Compare XWiki to the most famous CMS

The aim of this document is to compare wikis to CMS for company's internal uses.

What is a CMS?


A Content Management System (CMS) tool provides publication features and an administration interface (back-office) that allows one or several administrators to create/publish or organize several sections of a website.

Ideally, a CMS features a workflow system that allows:

  • an editorial team to work together on the website content
  • a publication manager to validate all the contributions before publishing
  • readers to consult the published content

The articles and the content of the site are stored in theory in a database, while the templates facilitate the content layout.

This software family shares a common set of features:

  • the possibility to work together, but sequentially on a document
  • a workflow to publish content after validation
  • easier page edition allowing non-technical users to create content
  • the separation between layout operations and content management
  • hyperlinks allowing to link articles/documents together
  • a search engine for text
  • specific sort methods (by modification dates, author, links...)
  • rarely, versioning
  • homepage and sections administration and choice of the modules displayed on those pages.

Joomla!, Drupal, SPIP and Wordpress are among the most famous and popular CMS tools.


CMS have the advantage of allowing the dynamic management of website content publication.

In a CMS, the content is separated from the container. It is really easy to use by people that do not have website creation/development skills. They only have to create the content in back office and then publish it to make it accessible to others (online mode).

The CMS functional evolution opens their field of possible applications. The evolved CMS can now answer the needs of organizations that want to set up a complex content offer and to integrate transverse practices in information management. CMS bring a non-specialized answer, corresponding to the expectations of the majority of the users, with the advantage of covering gradually all the domains less sharply, but wider.

Most of the time, CMS are used to create communication websites that are public most of the time.

In the Enterprise, they are used in the following cases:

  • internal communication (by the Communication or HR department)
  • provision of content created by experts
  • creation of documentation in web mode

What is XWiki?

What is a wiki?

A wiki is classically presented as a set of alterable web pages by all users with permissions. It allows the collaborative creation of content (including text, images, videos...), as well as the creation of links between different sets of content.

Wikis have been made popular by the famous multilingual Wikipedia encyclopedia (created in 2001) that became one of the most visited websites in the world, with more than 17 million articles (beginning of 2011).

Basic wiki features are:

  • Page creation
  • Page modification: it simply consists in the adding/modification or suppression of content
  • Creation of links between information
  • Discussion: the creation of a page can generate a lot of exchanges between all the contributors
  • Modifications history: it is possible to follow the modifications made on a wiki page (What was modified? By whom? When?)
  • Rollback: it is always possible to rollback and choose the previous version of the wiki page
  • Rights management: each user registered on a wiki has rights that allow him to create, modify, consult or delete wiki pages.

But some wikis, such as XWiki, go further by proposing additional features addressing professional needs.

XWiki, a second generation wiki

XWiki distinguishes itself from the other wikis by offering enterprise-oriented features such as:

  • Office documents import (i.e a Word document is transformed to a wiki page; XWiki retains the layout, images contained in the document and also the documents attached to the page)
  • The management of unstructured data (like Wikipedia), as well as structured data (forms, spreadsheets...)
  • Export of the data in many formats (PDF, HTML, XAR...)
  • An activity stream allowing an overview of all the wiki activities
  • The customization of the wiki (logo, colors, look and feel of menus)
  • Connection to the Enterprise Directory (data retrieval, SSO...)
  • Fine rights management (by space, page, user groups...)

Other strengths include flexibility and scalability. XWiki is also a web application development platform. For example it allows the creation of dedicated/specific applications (Meeting management application, Customer Relationship Management...). Extensions, applications and macros are available for free.

XWiki is an Open Source Java-based software developed under the LGPL license.

The XWiki SAS company provides a full range of services including consulting, development, support, training and hosting.

In the enterprise, a wiki such as XWiki is used most of the time in a private manner for the following needs:

  • Knowledge base
  • Collaborative intranet
  • Documentation
  • Support

Comparison between CMS and XWiki

Wiki and CMS both serve to create, edit and publish content. At a first glance, we could say that these are two relatively similar technologies.
Furthermore we notice that some CMS integrate more and more collaborative features, but also that new generation wikis, such as XWIki, integrate content structuration applications and a full rights management interface.

However we note differences in terms of content creation/management, but also in terms of tool usage within the company.

Creation and management of the content

Generally speaking, the separation between the editor and the reader is stronger in a classic CMS such as Joomla, Drupal or Wordpress than in a wiki. To simplify, we could say that a wiki has many publishers/editors and many readers whereas a CMS has few publishers/editors and a large number of readers. Also, we can say that a CMS is closed a priori while XWiki is open a priori (before any rights configuration).

In terms of content edition, CMS are process-oriented while wikis are focused on collaboration.


  1. Focuses on content and publishing it using standardized templates
  2. Serves to publish approved information which has been validated through a complete workflow
  3. Has generally a limited group of editors/contributors
  4. Is used for relatively static content (which does not change or is not subject to change regularly), and maintained by non-technical people (dedicated team/editorial committee)
  5. Emphasizes on style and presentation: standardized page templates are used for professional rendering
  6. Separates the interface of edition / creation of the consultation interface

On the other hand,

 A wiki: 

  1. Is composed of pages, each of them presenting a subject
  2. Sees its content collaboratively improved
  3. Has generally a large number of contributors
  4. Is used for "alive ", dynamic websites, in perpetual change and maintained by every person wishing to contribute to the content
  5. Puts a bigger emphasis on content, rather than its presentation: less styling, but the information is easier to find and update
  6. Has its edition interface included in the consultation interface


Wikis and CMS usages within the company

The sponsors in the company

It is interesting to see the way the tools are pushed by different actors in the company.

We notice that the CMS tools are generally requested by the Communication or HR Departments, while wikis are pushed by project managers, IT Departments or operational business entities (customer services, operations).
It has consequences on the speed and the way these solutions are implemented in the company. CMS are generally set up for public sites or sites for internal communication first, and secondly, they are requested for more collaborative usages. Whereas wikis are first installed in one department which allows them a fast entry and implementation inside the company, and secondly are subjected to generalization by the IT Department.

In terms of enterprise structure

Today, we can notice differences between companies using these two software solutions internally:

  • CMS are generally used by companies that have a rigid hierarchy. These companies keep a very direct process with approval flow / work flow, distinction between the team which publishes the information and all the people who will benefit from it. This is a Top Down, unilateral tool.
  • Wikis on the other hand are particularly appreciated by companies using transversal organization, in network or business units. They are mainly structures that are using flat hierarchy and where exchanges are numerous and plurilateral. The processes are less omnipresent. Most new technology companies (Apple, Google) have a very transversal and dynamic organization and use wikis widely.

Second generation wikis, such as XWiki, address the needs of all kinds of companies thanks to fine rights management. They particularly allow the development of working practices in companies towards the 2.0 enterprise. Contrarily CMS work methods correspond more to a 1.0 enterprise.

The 2.0 Enterprise company is a notion used to describe social and network modifications of the company intranets and other traditional software platforms. A company is called "2.0 Enterprise" when it integrates Web 2.0 and its collaborative practices in its global strategy.

Why use XWiki rather than a CMS ?

XWiki advantages over CMS usages

Nowadays, the needs for a wiki are multiplying. The enterprise and teams evolve into organizations where collaborative work and information sharing are praised. Additionally content organization and access rights management remain important needs for companies.

Second generation wikis allow fine rights management, but also the integration of applications and features to organize and structure the content.

We recommend using XWiki Enterprise if the collaborative aspect is important and if the objective is to make everyone participate and contribute.

We also advise to use it when there is a need to open spaces at will, for example in order to work on a specific project.

Finally, we advise to use a wiki when exchanges are less formal.

XWiki's advantages over CMS usage are numerous.

First of all, XWiki's features such as annotations, comments enable to collaboratively enrich the content and that is not possible with CMS (at least not natively). 

The native WYSIWYG editor in XWiki, as well as its intuitive user interface allows to easily create content and links between pages.

XWiki also offers Office integration (Office documents reader, import/export of Office documents).

With XWiki rights management is simple and transparent. The wiki is open a priori and it is possible to limit rights afterwards.

Page templates allow to keep homogeneity in the structure and the content of documents.

The page history, as well as the versioning prevent any kind of information loss.

Finally, the administration occurs directly at the page level. There is no partitioning between content creation and consultation. Everything is integrated in the site.

Can we do CMS with XWiki ?

Making a CMS using XWiki is possible.

First of all in terms of the visual/aesthetic aspect, it is possible to personalize XWiki and transform it into a content publication website. Please see the below pictures:

 Site de la CNAM du Languedoc-RoussillonSite de l'Observatoire des Bâtiments Basse Consommation
CNAM-LR.png ObservatoireBBC.png

Fine rights management also allows to differentiate the administration sections from the parts visible to everyone.

Thereby, only the redaction committee can publish or modify the content of the website. It is a Top Down process with few contributors and a lot of readers.

This XWiki configuration is particularly useful for the company to push information to internal or external public.

It is interesting to make CMS with XWiki when the needs in CMS are light and when you don't wish to multiply the tools used in your enterprise.