple web sites quickly.  It uses the typical modules/themes/widgets approach made popular by both simple and complex CMS platforms as well as blogging platforms like WordPress.  There are Microsoft people involved, but it’s not an official Microsoft product, at least not a supported one.

Here are just some random thoughts after less than a day of playing around with it.

  • Installation process is nice.  I installed using the Web Platform Installer and was pretty much up and running almost as soon as the installer finished.
  • The setup screen reminds me of a WordPress type experience, you really just create an admin account and decide on database options and you’re good to go.
  • You can use SQL Server Compact or choose the full SQL Server stack to run on.  I chose Sql Server Compact just because I want to play with it a bit.  I think there are some people already trying to get this running on MySql or maybe they have already.
  • They have been working on this for awhile, but it just went to version 1.0 and is seeing a lot more interest.  There is a gallery with modules and themes available.  There aren’t a ton of options, like you might expect, but there are a lot more than I expected there to be.
  • Source is available.  I downloaded and was able to compile in VS 2010 without a problem.  It took a bit to figure out how to debug since I have it running under IIS Express.  Nothing like trying 5 new things at once.  In the end I was just able to attach to IIS Express and then the debugging experience was normal.  Hint – it helps to make sure your IIS Express site is pointing at your source directory, not the standard Orchard download directory.  Duh.
  • We have some great Sharepoint experts here, but I’m not one of them.  So I was curious how hard it would be to jump into this and get the gist of how to configure stuff.  This is a much simpler product,but pretty intuitive even if you haven’t worked a lot with CMS platforms.  I already understood the basic concepts,but even if you don’t it doesn’t seem like it would be hard to figure this out.  I think it could be great for people who want their own web site that is more than just a blog.  There are probably even some corporate applications for situations where the full power of Sharepoint is overkill.

That’s just some first impressions.  I haven’t really looked into the code a whole lot yet.  Or figured out how hard it is to create my own theme.  Or even tried all the configuration options.  But I know more than I did this morning.

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