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Posted on February 2nd, 2011 by Tom Arah

The Best CMS: Joomla 1.6 vs Drupal 7.0

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Just a few days after the launch of the long-awaited Drupal 7.0 version, arch-rival Joomla launched its latest 1.6 release

It’s interesting to note that, apart from some significant interface improvements, 1.6’s two main additions are specifically designed to meet Drupal head-on.

The Most Powerful CMS?

Firstly Joomla 1.6 integrates its previously separate Section and Category Managers to provide a more flexible system built on categories that can now be nested to any depth. Secondly it introduces a new Access Control system where you can create custom user groups and control what they can see via access levels, and what they can do via permission levels.

These are both major advances, but they still don’t go as far as Drupal’s core taxonomy handling and user role/permission systems. For example, you still can’t apply multiple categories with Joomla 1.6 nor get Drupal’s completely granular control over custom permissions. For deep power and granular control, Drupal wins.

Moreover, as Joomla digs deeper to graft on similar power, it actually ends up becoming more complicated than Drupal. To those who have tried Drupal that might sound near impossible but, if you don’t believe me, check out the later stages of the video below (The Art of Joomla’s video introduction to Joomla’s new Access Control).

Joomla 1.6 — Access Control from Captain Courageous on Vimeo.

The bottom line is that if category/term or access/permissions handling are crucial to what you want to achieve (especially for Web 2.0 sites where content is contributed by casual site visitors) then Drupal offers the more powerful and flexible implementation.

It’s also important to note that Joomla 1.6 doesn’t offer anything like Drupal 7.0’s biggest new attraction, its field-based handling of content in core (see my full Drupal 7.0 review).

Such granular control can take content management to an entirely new level, especially when allied with add-on field modules (for example, when handling embedded media or maps) and Drupal’s brilliant Views, a semi-core module that lets you build custom queries to pull out and display your field data.

The Best CMS?

Drupal 7.0 is certainly the more powerful CMS on paper, but it’s on the ground that counts

Drupal 7.0 remains the more powerful framework and indeed extends its lead. However that doesn’t mean that it’s the most powerful out of the box. In fact, out-of-the-box Drupal is pretty dreadful; it’s only when you’ve created your custom fields, content types, user roles and module mix that it comes into its own.

This ground-up building block approach is the secret of Drupal’s power but has two important downsides. To begin with, it goes a long way to explaining Drupal’s famously precipitous learning curve, which makes Joomla’s less-than-brilliant usability seem almost intuitive.

It also means that Drupal core is only half of the story. In fact it’s only when all the contributed modules that you want to use have been upgraded to be compliant with the 7.0 core – and with each other – that you’re ready to start building your site.

While Drupal 7.0 is certainly the more powerful CMS on paper, it’s on the ground that counts and here the comparatively self-contained Joomla scores highly. Joomla’s great strength is that it provides ready-to-go power that’s more than capable of producing the majority of websites.

Overall then, Drupal wins as the best, totally customisable framework for producing unique state-of-the-art Web 2.0 sites where content is contributed by site visitors, whereas Joomla victors as the best, largely customisable, off-the-shelf system for producing more traditional sites where content is contributed at organisation level by controlled workgroups.

And that still leaves plenty of room for WordPress as the best, partly customisable turnkey system for producing standard sites and blogs for individuals and small businesses (see my WordPress 3.0 review). Other systems, such as TYPO3, press the claims of their own particular mix of content management power and control.

Ultimately the best CMS depends entirely on you and what you want to do.

And the winner is…

That said, if a particularly odd person put a gun to my head and forced me to name the best CMS, there would be one clear winner. For basic photo enhancement Photoshop is complete overkill and most users are far better off with Photoshop Elements or Paint Shop Pro, but we still all accept that Photoshop is the “best” photo editor.

On the same grounds, if you can master it, Drupal 7.0 is the best CMS.

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39 Responses to “ The Best CMS: Joomla 1.6 vs Drupal 7.0 ”

  1. Kevin Says:
    February 2nd, 2011 at 10:58 am

    Tom, I’m not familiar with Joomla or Drupal – what can they do in practice that WordPress can’t?

  2. TomArah Says:
    February 2nd, 2011 at 11:32 am

    Hi Kevin. That’s a big subject and one that I should probably return to in more detail, but to give a quick example: say I wanted to create a website showcasing recipes from around the world. Using Drupal I could create a new recipe content type then break it down into separate fields for overview, photo, the individual steps, the cooking time and the location. I could then enable site visitors to add these recipes, now all automatically and consistently formatted, maybe providing different capabilities for registered and unregistered users. Using Views I could then pull out the data any way I wanted, say to show a thumbnail page of photos with overviews or a map of the globe with pointers and all filterable based on cooking time or user rating.

  3. TomArah Says:
    February 2nd, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    In the light of this, I think a useful way to think of it is that the other cms are designed to create custom web sites, but Drupal is designed to create custom web applications.

  4. Nilesh Says:
    February 2nd, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    Although wordpress can be used to create a site, but it is basically designed for bloggers.
    It is not as flexible as Drupal when it comes to complex situations.

  5. CraigieD Says:
    February 2nd, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    Thanks for the comparison Tom. As I’ve said before, Joomla has the edge for me because it has better components, but as you say. Each to their own, both are great CMS’.

  6. David Wright Says:
    February 2nd, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    Just taken over our website, which a web design company made, before I started here…

    The template they botched together for the admin pages makes Drupal a complete pig to work with.

    It is also automatically compressing images, which makes loading images with big blocks of single colours (logos for example) look horrible. :-(

    I’m starting to find my way around, but it is far from obvious – and that from somebody who had to pick up Typo3 and edit a site in an afternoon! :-D

    I’ve worked with most of the big CMS systems now, and I can’t say any of them have really made a good impression… :-S

  7. TheAL Says:
    February 2nd, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    @Kevin: a lot. Wordpress 3.0 is the first release that can even call itself a CMS without raising eyebrows. And it’s still pretty far behind Drupal in terms of scalability and ease of adding neverending, powerful features.

    TomArah’s example was a really good one, and kinda just the tip of the iceberg.

  8. Tom Arah Says:
    February 2nd, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    Hi David. I agree that none of them make a good impression – as I pointed out to the reviews editor wanting an attractive screenshot, they are really just a series of ugly and uglier web forms. And both Joomla and Drupal seem to take a perverse pleasure in putting off new users.
    It’s when you realise what they can do though and the sort of experience you can deliver to the site visitor (see above) that you realise just how impressive they can be.

  9. Rob Schifreen Says:
    February 3rd, 2011 at 12:49 am

    I’d be interested to see a comparison in PC Pro between the major players in the enterprise-level open source CMS market. The likes of Mysource Matrix and Silverstripe, for example.

  10. Steve Jarvis Says:
    February 3rd, 2011 at 8:24 am

    I would love to hear your opinions on ocPortal compared to Joomla and Drupal as personally i think it stacks up against both quite favourably. It is very secure and if you are looking for an integrated complex site it comes with much more included rather than having to bolt on 3rd party components.



  11. James McAvoy Says:
    February 4th, 2011 at 10:46 am

    @Rob Schifreen…
    It would be interesting to know what you think makes a CMS ‘enterprise-level’, as you’ve quoted two which by most realistic measures could not be classed as such, and it would seem highly unlikely that anyone at PcPro would know. In fact, one might say that, in the web sphere anyway, there are no open source ‘enterprise class’ cms’s. In the document management sphere there’s probably only one – Alfresco, and anyone honest who’s used that could surely testify as to what a pile of rubbish that is…

  12. Peter Connolly Says:
    February 4th, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    For the vast majority of standard small company websites, WordPress is more than sufficient, and with some of the new theme builders out there (Headway for example), you can write a site which looks completely custom. For a person who owns their own company, can’t afford a designer, and wants to write one website for their company, we point them at WordPress. Drupal (our specialty) and Joomla are just too difficult to learn for the sake of one website. Drupal is more of an application framework than a simple CMS, and if the client website doesn’t need that power, then Drupal may not be the right solution. It’s like the difference between a Vauxhall Astra, a tank and a Formula 1 Ferrari; they’ll all get you to where you’re going, but in completely different ways and for different audiences.

  13. TomArah Says:
    February 4th, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    @Peter. I like the analogy but as Drupal can go places that the others can’t how about “a Vauxhall Astra, a tank and a build-it-yourself rocket kit (with very little in the way of documentation)”?

  14. Kevin West Says:
    February 5th, 2011 at 4:36 am

    I have always used Joomla for my sites I have had no need to change,
    and the extensions Directory is massive.
    I have been waiting for 1.6 to final release fo around a year, but after installing on a local server to tinker I recommend waiting to deploy a site until the users guide is released at Amazon ETC.

  15. Rick Beton Says:
    February 5th, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    I worked quite a lot on earlier versions of Drupal but got tired of the huge startup curve if all you want is to set up a simple website. I now use CMSMadeSimple and Concrete5, both of which are very effective.

    In spite of that, when I have tried benchmarking page rendering performance on my staging server, I’m always impressed by Drupal’s speed. Haven’t tried Drupal 7 yet, but I might be switching back to it.

  16. Ruth Edmondson Says:
    February 6th, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    Why miss out Modx when talking about a powerful CMS? You can do anything with Modx, seemingly no limitations. There are loads of plugins and a large helpful community for any problems.

  17. Frost Says:
    February 8th, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    I’ve used Joomla for a few yrs now and there are things that irritate me about it but it’s been more than adequate for the sites I’m building. I’ve seen this CMSMadeSimple start popping up, what are peoples views with this compared to Drupal and Joomla? Does anyone know a top 5 used CMS’s?

  18. gnumax Says:
    February 17th, 2011 at 5:57 am

    It is very difficult to compare Joomla! vs Drupal: Two different personalities, distinct worlds & user-oriented features mixed.

  19. Eric Says:
    February 17th, 2011 at 6:27 am

    I actually like the fact that Drupal core do not come with so many things out-of-the-box, that keeps everything modular so features can be downloaded via contributed modules and each contributed module can has it’s own release program. I usually hate when something comes with too many things I don’t need.

  20. 2020media Says:
    February 23rd, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    @gnumax: I agree, comparisons are difficult. Basically you can achieve the same result with either Joomla or Drupal – you just might go a different route to get there.

    One thing I was interested in is the cost of maintaining a site in Joomla or Drupal. For example, how much hassle is it going to be to update them when the inevitable security update comes out.
    We did a comparison of Joomla, Drupal and WordPress here:

    As a Joomla/Drupal hosting provider, we’ve found them both solid CMS systems, and good performers on both shared and dedicated hosting platforms.

  21. Rajat Agarwal Says:
    March 2nd, 2011 at 2:51 am

    I did a detailed comparison of Joomla 1.6 and Drupal 7 and observed that both of them are trying to match the user interface of Wordpress.

    Here’s a blog post I wrote:

    Drupal 7 is no longer just for “geeks” like it used to be. It has changed its usability BIG time.

  22. joomla opensource Says:
    March 2nd, 2011 at 5:15 am

    One of the best things about Joomla! is how easy it is to add or modify content, including images and multimedia, and organizing and managing important data.

    The real power of Joomla is found in the application architecture that enables thousands of developers around the world to create powerful add-ons

  23. Bob Says:
    March 7th, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    @2020Media Doing installs and upgrades for Drupal takes seconds if you use Drush.

  24. Says:
    April 5th, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    Another cms war :) – anyway, I think Joomla is better than Drupal, hehe!

    “Mainstream” Drupal functionalities like cck, views, panels etc. are available by 3rd party modules in Joomla (jseblod, flexi etc.) with slightly different approach.

    Make love, not cms wars!


  25. Ace Says:
    April 22nd, 2011 at 12:58 am

    Drupal is for the experts period! If you’re not one of them leave Drupal alone. People who gets frustrated with the learning curve of Drupal don’t deserve the power of it. People who pass that test eventually reaps the benefits and create GREAT modules for the community. I see the learning curve is to weed out the lazy programmers.

  26. Chris Says:
    April 28th, 2011 at 11:32 am

    I only use drupal and joomla when the client asks for it, typo3 for huge sites with lot of trafic, magento/prestashop for eshops and modx for eveything else. The only reason i dont use modx for huge sites with lot of trafic is because i havent seen one yet so noone cant guarantee to me the performance on my server.

  27. Brad Says:
    June 11th, 2011 at 1:26 am

    Great article, I found your comparison very good and in the end, the most important phrase for me was “If you can master it, Drupal 7.0 is the best CMS.”

    I’m a sysadmin for state government and we recently contracted a drupal 6 site from a vendor. They selected Drupal and promised it would run in our PHP environment. After many painful days we came to the conclusion that drupal would not run in our environment with the “enhancements” applied to the site by the vendor. So we are now hosting it with the vendor until we can convert it to JOOMLA. It seems a shame because it cost a lot of money and now it is costing even more money.

    But it says volumes to the point that Drupal is not for the faint of heart. And it is very picky on what environments it will run in.

    The winner for us has been Joomla, mainly because it is so easy to use.

  28. Ralph Zingaro Says:
    July 11th, 2011 at 7:22 pm

    You don’t know jack. Joomla is so much better that that bloated POS drupal is ain’t funny. Drupal is horrible to work with.

  29. Belleza Says:
    July 13th, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    I’d be interested to see a comparison in PC Pro between the major players in the enterprise-level open source CMS. It is no doubt Joomla is better choice than Drupal as CMS. Why Drupal make it so compicated as a CMS. If I have to aim for flexibility, why don’t I use PHP framework instead of Drupal horrible huge API and confusing hook system.

  30. StevenH Says:
    July 20th, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    Seems to me it’s really a case of how far you’re willing to go — from the learning curve POV. I create wordpress sites when I need basic no-nonsense, quick and easy websites. Wordpress is great for these situations and ping ready. On the other hand, if I need something that (with 3rd party plugins) has scalability and a somewhat moderate amount of user control, then Joomla is my first choice. With that said: Joomla is going through some kind of phase funk at the moment. Three years to release 1.6, then 6 months 1.7 and 1.6 EOL with 1.8 already tooted. Cough! How about making it 4 years and releasing 2.0 instead, we waited this long — so what’s another year?

    Drupals painful learning curve and a need to understand at least a mediocre level of programming is enough for me to treat it as a learning projects rather than a viable unzip and “live it” CMS.

    Cheers all

  31. Vin Jackson Says:
    July 29th, 2011 at 8:45 am

    What great comparison ! But I think both CMS have their own importance, features, usability, etc.. So both are good CMS. But mostly people prefer Joomla is best.
    Thanks for nice sharing.

  32. a.ross Says:
    August 7th, 2011 at 9:49 pm

    It’s a shame to see so many comments to this article and nobody touching the topic of Drupal distributions. There are a few distributions that are as simple to setup as Wordpress and have different target audiences. A great one is Drupal Commons.

    A (short) list can be found here:

    On top of this, there are also installation profiles, which are generally a bit trickier because they might require using Drush. A very good one is Drupal Commons.

  33. Janessa Says:
    August 31st, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    Personally I love Drupal. Once you get over the steep learning curve the possibilities are endless. I know it takes a while to get all the modules needed to make it function. I just started compiling different packages for the typical web projects I’m working on.

    I have been forced to screw around with the majority of other cms and cant stand being trapped in a corner by their limitations (let alone trying to port them over to another system). I wish Drupal 7 came with more of the essential modules but its a great step from 6. Joomla seems convoluted and redundant, Wordpress I view more as a personal blogging platform.

    Each one has their own strengths and weaknesses. I guess it all depends on your individual needs from a website. Wordpress is great for personal/small business blog focused websites. Joomla is one of the best eCommerce platforms. While Drupal can do anything your heart desires as long as you put the time and effort into it.

  34. Rick Says:
    October 21st, 2011 at 8:44 pm

    I love the way everyone blew right past the clear leader of the bunch that Steve mentioned. ocPortal is by far the winner when it comes to out of the box features, functions, security and ease of use. Just go to to see the many many features that are all built in and require no clunky add ons…

  35. Peter Drinnan Says:
    October 23rd, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    I find that with Drupal, the learning curve is so steep that web shops ten to be all Drupal or not at all. Same goes for Joomla. Worpress is the common ground.

    Unfortunately for me I have to use both Joomla and Drupal.It is a heavy load to lift but not much choice for me. I love and hate them both equally.

  36. Kris Guttenbergovitz Says:
    November 20th, 2011 at 12:14 am

    don’t get me wrong, lads, i’m not trying to play convertite game but i did started with WP, played around few other CMSes and after i’ve forced myself to break through D learning curve a little i do understand the whole point is not about cool bundled ‘features’ (blog / post forum / blahblah) or ‘ouoftheboxism’ of other CMSes but about the fact they really are bundled preset modules one may easier or harder eventually customize. D’s approach is IMHO about bundling nothing at all but providing one with R2D2-like 24/7 available engine for creating these blocks. somewhat like having PHP pro servant ready and eager to build whatever you like if you’ll only pay some effort to explain it precisely.

  37. Kris Guttenbergovitz Says:
    November 20th, 2011 at 12:17 am

    a… to confess my sins – sometimes when facing really e-illiterate customers i don’t mind choosing the dark side and shipping concrete5. but only when everything else fails. otherwise D.

  38. webpall Says:
    April 29th, 2012 at 11:24 pm

    Totally confused now! Wanted to build a very small site, with very little content, with Drupal, being completely anti-techie (me). Maybe I will make this stupid mistake. Hoping to find a way for the visitors to add content to the website(if possible?!)

  39. tzoumla Says:
    May 22nd, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    You can’t compare shιt (Joomla) with strawberries (Drupal)…


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