Home > Scripts > Content Management (CMS)
SPIP is a publishing system for the Internet in which great importance is attached to collaborative working, to multilingual environments, and to simplicity of use for web authors. It is free software, distributed under the GNU/GPL licence. This means that it can be used for any Internet site, whether personal or institutional, non-profit or commercial.
SPIP is a publishing system for the Internet.
Come again? It consists of a collection of files installed on a web server which allow you to take advantage of a number of automated tasks: multi-user management, laying out your articles without the need to use HTML, easily modifying the structure of your site, etc. Using the very same application as used to browse a site (Netscape, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla, Opera...), SPIP enables you to build and update your site thanks to a very simple user interface.
There are other content management systems; and each one has its own characteristics. One of the best known, at present, is phpNuke; it imposes a rather rigid structure for the site in the shape of a portal containing short articles. SPIP, on the other hand, is more flexible and mainly orientated towards the creation of a magazine structured site: i.e. with sections, sub-sections (and so on), where you can insert articles and news items which can then be supplemented with discussion forums.
SPIP is a free software distributed under the General Public License (GPL). SPIP’s requirements in terms of software and hardware are very modest indeed and they are even provided by some free hosting ISPs.
SPIP’s benefits consist of …
- managing a magazine type site, i.e. one made up chiefly of articles and news items inserted in a hierarchy of sections nested one within another. See the complete list of SPIP’s features for more details.
- completely separating and distributing three kinds of tasks amongst various contributors: the graphic design; the site editorial input through the submission of articles and news items; and the site editorial management (which includes organising sections, validating article submissions, etc.).
- relieves the webmaster and all site contributors from a number of tedious aspects of web publishing as well as the need to spend a long time learning special technical skills. The installation of SPIP is performed step by step through a simple interface and, when completed, allows you to start creating your own sections and articles straight away.
SPIP has the following features …
For the editor(s) and administrator(s):
- An intuitive web interface greatly facilitates article and news item submissions as well as the editorial management of the site. Furthermore, a number of typographical shortcuts allow the layout of text without needing to use HTML tags, which makes editing tasks accessible to everyone since it is as simple as composing an e-mail message.
For the webmaster:
- The graphical side and the navigation in the site are defined by HTML layout templates (or “master pages”) each of which defining a “view” (for instance: a view of the index page, another showing a section and a brief summary of its contents, a third one for the details of an article, a fourth for the details of a news item). The way that editorial content is inserted into those pages is defined by a number of HTML-like pseudo-tags which are relatively straightforward to understand.
- SPIP does not restrict the graphical and navigational possibilities of the site. The HTML templates are entirely customisable by the webmaster. It is possible to control a number of elements of the site with SPIP, with the rest being managed manually or even with other publishing systems (providing these systems are just as tolerant as SPIP, of course).
For site visitors:
- A cache system in the public area of the site speeds up browsing by avoiding an excessive number of database queries, and which safeguards against that database crashing (which can be quite frequent on “overloaded” servers): in such cases, the site remains available transparently even if no content modification is possible (including forum contributions).
- A search and indexing engine integrated into SPIP, which, if enabled by the webmaster, enables search functionality over the entire content of the public site.
For the time being, SPIP’s flexibility implies need for a modicum of study by the webmaster to be able to modify the default layout of the templates. Unlike some rigid systems such as phpNuke where you can change the colours or the logo with a click of a button (but that is all you are allowed to do), the SPIP webmaster only needs to learn a few rudimentary pseudo-HTML tags to enable him to do what he wants once he has mastered them.
SPIP is supplied with a complete navigational interface; as soon as you start to create some content for your site, that content can be viewed and will be displayed using the default graphical interface. It goes without saying that the webmaster can create his (her) own graphical interface if he (she) wishes so.
In the future, we plan to include several sets of layout templates in SPIP, making it easier for webmasters to re-use the most suitable one for them in order to minimise the customisation efforts. There are already many such contributions available as Themes or as Templates
The best (and historically first) example of the use of SPIP is the e-zine uZine (it was initially the specific code of this site which was used to create the original SPIP). Amongst other sites running under SPIP, we would like to mention Le Monde Diplomatique in English and Vacarme.
The installation of SPIP is very simple compared to other systems:
- You do not need any specific technical knowledge (neither PHP nor MySQL) to perform the installation.
- Configuration is performed directly on line through a very simple graphical interface (in particular, you don’t have to modify any configuration file with nebulous code).
- We distribute only a single version of SPIP; it may evolve over time depending on the enhancements introduced, but we take great care not to complicate it with “patches” that you have to fish from all over the shop (to modify SPIP for requirements imposed by a particular hosting ISP for instance).
The public site
The public site developed with SPIP presents the following features:
- A flexible interface entirely customisable by the Webmaster without the need for any knowledge of PHP or MySQL; the SPIP interface is based on HTML which has been supplemented with a relatively simple control language. SPIP does not impose a rigid page layout (such as the “three columns” page so distinctive of phpNuke).
- The classic HTML interface isn’t the only navigation format that can be offered to your site’s visitors. The same information, i.e. the same content, can be presented in very different formats. For example, apart from the classic Web navigation you can provide:
- syndication threads XML/RSS
- a calendar in iCalendar
- Wap navigation (WML),
- Macromedia Flash navigation (unfortunately there’s no example available in a free format...)
- and any other format which you care to master (cHTML for iMode, XPressTags, XML for Indesign...).
- SPIP includes a cache system for each single page: pages are calculated (from the information pulled out of the database) individually and stored in a cache file; this way, the server is not slowed down by too many MySQL queries and the site is always available even in the case of a database server failure.
- SPIP includes a small search engine based on a word indexing system.
The site structure
The site structure under SPIP is based on a hierarchy of sections. Theoretically speaking, there is no limit to the number of sections: a section can contain as many sub-sections as needed and they, in turn, can contain sub-sections etc. In this way, a site is built by nesting sub-sections into sections.
The chief “object” used to publish information under SPIP is the article. You can place as many articles as you wish into any section.
- Editing articles is very simple and is performed through an on-line graphical interface.
- Articles are comprised of several elements: title, top title, subtitle, brief description, standfirst, text and postscript.
- Typographical rules are applied automatically (non-breaking spaces before exclamation and question marks, adaptation to varying conventions depending on language, etc.)
- Mnemonic shortcuts facilitate the enrichment of typography, the creation of hypertext links, footnotes… laying out an article under SPIP is as easy as writing an e-mail.
- The graphical interface allows you to include images in articles very easily and each article can be represented by its own logo.
- You can associate each article with one or several keywords.
- The publishing date is automatically managed (however, you can modify it if necessary); a second date can be associated with the article, to indicate a prior publishing date for instance (such as an article previously published in a paper magazine).
- Redirection (“ghost” articles): SPIP allows you to create ghost articles (or virtual articles) integrated in the site structure and displayed in the sections’ contents, but which, effectively, point to a page the address of which was defined by the editor (in the same site or even in another site altogether).
To supplement the articles, SPIP includes a system of news items facilitating the publication of short stories such as a press revue (or a web revue).
- In order to facilitate the structuring and positioning of the news items, they can only be installed in the principal sections (sectors) of the site (i.e. the sections located at the site’s root).
- The news items’ structure is very simplified: a title and a text; each news item may be supplemented with a hypertext link.
- Managing the publication of a news item is very simple (two buttons: publish or reject).
- Each news item can be tagged with its own logo.
- The site administrator can disable the use of news items for the whole site.
SPIP includes a forums system.
- Forums can be associated with articles (one forum per article), sections or news items. The Webmaster can design the site’s interface to either accommodate each article with its own forum or accommodate several articles within a section with the same forum, etc.
- SPIP offers several types of forums: the “free” forums (moderated post-publication, where contributions appear immediately on the public site, and administrators may then delete unwanted messages); forums moderated pre-publication (contributions appear only after being validated by a site administrator); forums by subscription (to be able to take part, every participant must provide their e-mail address in order to receive a password allowing them to post their contributions).
SPIP includes also a private forum system dedicated to the discussions between editors of the site, in the private area.
An article can be turned into an online petition in a few clicks.
- SPIP’s petitions are automatically validated by e-mail: the signatory receives a confirmation message checking for the validity of the signature.
- Petition types can be configured very easily: restricting each email address to a single vote, mandatory provision of a web address (in this case the URL’s validity is checked automatically), allowing messages to be posted with votes (signatures).
SPIP includes a very simple statistical system to evaluate the popularity of articles and sections.
A SPIP site could be managed either by one person or by a team of editors.
- SPIP offers two default levels of access: administrators who manage, among other things, the site structure and the validation of articles, and editors who submit articles.
- The number of administrators and editors is unlimited.
- The public site’s visitors may register to become editors (this registration procedure is automatically managed by SPIP).
- Each author may have their own personal logo which can be uploaded by the author through the system interface (an ID photo for instance).
Sites created with SPIP, phpNuke or other content management systems provide a dynamic file containing their latest publications. SPIP is able to analyse such files to determine new content on such other sites:
- - you can add as many syndicated sites as you want;
- - syndicated sites are associated with the sections of the local site; doing so means that you can create a topical section with links to other sites that deal with the same topic as the current section.
Graphical interface of the public site
The public site’s graphical interface is very flexible. Thanks to a very simple language (proprietary to SPIP), you can create almost any interface.
The most significant feature of this is that you don’t need to know PHP: the Webmaster can, if he wishes so, integrate PHP functions or CGI gateways in his templates. Therefore, you can enrich SPIP with specialised scripts to complement or replace missing functions (such as counters, more powerful search engine…).
Interface of the private area
The private area from where the site is managed provides a very easy to use graphical interface.
- This interface can be adjusted according to the activities of each editor or administrator and according the site’s activity. This means that each author has rapid access to his own articles, and articles submitted for publication are displayed to all participants. Furthermore, the interface is different depending on whether one is editor or administrator.
- Each user can customise his own interface. He can choose between a simplified interface, which displays the main features, and a complete interface. Also, he can slightly alter the graphical layout of the interface.
- When a site accommodates several editors, SPIP becomes a collaborative tool: discussions over articles, hierarchical validations, and several editors able to work on the same articles …
Even though the graphical interface and the content management are strictly separated in SPIP (for instance, it is not possible to define the background colour of the public site from the private area, although some recent plugin templates to enable this), it is, nonetheless possible to configure several aspects of the site from within the private area:
- enabling or disabling certain elements of the articles’ contents: such as deciding to disable the use of top titles, subtitles, description, standfirst or postscript, or the date of earlier publishing and the use of keywords;
- configuring (or disabling) public forums;
- deciding to publish articles before their publishing date (this option allows you, for instance, to go on holiday while the site continues to publish your stories);
- disabling the system of news items (as a matter of fact, some sites do not need it; and so by disabling it you would tidy up the interface);
- enabling or disabling the statistics;
- enabling or disabling the search engine.
The system provides several options aimed at facilitating the site’s editorial follow-up:
- dispatching forum contributions to articles’ authors; when a visitor posts a message below an article, that article’s author is informed by e-mail, which allows the relevant author to monitor any activity on articles previously written and published;
- follow-up of editorial activity; if the site is produced by a team of editors, important editorial announcements may be automatically sent out to an e-mail address (ideally, to a mailing list); in this way, members of this list are automatically informed when an article is published or submitted;
- latest news announcement; SPIP can send an automated e-mail summarising the latest publications on the site with a frequency defined by administrators.
Backing up and exporting the database
The site’s Webmaster can back up the database (and thereby create backup files); if the server allows it, this backup can be created in a compressed file, which is faster to download by FTP. Of course, SPIP includes the function necessary to import such a file.