I have heard a lot of webmasters rave about sNews so I decided to try it out. sNews aims to be a simple and minimalistic Content Management System (CMS). It tries to provide the 20% of features that people use 80% of the time.
What’s it good at?
Lightweight- The project site boasts that sNews is based on just one php file. What this means is that its designed to take up very little disk space so you should have no trouble squeezing it into a minimal hosting account. The zipped up download is just 40KB . Unzipped it takes up a few hundred KB only. That is impressive given the feature list. It does require a MySQL database though.
The usual suspects – Basically you have all the essential features necessary for a decent CMS:
- sNews allows you to add, remove publish articles. You can file articles into different categories and you change the order in which they appear.
- You can upload images and other files to insert into your articles.
- Users can add comments to your articles or use the contact form. They can search your site using a built in search form.
- The site admin can also create static pages.
- The site’s contents can be syndicated using built in RSS feed generation.
- sNews will automatically create Search Engine Friendly URLs or you can specify your own. For the most part the SEF URLs are pretty good as they are based on your article title and you can see them generated as you type said title.
- And there’s a password protected admin panel used to manage the site.
- Easy templating and loads of quality templates available. The chief developer is an excellent website designer and makes a lot of free templates.
What doesn’t it do?
Simple installation – For a CMS that aims to be simple it sure doesn’t have a simple point and click installer. The installation procedure is outlined in the included readme file. The user is instructed to use the included SQL queries to create a suitable database structure and then edit the main snews.php file to specify the MySQL db name and MySQL server login details. While this may see pretty straight forward for a technically adept user it is down right scary for a newbie.
Comment spam protection – Comment spam is a major problem these days and any live website that supports comments needs an appropriate anti-spam system. sNews has a pretty good feature set but one important thing it lacks in its default installation is anti-spam for comments. It does allow the admin to moderate all comments before they are approved but thats about it for the default installation. However, there are image and math captcha plugins available.
True WYSIWYG editor – The editor available to the site admin is rather simple. It features a few quick HTML tag insertion buttons but none of the features of a true What You See is What You Get editor are available in the default installation.
Sub-categories – You can’t create a hierarchical set of categories since sNews only supports one level of categories.
Media management – Their is no media management system that allows the admin to add, remove, or generate thumbnails of images. There is a section that allows you to upload images and files but if you want to add those images to your articles you have to copy-paste the url manually.
Multiple Users – sNews is a single user system so no multiple users.
Who should use it?
I am indeed impressed by sNews’ feature set. For such a lightweight system it does have a lot of features. The admin panel is also well designed and their are a number of good templates for sNews. But it seriously needs to bundle a comment anti spam solution with its default installation. Sub categories would also be nice but I guess they would add to the complexity of the system.
I think sNews is an excellent system for those looking to set up minisites. Its ideal for domainers to use to develop some of their domains. sNews is also great if you don’t have much space on your hosting account or if you can only afford a small hosting account of say 10MB or less of space. sNews could also be used by newbies if they got somebody to do the installation for them. There are some fairly large sNews based sites such as free css templates .com.
Update 18 March 2013: sNews hasn’t been updated since 2011. The community is still active but I wouldn’t recommend investing too much in a CMS that isn’t being developed anymore.