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What is Contao Hosting?

Contao is an open source, easy to use CMS if you want a secure, search engine friendly, professional website that is also accessible by people with disabilities.

Our Review Of Contao

Contao is a content management system (CMS) similar in nature to WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal. It’s popularity is much greater in Germany and Northern Europe, and you will find far more options for support and development partners in that part of the world when compared to the Contao expertise in the United States or the UK. With Contao, you can build a site and use it to publish, edit, store, and manage content and media. It’s licensed under the GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL), so it is free to use, even for commercial projects. It does require that copyright notices remain intact unless you purchase a commercial license. Anyone can test drive Contao without downloading via the company’s online demo.

Contao requires PHP hypertext preprocessor (PHP) version 5 or higher, and uses MySQL databases. It has a built-in rich text editor, TinyMCE and a form generator, along with support for multiple languages. The included permission system lets you set individual and group permissions to every form field in the back end.

Other built-in features include:

  • Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) framework
  • Blog module with comments and feeds
  • File manager
  • Calendar module
  • Newsletter module
  • Full-text search engine

You can use extensions to add functionality to your site. The extension repository includes add-ons such as a CSS editor, a multiple theme manager, keyword and meta tag search engine optimization tools, and image gallery creators. Live Update is a commercial add-on that simplifies updating to a few clicks, with no file transfer protocol (FTP) or package downloads required. It also backs up your site automatically—before updating—to protect your data.

How Is Contao WAI Compliant?

In original releases of Contao, the platform generated Extensible HyperText Markup Language (XHTML). This XHTML output met accessibility requirements set forth by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). This purpose of this additional XHTML markup was to ensure website’s built using Contao could be fully viewed and interacted with by people with disabilities.

XHTML output is still operational in current live releases of Contao (version 3.0 and higher). With developments in recent years of the HTML5 markup language, further advancement of XHTML should be coming to a close. In fact, current alpha and release candidates of Contao are adopting HTML5 - which includes both regular text/html and XML serializations. Because of these advancements in HTML5, Contao will no longer support XHTML, but should remain WAI compliant if this is a concern for you when selecting a CMS.

Also, because of new elements in the HTML5 XML serializations (section and aside tags, most notably), the inclusion of HTML5 in newer versions of Contao should keep it on the cutting edge of accessibility for websites designed for people with disabilities.

Contao Server Requirements

The most recent release of Contao (version 3.4) has the following server requirements.

  • Webserver like Apache or IIS
  • PHP 5.3.2 or MySQL version 5.0 support
  • PHP extensions GDlib (for image resizing), DOM (for XML files) and SOAP (for the Extension Repository)
  • Optional PHP extensions include mbstring (for multi-byte character handling) and mcrypt (for data encryption).

Contao has been tested successfully with all major browsers like Firefox (from version 2) and Internet Explorer (from version 8).

If you have already installed Contao on your server and you want to double check its compatibility, there is a script called ‘Contao Check’ that will easily allow you to find out whether your server meets system requirements. Contao Check discovers whether your system can use the Extension Repository and Live Update. It will also determine if your system will require you to use Safe Mode Hack.

Of course, you will want to double check with your hosting provider to make sure the server you will be using to host your website can support Contao before making any commitments.

Final Thoughts On Contao

Customizable, flexible, and easy to update, Contao provides a very competitive CMS solution to more established competitors. If you’re looking for a free CMS that’s got the features you need to create a professional site for your medium or large business, Contao may be the right tool for you. Check with your hosting provider to make sure it's supported.

Contao Hosting Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can I do everything with the demo that I can with the full installation?

    Nearly everything. The online demo allows you to test all of the functions of the Contao admin panel. You can create and edit pages, events, and news. You can customize the theme, style, and layout. You can manage users and groups. About the only thing you can’t do is purchase and add a new theme.

  • How much can I customize and manage newsletters?

    Contao includes a very simple newsletter feature, so you don’t have to worry about a lot of complicated settings. However, you can easily manage basic settings, including editing or uploading a recipient list (via a .CSV file), adjusting the number of emails sent in a given cycle, manage the timeout rules, and sending a preview message to specific users. You can customize the appearance of your newsletter with HTML.

  • Can users include markup in the comment section?

    The comment section supports BBCode markup, which provides basic text features such as bold, italics, and underline, as well the ability to include images, links, and quoted text. It is significantly more limited than HTML markup, and, therefore, more secure.

  • What is the GNU Lesser General Public License?

    The GNU Lesser General Public License (LGLP) allows anyone to use or copy the software, but does not permit changes to the software. Developers can include the LGLP software in their own projects, even if those are proprietary, without having to release the source code for their own sections.

  • How many extensions are available?

    Currently, over 130 extensions are available. These extensions allow you to provide language options on your pages, embed Google maps into your website, provide avatars for your users, and much more.

  • What is the Live Update?

    Live Update allows admins to upgrade or downgrade from and to any version of Contao, starting with version 2.11. If you are using a customized template, it allows you to compare your template to the original and make any adjusts you wish. It also provides a cleanup tool that can track and remove any files that are not essential to the core distribution.

  • What is TinyMCE?

    TinyMCE is a JavaScript- and HTML-based What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get (WYSIWYG) content editor. It allows users to easily customize the appearance of text and images using a simple GUI interface, similar to the one provided in most word processing applications, rather than having to utilize HTML code.

  • Are there different themes available?

    Over forty themes are available for purchase from the Contao theme store. At the time of this writing, there were no free themes available.

  • What is the FAQ feature?

    Contao includes a built-in frequently asked question system, which allows administrators to post a series of commonly asked questions and answers, break them into categories, and display them on your website either in list format or as a single page of questions and answers.

  • Can I upload content directly to my website?

    You can upload files using either an FTP tool or the built-in file manager. The file manager allows you to preview, copy, move, edit, and rename files as well as folders. It also automatically creates thumbnails for your images.

  • How do I add a calendar to my site?

    The calendar feature makes it easy to create a list of events for your organization. Simply enter the event name, date, and any specific details, and it will appear on your website (to the location you select, or that is preselected by your theme), as a list of upcoming events. Clicking the event title will take users to a detailed information page for that event.

  • When building pages, can I break them into multiple sections for easier management?

    Yes. Cantao pages use a modular construction, so you can easily create multiple columns and multiple sections within a column, each of which you can manage independently for easier maintenance. You can drag and drop elements to rearrange them, or if you need to quickly remove something from your website, you can hide or delete that section with a single click.

  • What type of support is available?

    Like most open source projects, Contao is supported by a community of users. Support is provided via a frequently asked questions page, online community forum, and community wiki pages. Personalized support is available, for a fee, in some area through the Contao Partners program.

  • How can I contribute to Contao?

    Contao welcomes contribution to their open source project. They are actively seeking developers, as well as community members who would like to create tutorials, offer advice on the support forums, or help provide translations. The simplest way to contribute is to build your site with Contao and let your visitors know, providing a link to the Contao project site. For community members looking to make a financial contribution, they also welcome donations via their website.

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