Starting off with Xaraya

Xaraya is a Content Management System (CMS) that is available under the GPL, written in PHP, with a MySQL database at the backend.
I’ve just setup a Xaraya system for the ACCU, an association of programmers, and here I’ll provide some notes on what to watch out for and maybe some ideas for getting started.

The first thing that I should note, is that Xaraya could be viewed as a complete CMS, or as a CMS framework (the sub-title of the site is ‘Content Management Solutions and Applications Framework’). And you will probably find it easier to treat Xaraya as the latter. Although the full Xaraya download will setup and install as a perfectly workable CMS, you’ll be missing a lot of tricks if you just settle for the default installation. Xaraya is more accurately a set of CMS modules and tools that can be arranged in a wide variety of CMS setups, that just happen to be supplied as a default CMS system.
Here is a brief overview: the data is supplied and handled by ‘modules’, the display of the data is handled by ‘blocks’, arranged in ‘block groups’. The blocks and block groups are put together in ‘pages’. Any or all of these can be created or adapted by the user to perform whatever functions are needed.

The default system as supplied is oriented towards a news site, with news in categories (or topics), visitors can register and gain further privileges to view the full articles. All of this can be changed of course through the admin screens. And there are a plethora of additional modules providing everything from statistics to forums, private messaging and more.

When setting up Xaraya, it’s a good idea to think about what kind of content you will be having on the site and how it is to be arranged. Xaraya provides two basic ways of arranging content. They are not mutually exclusive so it’s possible to mix them.

The first way of handling the content is the default way, that of having news articles, stories, documents, reviews, faqs, pictures, weblinks, quotes and downloads, all of them being arranged under one of more categories or topics (categories and topics are very similar in Xaraya). Each of those article types are technically ‘Document Types’ and the presupplied document types can be modified and new document types can be created. These are all facilities of the ‘Articles’ module. More on this later.

The second way of handling content is to make use of the ‘xarPages’ module. xarPages are a free form document that can contain anything and are particularly useful for having a custom arrangement of static documents with an associated, dynamically created menu. This is the kind of content that we have on the ACCU site and the main menu (the top one) is a xarPages menu that changes dynamically as pages are added and removed. The second menu (Resources) is a menu of ‘Weblink Articles’ from the articles module. The links at the bottom of the frontpage text are also links to Articles of type New Item. As you can see, we have on the site a complete mix of xarPages and Articles within page content and in the menus.

So, as a very general rule of thumb… if you have a lot of static content that needs to have a particular arrangement, then xarPages may be the best choice. If you have a dynamically changing site.which can be easily arranged in categories, sorted by date etc, then Articles and Document Types would be the way to go.

When I have time, I’ll be sharing some further insights into the Xaraya system….