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sNews 1.6 review

December 30th, 2007

[sNews]

sNews 1.6 is the current version of a single file, template independent, PHP and MySQL powered, standards compliant CMS written by Solucija and released under a Creative Commons License.

This article is a short review of sNews 1.6, covering Installation, The Administration Page, Adding and Managing Content, and sNews Themes.

=> Installation

sNews requires PHP, MySQL and Apache with mod_rewrite enabled. The installation archive contains five files:

* snews.php: the sNews CMS code;
* .htaccess: the Apache settings file;
* readme.html: the installation instructions;
* index.php: the default template;
* style.css: the default stylesheet.

After we unpack the installation archive and follow the installation instructions in readme.html (setup the database, edit settings, upload files) we can browse to our site home page, where we are presented with a clean default layout.

=> The Administration Page

To add content, we need to log in. The first time we have to use the default account (username = test, password = test) but we must change that as soon as possible for obvious security reasons.

After logging in, we find a clean and simple administration page, with a first panel to add and manage content (Categories, Articles, Extra contents and Pages) and a second panel to edit settings and upload files.

To change our username and password, we go to Settings, where the last panel allows us to do just that. The other panels are about basic Settings (e.g. Website Title), Contact info, Time and Locale settings, Contents settings (e.g. how many articles per page) and Comments settings.

=> Adding and Managing Content

sNews handles different types of content.

Articles: content for display in the Home page or other Category pages;
Pages: content for display in independent pages;
Extra: content for display in other locations on our pages.

Articles are the most usual form of content and, by default, they are displayed on the Home page in reverse order. Each Article could be assigned to a Category instead, and in this case the Article would display in its Category page (no longer in the Home page).

Articles usually include text and (X)HTML, but it’s possible to include PHP scripts as well. Articles can be commented, and comments can be moderated. Each Article has a SEF (Search Engine Friendly) permanent URL, which displays the Article on a page by itself when entered in a browser.

Pages are much like Articles. The only difference is that a Page content is never displayed in the Home page nor in any Category page, but always on an independent page by itself. Like Articles, Pages can include PHP scripts, can be commented, and have a SEF permanent URL.

Extra content is similar to Articles and Pages, but is displayed in a specific location, typically in a sidebar, on a page of our choice (Home page, Category page, or Page) or on them all. Extra content can include PHP scripts, but can’t be commented and doesn’t have a permanent URL.

=> sNews Themes

While it’s not possible to activate a new theme from the Administration page, it’s perfectly possible to do so manually. We just need to replace the index.php file with a new one; the new index.php will possibly reference a new style.css stylesheet and a few images, all contained in a subfolder of the sNews installation.

=> Conclusions

sNews offers many useful features in a surprisingly small package, less than 2000 lines of PHP code. Any (X)HTML / CSS website template can be easily converted for use with sNews, simply replacing the static content elements of the template with the sNews functions that generate the dynamic content.

So, whether you are a normal user, a developer, or a designer, you may find sNews interesting. Give it a try!

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