XWiki vs CMS

XWiki is an Open Source software, innovating with the "Structured Wiki" concept by bringing information management features to companies of all sizes. It encompasses all basic wiki features but centers around enterprise needs like Knowledge Base, Procedures Management, Extranet and Communities, Digital Workplace and Custom Projects.
Logo XWiki Open Source
Logo CMS

What is a CMS?


A Content Management System (CMS) is typically a software or a set of related programs used for creating and publishing digital content. Content in a CMS is stored in a database, while templates facilitate the layout. Ideally, a CMS workflow system allows editorial teams to work on the website content, which is then validated by a publication manager. Only after this process is complete does the content reach the readers. Since the interface is usually browser-based, a CMS can be accessed from anywhere by multiple users. The common set of features found in a CMS includes the following:

  • Intuitive indexing, search, and retrieval facilitating data access
  • Format management facilitating turn scanned paper documents into HTML/PDF formats
  • Revision features allowing for content updates post-publication
  • Revision control tracking changes made to files
  • Publishing functionality allowing individuals to use organization approved templates
  • WYSIWYG editors helping non-technical users create content
  • Hyperlinks allowing connection between articles and documents
  • Versioning
Joomla!, Drupal, SPIP and Wordpress are among the most well-known CMS tools.


In general, a CMS is used for Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and Web Content Management (WCM). An ECM integrates document management, digital asset management, and records retention to ease collaboration in the workplace. The advantage of a CMS lies in its dynamic management of website content. As such, the content is separated from the container, making it intuitive even for non-technical individuals since the creation of content happens in the back office. In the Enterprise, CMS are used in cases such as internal communication, document creation in web mode and provision of content coming from experts.

Its functional evolution has opened new fields of possibilities as a CMS can answer the needs of organizations looking to set up complex content-focused projects and integrate transverse practices in information management. In essence, a CMS brings a non-specialized answer, fit for the majority of its users, but with the advantage of an approach covering all domains (albeit less sharply than other, dedicated software).

What is XWiki?

What is a wiki?

A wiki is classically presented as a set of alterable web pages by all users who have been granted permission to do so. It allows the collaborative creation of content (including text, images, videos.), as well as the creation of links between different sets of content. Basic wiki features include the following:

  • Page creation
  • Page modification: adding or suppressing content
  • Creation of links between information
  • Discussion: the creation of a page can generate a lot of exchanges between all the contributors
  • Modification history: 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 registered user has rights which allow creating, modifying, consulting or deleting pages.

    XWiki, a second-generation wiki

    XWiki chooses to go a step further and innovate with the "Structured Wiki" concept by bringing information management features to companies of all sizes. It encompasses all basic wiki features but centers around enterprise needs like Knowledge Base, Procedures Management, Extranet and Communities, Digital Workplace and Custom Projects. The enterprise-focused features it offers include the following:

    • Office documents import (i.e a Word document is transformed to a wiki page; XWiki retains the layout)
    • 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)
    As a Java-based Open Source software, licensed under LGPL, XWiki offers independence to each user in choosing what services to use, which features are necessary and which of the deployment methods is most beneficial. Built to scale and extend, it offers over 750 Apps and Extensions, but the source code can be tweaked by developers to create tailor-made solutions as per business requirements. Non-technical users can also create collaborative applications through the intuitive tool App Within Minutes. Adding a personalized structure to Wiki pages allows users to edit the content and navigate intuitively. Additionally, the XWiki SAS company provides a full range of services including consulting, development, support, training and hosting.

    Comparison between CMS and XWiki

    XWiki and CMS both serve to create, edit and publish content. Even though they share similarities in terms of technologies, there are some disparities. While some Content Management Systems are integrating more collaborative features, new generation wikis, such as XWiki, innovate with content structuration applications and full rights management interface. The discrepancy is most notable in terms of not only content creation and management but also the tools' usage within companies.

    Content creation and management

    Regarding the separation between the editor and the reader, it is better emphasized in a classic CMS such as Joomla or Wordpress than in a wiki. In essence, a wiki has many editors, as well as numerous readers, whereas a CMS has few publishers and a large number of readers. In terms of content, CMS are process-oriented while wikis are focused on collaboration.

    A CMS:

    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. Generally has a limited group of editors/contributors
    4. Is used for relatively static content 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
    A wiki:

    1. Is composed of pages, each of them presenting a subject
    2. Offers the possibility to collaboratively improve the content
    3. Generally has a large number of contributors
    4. Is used for "alive", dynamic websites, in perpetual change and maintained by every person wishing to contribute
    5. Emphasized 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

    A notable aspect is the different departments within companies which choose to opt for the tools. CMS are generally requested by the Communication or HR Departments, while wikis are preferred by IT Departments, project managers or operational business entities (customer services, operations). The consequences of these are visible through the method and speed the solutions are implemented. A CMS is usually set up, first and foremost, for public sites or for internal communication and only afterward for more collaborative usages. Diversely, wikis are first installed in one department which allows fast entry and implementation inside the company and followed up by generalization of the IT Department.

    The structure of the enterprise

    There is a noticeable discrepancy in the types of enterprises which choose to opt for either of these tools.

    • CMS are generally used by companies with a rigid hierarchy. These companies keep a very direct process of approval workflow, as well as the distinction between the team which publishes the information and those who will benefit from it. It is a Top-Down, unilateral tool.
    • Wikis, on the other hand, are a fit for companies using transversal organization, in-network or business units. They are mainly structured as flat hierarchies, where exchanges are numerous and plurilateral. The processes are less omnipresent. Most new tech companies employ transversal and dynamic approaches, thus warranting the usage of wikis for information organization processes.
    Second-generation wikis, such as XWiki, are capable of addressing the needs of all kinds of enterprises as a result of the integrated fine rights management. They allow working practices in companies to develop towards the 2.0 Enterprise, a notion used to describe social and network modifications of a company's intranets and other traditional software platforms. Contrarily, CMS work methods correspond more to a 1.0 enterprise.

    Why use XWiki rather than a Content Management System?

    XWiki advantages over CMS usages

    Collaborative needs are becoming more prominent in the modern-day business environment, meaning that software offering flexibility and scalability constitutes a pivotal productivity advantage in the marketplace. XWiki provides management tools to improve the cooperative environment of an organization and is a suitable answer for any type of enterprise. As a full development platform, it makes possible starting with a simple knowledge base which can be upgraded by adding more wikis and features to undertake intricate projects.

    As an Open Source software, built to scale through its extensive set of features, XWiki offers several advantanges over usual Content Management Systems:

  • The 3 supported editors (CKEditor, WYSIWYG and wiki syntax) facilitate content creation and links between pages
  • Annotations and comments enable collaborative enrichment of the content
  • Office integration (Office documents reader, import/export of Office documents)
  • Rights management (which can be limited) make XWiki a transparent, open priori
  • Page templates allow keeping homogeneity in the structure and the content of documents
  • Page history, rollback and versioning prevent information loss
  • No partitioning between content creation and consultation: everything is integrated and administrated the site.

    Is a Content Management System feasible with XWiki?

    It is possible to achieve CMS through the usage of XWiki. In terms of visuals, XWiki is fully customizable, meaning it can be personalized (from logo, colors, and menus) and transformed into a content publishing website.

    Site de la CNAM du Languedoc-RoussillonSite de l'Observatoire des Bâtiments Basse Consommation
    CNAM-LR.png ObservatoireBBC.png
    Fine rights management makes possible the differentiation between administrative sections and those visible to everyone. Thereby, only the redaction committee can publish or modify the website's content. It is a-Top Down process with few contributors and many readers. This XWiki configuration is particularly useful for companies looking to push information either internally or to the public. Making CMS with XWiki is best suited when the CMS requirements are light and there is a desire for not using multiple tools inside the enterprise.
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