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March 5, 2019


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Sometimes you need to create a landing page for your project or write a blog that is more a “note-to-self” than one requiring a huge follower base. In these cases, you want a lightweight CMS that does not take much effort to setup or a resource intensive CPU. Flat-File CMS is the solution you need. Flat File CMSes are generally faster irrespective of the server environment and have lesser requirements to run.

Typically, Flat File CMSes don’t have a backend database and display content from flat files. However, we have one entry in the list that uses SQLite. You can still port your content by simply copying the SQLite database (single file) to a different server and the CMS is ready to welcome visitors.


Grav is my favorite alternative to WordPress. Grav is built in PHP and uses text files as the backend database. The application is really easy to use and has a familiar looking (optional) admin interface. You can add new posts, manage posts through the backend. Content is stored as markdown files (.md) and when you add a new file to your site it gets automatically picked up and displayed.

Grav is built using PHP and can run on any webserver. PHP version is 5.6.3 or higher.


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The cool thing about Grav is the inbuilt package manager, that lets you install new themes and extensions directly. Speaking of themes, you can download skeletons which are ready to use Grav installs with sample content, plugins and configurations. Visit the skeletons page and choose one that best suits your need and unzip the content to your web-root and you are ready to go.

If you use the admin interface, you will be prompted to create a new user so please don’t forget to do this when you install your website. You can also add new users and create roles to control access to pages.


https://learn.getgrav.org/user/pages/05.admin-panel/01.introduction/admin-dashboard.png | Deluxe company


Demo URL: https://getgrav.org/downloads/skeletons Choose a skeleton and click on the demo button to see Grav in action. Default demo is also available at https://demo.getgrav.org/grav/


Written in Go, Hugo is a self contained CMS app. It is installed easily as a binary file from the Hugo Releases page (https://github.com/gohugoio/hugo/releases). New sites are created using command line parameters passed to hugo. Hugo builds your site when you create new content (a markdown .md file). The generated content is then served as regular HTML files. If you edit your page, it gets updated into the static HTML page in realtime. You don’t have to compile or go through a separate publication process.


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Hugo is designed to work from the command line. Creating a new site or new page is achieved through options passed to hugo. There are frontend UIs available, but have to be installed separately.

Content is separated into different folders, where the post text is in one folder and images, javascript and css in another folder. There is a little learning curve to start using Hugo, but once you get the hang of it, it becomes easy.

It is easy to port existing HTML files into themes for Hugo. You can build new themes easily (you guessed it right, hugo new theme {my-theme} creates the basic structure for your new theme).

Hugo’s binary also serves as a server, you can test the site locally by running the hugo server command.

Demo URL: https://themes.gohugo.io/ Choose any theme to see how it works.


Bludit is a simple content management system to make your own blog in seconds. Like the ones we have mentioned so far, this application is free and open-source Bludit uses flat-files (text files in JSON format) to store the posts and pages, you don’t need to install or configure a database.

Primarily touted to be a blogging application, you could expand and customize it from the official plugins and theme directories.


https://www.bludit.com/img/bludit_1_en.png | Deluxe company


Backend editor for Bludit

Bludit runs on PHP and can run from a number of webservers, even the inbuilt PHP webserver (though not recommended for production use)

Installation is as simple as downloading the zip file from the official site and unzipping it to the webserver directory. Follow the installer onscreen when you navigate to the webserver directory from your browser.

Demo URL: https://demo.bludit.com/


BoltCMS is a little different than the ones listed so far – it uses a backed Database (SQLite). However, since the database is a single file, it can be easily ported across servers. BoltCMS is highly extensible and offers some of the features that present in the full fledged applications like WordPress. You can define custom post types, do extensive customizations and extend the application using flat files.

Bolt is built with PHP using the Symfony framework and uses Twig templates that allows you to display the content you wish the way you want. Bolt also features a worthy back end allowing you to add content in a way that is similar to other CMSes such as WordPress.


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Bolt remains fast while still providing the same level of functionality and features such as User Management, out-of-the-box search engine. I highly recommend Bolt if you are building a custom CMS that is beyond just a simple collection of articles.

Demo URL: https://try.bolt.cm/ lets you create a demo site on the fly from a list of available themes.

Worthy alternatives

While it is near impossible to list all Flat File CMS systems, here are a few others that are worthy alternatives.

  • Ghost
  • TextPattern
  • FlatPress
  • Automad

Have you used any of these CMSes? What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comment section.


Grav – https://getgrav.org/

Hugo – https://gohugo.io/

Bludit – https://www.bludit.com/

BoltCMS – https://bolt.cm/

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