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CMS Terminology

CMS Terminology

This is a CMS Dictionary. A glossary and guide to terms, definitions and abbreviations found in the world of CMS and associated areas of web applications. For common abbreviations, the conventions used, and other notes: please see the Notes on the Definitions at the foot of the page.

Terms A - E        -- this page
F - 0                    -- page 2
P - Z, numbers  -- page 3

access control levels (or lists) - user privileges or rights. It infers a more complete ability to control user groups and user rights, for activities like viewing pages or editing them, than is generally available in a straightforward web publishing CMS, which may have one registered user group and one admin group only. 'Good ACL' means the ability to create custom users or usergroups, who can see more / do more than standard users or admins.
The most common use of the term ACL now is to mean group roles: selecting users to form another group with access or editing rights to specific content. The finer and more detailed the control - and therefore more capable - the more granular the ACL is said to be.

small programs added to another, that provide additional external functionality. Other terms with the same meaning are plugins and extensions. Add-ons make use of the APIs or hooks that the original developers created in order that custom plugins could be added. 
cf plugins

a route direction, or filepath: the position of a file or command or Internet resource. Examples:
C:\Program Files\Internet Explorer\iexplore.exe
- this is the address or position of Internet Explorer on your PC.
- this is an Internet URL.
The first is a local address, a machine filepath (note backslash), the second a network address (note forward slash).

slang for the management process of a CMS. The admin backend is the administrator's apparatus for adjusting all facets of the site's operation and content. It is accessed by logging in, often via a different URL from the visible website's pages. The administrator is then presented with options concerning all functions of the site.
cf frontend

(asymmetric, sometimes asynchronous, digital subscriber line) aka DSL or broadband; a fast connection. ADSL = DSL = broadband. A bigger pipe than your ISDN or dial-up connection. Basic broadband is 512 kbit down, 256 kbit up, which explains the asymmetric part. Divide the numbers by 8 to get the speed you'll achieve in kB (kilobytes), which is what we normally work with and understand. Therefore, 512 over 8 = 64 kB, or the likely max download speed for basic DSL.
  DSL is a copper wire technology, providing a fast connection over basic twisted-pair wiring at reasonable distances. Cable DSL (ie cable TV providers' broadband) comes in via
a mix of fibre optic and coaxial cable so the speed potential is much higher.
  512 kbit DSL used to be a fast connection, but now you can often get up to an 8 Mbit pipe; and 24MB in cities. DSL only works at a finite distance from the Telephone Exchange, so that some rural and coastal populations are second-class citizens – as they always have been and always will be. City dwellers call the tune. The percentage coverage of the population in the UK for instance is fairly high (around 98%, depending on the source), but the physical coverage of the country is less perfect.

the new word for platform-independent (almost); 'xxxx-agnostic' means an application doesn't care about any 'xxxx' during its operation.

artificial intelligence. A virtual lifeform or task executer created within a computer; bots of one kind or another. At present these are on a fairly small scale with limited functionality, but will undoubtedly grow in capability.

qv statistics

The open-source server application that helps to run the Internet - as so many servers use it. Based in Germany, a large project with a big community. The community also produce XAMPP, a LAN / development environment complete server package for several operating systems, notably Windows, that can be used to set up a computer for testing server-based applications such as a CMS.
   Although Apache was the first and greatest, there are other challengers now, such as Lighttpd ('Lighty') and Nginx ('Engine-X'), which are lightweight server apps more suited to dedicated servers, and which handle memory issues and CPU cycles better in a high-load environment. Because of this they are used on some big-name websites such as WordPress.org and Amazon. In theory they handle heavy loads better in some ways. Zeus is a commercial equivalent.

(application programming interface) the means by which additional functions can be added to an application – the handle a developer uses to add additional features to a program. Some programs have none, some have notably clever APIs. This determines whether or not it is possible, and how easy it will be, to add plugins. Many modern programs are extensible, because this allows easy future changes and also a means to leverage the power of the huge developer community. This of course applies especially in the open-source world, which has increasing power in the software field.

(active server pages) the Microsoft equivalent of the open-source PHP. A text-based code language used for semi or fully-dynamic webapps like CMS. Such apps need to run on a Microsoft server (aka Windows server or IIS server), since although PHP (the rival OSS script, normally associated with a LAMP server) is often installed on an MS server, the reverse is not true. ASP is frequently associated with .NET qv

application, program, software, digital tool. An app = a program.

audit trails
a core function of enterprise-class CMS that provides a record of who did what and when to a content item. Related to workflows and versioning qv.
an automatic process that combines software control with a hardware action or major software process. Example: a server reboot, required when there is a lock-up or crash. The webmaster might get an email with, "The nameserver on xxxxx.com failed at 23:46 and a restart was attempted automagically".

beta version
a new version of a program that is not thought to be perfect yet. An application goes through several stages of authoring: it starts as an alpha version, which is a 'first draft' and probably not all it should be. When it has been worked on to the point that it runs more or less correctly, but there are still plenty of bugs to be found, it goes to beta. The beta version number then perhaps looks like this: NewApp 0.1b (beta); and this version is normally released among the wider software team for testing. After it's been kicked around and various changes made, the version number might then be: NewApp 0.6b, for instance. At this stage it may go out to wider beta testing among the community, who thrash it around and report back on bugs. Finally, it gets sorted enough that the app can be release as NewApp 1.0, though some firms use a NewApp 1.0RC1 system first: a final beta level for release candidates. In theory it is then a delta or gamma version (why technogeeks want to play around with ancient Greek is a mystery). Then, you buy it, and help them beta-test it a bit more; which leads us nicely on to...

beta testers
those who test new software; and, realistically, buyers of any new software in its first year of life. It takes about two years to work the bugs out of complex webapps.

bit, Byte
a bit is one piece of digital information; 8 bits = a Byte. Half a Byte, i.e. four bits = a Nibble; a quarter Byte (2 bits) = a Crumb (and this is not a joke).

the firmware in ROM that tells a computer how to start up and run; aka CMOS settings. These instructions tell the PC what to do before the OS starts.

the term used in some projects (such as Drupal CMS) to describe visible modules on a web page. Blocks of information on the page, generated by a dynamic website application such as a CMS, or by plugins, that are separate from the main content. It is an alternative term for sections of the displayed output, which is often arranged as central content with left and/or right columns of blocks, ie modules.

a common CMS plugin. Originally this term was derived from web log, though this is all but forgotten now. It refers to an online diary or news page that is frequently updated, and commented on by readers. It is interesting to note how polite they normally are.

bridged, bridging
terms used to describe joining two discrete server apps to create a partial integration; a joining of applications rather than a plugin / extension. Often used to describe the way an independent application is joined to a larger one such as a CMS. A custom-coded small application called middleware is needed to link the two main applications.
   Bridging has some advantages, such as that a capable app can be used instead of a more limited plugin; and the database and membership lists will be common, giving a single sign-on. A common use is to bridge a well-known forum to a CMS, such as vBulletin to Drupal. The forum then becomes linked to the CMS and uses its membership list. This route sounds attractive - but sometimes there are issues, for example with cookies, sessions, login anomalies and so forth.
canonical URL
the 'canonical' version of something is the main, recognised, authoritative version - the real or right one. A canonical CMS URL is thus the main, preferred URL for a content item or resource. A CMS will commonly create fifty or more different URLs for any 'page', if there are several different ways to get there (ie menu or text links). A plugin can be used to (a) determine a single URL to be used, and (b) shorten it and make it a legible, comprehensible version. Some CMS such as Plone and Drupal do this within the core app, but this is less common than apps generating raw, multiple URLs that need a plugin to fix.

a sub-group of content within a section qv. Categories are the most common way of grouping CMS content, and can appear as a separate level in the URL.

a log or record of changes made to software.

content item qv.

client (1)
a computer that accesses a (remote) service on another computer by some kind of network.

client (2)
app that acts as a receptor and interpreter for a service of some sort usually provided by another computer on a network, eg an email client such as Thunderbird.

client-side CMS
An application that runs on a local machine rather than a server. The CMS is installed on your PC, it generates the site pages, and then they can be uploaded to the server.  
   Advantages: can provide a CMS-like solution if there is no database software on the server, or no access to the server management to set up databases; needs no helper applications on the server; the flat HTML pages will perform better in search than heavily scripted pages (esp. JavaScript-based) which they may replace; better security, as there are far less attack vectors.
   Disadvantages: not really a CMS; normally provides little user-interaction or much of any other capability. This type of webapp might be more accurately termed a website generator.
   Example (CMS): OpenCMS has an option for this mode of operation.
   Example (ecommerce): Actinic, which majors on this operational mode.

client-side scripting
a process or script that is executed client-side (ie on the local machine - the user's PC) by the user’s web browser, instead of on the web server. This type of programming is an important part of the DHTML concept, enabling web pages to be scripted; that is, to have different and changing content depending on variables like user input or environmental conditions (such as geolocation or time of day).

content management system or systems: website (in our case) software (therefore WCMS) that normally resides on a server and delivers pages on request. Most run on a database, and build the pages on-the-fly. See this explanation of how CMS works.

CM system,
CM systems
Another word for CMS. Has the advantage of providing a clearer plural form at less length than the full description.

(components, modules, templates, and plugins) an acronym for all types of plugins, used by some projects in the world of CMS. Extensions or add-ons are yet more terms that are synonymous.

Allaire's version of Flash, with a .cfm file extension. Normally used in association with ASP, on a Microsoft server. Has many of the pros and cons of Flash: great visuals, terrible for search results. Like Flash, can be poorly implemented or over-used so that it paralyses the computer of the visitor, with a 100% CPU load. Any web page that causes more than a 33% CPU load on an average PC is faulty.

the various languages software is written in. A fine example of how there could never be such a thing as a universal human language: already there are hundreds of computer languages, from Delphi to VBasic, and more coming every month.
   Code is either text-based or compiled: visible as text on a page, or incomprehensible until decompiled.

programmers, developers, software authors - people who write code. No three coders can agree exactly what their language is trying to achieve and how to do it – and so go off to write their own. Geeks is a synonym and may be used in a positive, neutral or negative context.

a distributed group of people interested in a particular subject, who engage on or contribute to that topic. Commonly used to describe those who surround a software project, especially an OSS one.

compatibility mode
qv legacy

compile, compiled (1)
A term used in CMS implementation to mean building up an application - or application group - on a server, especially a LAMP server. Therefore, "compile it on Linux" is often heard. A synonym (which might perhaps be more accurate) is 'build'.
Example: for WebGUI CMS -
http://  www.  plainblack.com/rfe/request-for-enhancement/  change-in-install-directory-for-wre/1
[rebuild this URL to one unbroken line, no spaces]

compiled (2)
refers to code that is not text-based. qv code

an extension that performs a more powerful function than a module, and can often display this as a page entity of some type - sometimes in conjunction with a module that may provide the visible part of the function.

content changes
this refers to editing or adding more text and images (or other filetypes) to a CMS. It also infers creating new pages. It is the equivalent of page changes on a normal site.

content item
an individual piece of text, or a formatted item of some kind, that is held and published separately by a CMS. Not quite the equivalent of a page, on a flat site, it is nevertheless a convenient parallel. The abbreviation CI can be used.

core SEF
integral SEF capability within the basic CMS. The ability to output SEF URLs (search engine friendly page addresses) as a native CMS function, without plugins. The long and incomprehensible URLs that many content management systems produce are a major issue that needs fixing as a first task.
   'Full core SEF' = perfect URLs from the base CMS. "The core SEF is 80% OK" = it needs a plugin for full functionality although a simple site might run with just the core SEF operational.
   Normally, core SEF capability uses the htaccess file to interact with; and it can be often be improved further by a plugin, of which there may be several choices. This applies to most database-driven website-generating server software. Some CMS like Plone and Drupal have full core SEF functionality, and output perfect URLs from the basic, unextended CMS - others like Joomla need a plugin, for full SEF URLs.
   Some apps can output SEF URLs with a plugin but without an htaccess file - like SMF forum and Joomla CMS - but these are rare.
   SEF URL functionality, whether core or plugin-based, fixes several things apart from the mile-long raw URLs: for example, the multiple URL issue that many CMS have (multiple page addresses for one content item).
qv canonical URLs

[customer relations management, contacts relational management, etc] - software for customer contact details and/or customer account management.
It can be standalone software, a CMS plugin, a cloud app, or a local PC app plugin (eg an Outlook plugin). CRM apps can therefore exist anywhere, and can function as very simple contact databases, through to core business management involving all payment and scheduling processes.
   There is a wide range of software available, which can be grouped according to the four main possible locations of the actual software, and subdivided into types according to capability. The most popular full-function app that also functions as a CMS plugin is CiviCRM. Using a CMS extension of this class can be a major step up in complexity and cost (of support) due to its size and complexity - for example the content of a CMS database using the CiviCRM plugin can be two-thirds CRM data.

or DB - a structured collection of data, and the core of a dynamic site. It is an application that holds data in a rapidly-accessible format; in this case, text and publishing details. The most popular on webservers is MySQL; the most popular for PCs is the Windows Office suite component Access (which should not be used on a server as it is not possible to harden it).

a designation of website architecture where the layout replicates a tall and narrow structure: to navigate between pages you move 'down' instead of 'across'. Pages generally contain links to other pages that cannot be reached except via that page.
cf flat

semi-obsolete: still in existence but no longer advised / used; may still be in evidence to cater for backward-compatibility; of less importance.

(or dev) testing and trialling. A development environment is that which exists on a private LAN with no Internet connection, in use for testing code or applications. Here, as well as the standard LAMP server environment, a WAMP solution is used more frequently, as are application servers and alternative server apps. 
Development is the stage before an application is released; and then the subsequent work to improve it. Security has to be reduced for development, and then when it is introduced, for public-facing applications, it is harder to work on them. With more security comes less functionality.
cf production

dynamic HTML, an extension of HTML that enables, among other things, the inclusion of small animations and dynamic menus in Web pages. DHTML code may make use of CSS and JavaScript.

a folder, or group of folders, that data resides in; often used to describe folders in the server webroot.

any removable data storage disc, such as a floppy disc or a CD – note spelling: disC.

a non-removable data storage disk, such as the Hard Drive / Hard Disk – note spelling: disK.

distribution, commonly used to refer to any of the various Linux clones. Also used for a packaged application group such as a CMS plus extensions, designed for a specific profile such as a magazine or college website (Drupal has some examples).

the help files, user manuals and collected information on how to use a CMS. It is now common to use a wiki, forums and other web pages for this purpose. In general, documentation is not seen as a vital part of a software application's make-up, and this applies especially to OSS. It takes a very large project to enable anything other than token documentation. However, users consider documentation a vital part of the 3-component framework of a usable application: software, documentation, support. At enterprise level, software without documentation is not popular.

Document Object Model
(DOM) form of representation of structured documents as an object-oriented model; the official World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) standard for representing structured documents in a platform- and language-neutral manner. DOM is also the basis for a wide range of application programming interfaces, some of which are standardised by the W3C.

an xml parser for PHP based on the DOM Level two specifications. It is lightweight, fast, and written purely in PHP.

drill down
to navigate to, especially when referring to directory levels. In managing a website, you might log in to the root directory, then drill down to the public_html folder (the webroot) to make changes.

dynamic (1)
changeable, fluid, moving, mobile, not fixed. Antonym: static.

dynamic (2)
a dynamic local IP is a temporary address on your LAN, allocated when you fire up your PC and log in to the network. It is used by the LAN when fixed IPs (a more secure alternative) have not been allocated.

dynamic (3)
a dynamic IP is a temporary IP given you by an ISP when you access by dial-up modem, phone line ADSL, or cable DSL. Next time you connect, it's changed. Cable IPs though are 'sticky' IPs, and tend to be less 'dynamic', but are still temporary. SDSL, symmetric DSL or business-class DSL, has a static IP however, since you may need to host IP-dependent services.

dynamic site
a database-driven website, where pages are built on-the-fly according to demand and/or environment variables. Interactive web pages or sites. Recognisable by the URL, which will include a ? or a PHP or ASP reference, etc, when raw and unrewritten.
cf flat site

ecommerce (1)
an older term for the Internet as a medium for commerce, especially when referring to transactions that take place exclusively on the Net. Replaced now by the term icommerce, since it cannot be confused with server software.

ecommerce (2)
[ecommerce application] server software that generates a website that can sell products or services directly. Customers primarily use credit cards though phone and cheque / check orders can often be accomodated.
An ecommerce application = a shopping cart = a standalone server program that allows visitors to buy online.
   Ecommerce apps can be standalone applications, or plugins for a CMS. In order to qualify as one, an application must present a product display with prices, tax, ordering and shipping variables; plus payment methods normally based on credit card functionality. The final stage of this procedure is called a checkout.
   A shopping cart may also be a plugin for another webapp such as a CMS. In general, the term 'ecommerce application' is used for larger, standalone programs with extended capabilities (eg MivaMerchant, Magento); 'shopping cart' is more often used for a program with smaller horizons, or a CMS plugin. However, they can be interchangeable since there are no rules, and marketing departments decide which term they will trade with.

enterprise content management - a private structured content control and delivery system that has a server or servers somewhere in the pipe. It may or may not include a web-facing server.

electronic mail. Messages sent from PC to PC across the Internet. Such messages are essentially public, and the equivalent of writing on a postcard. More secure methods include OpenPGP / Enigmail.

email client
(or POP3 client) software that sends and receives your email, eg Outlook Express, Outlook, Mail (for Mac), Thunderbird, etc.

a core component of an app which drives a process, usually its main function; or the app itself, providing a function other software depends upon.

(noun) a security vulnerability in an OS, server, or application, used to attack it or gain entry. Plugging loopholes is a daily task for sysadmins and coders defending against intrusion. To exploit (verb) = to use a vulnerability.

a plugin for a CMS. It can be used as a term to describe plugins that improve core functionality to a major degree; but in practice the various terms for additional software add-ons are mixed and non-specific, except as applied to a particular CMS where the community insist on a tighter definition for these terms. Such terms include: extension - plugin - add-on - module - block - Mambot - Wobject - CMTP; and/or whatever else the authors prefer. qv plugins

a term that was popular for describing various ways of privately connecting a business and its distributed departments, dealers or suppliers. Now superseded by VPN, but still used widely since it describes the function well and not the technology, which may vary or change.

CMS dictionary page 2 >>

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A Note on the Definitions

They are somewhat personal, or even alternative in some cases, but fairly accurate – in spirit. For ultimate precision, you will have to look elsewhere.
A little humour has been used in places, to lighten the load; if you don't find this acceptable, we apologise, and suggest therapy.

The following common abbreviations are used frequently:
aka also known as
cf compare with
qv see elsewhere herein
eg for example
ie in other words

These conglomerations of initials, such as RAID, proliferate alarmingly in the radio, electronics and computer worlds. In fact it isn't at all necessary to know or remember the precise words the initials represent, since in many (most?) cases they are complete gibberish. Only the overall meaning is of interest. 

Data size is expressed as follows: kb = kilobit, kB = kilobyte, Mb = megabit, MB = megabyte, GB = gigabyte, TB = terabyte. A small 'm' would indicate 'milli-', a thousandth of). Micro-, a millionth of, is µ (like a reversed U with a long tail, which you won't see properly if your browser doesn't support it), but sometimes seen as a plain u if the author cannot apply the correct format.

A data size figure is correctly expressed in the following way: 99GB, with no spaces between the number and descriptor (and note that this is different from some other quantity measures, especially offline). We don't always get it right though :)

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