Originally Published: Thursday, 16 August 2001 Author: Isaac Golding
Published to: enhance_articles_sysadmin/Sysadmin Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

A PHPNuke 5.01 and PostNuke 0.61 Comparison

Linux.com contributor Isaac Golding, an earnest and heartfelt user of CMS systems (content management systems), gives us this detailed and very complete point-by-point comparison review between two popular systems based on the PHP language.

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A CMS or Content Management System is a program designed to be installed into a web server that aids the novice or expert webmaster in site management.  This program is designed to automate many functions such as the overall design of the site , surveys and user polls, article management and many other features too numerous to mention.

I have written this article with the goal of providing an unbiased and fair comparison of what is considered to be two of the most popular CMS systems in distribution today.  This is as close to an unbiased opinion that I can come to, having been a user of PHPNuke for quite some time now and eventually migrating to the PostNuke system. I still strive to maintain my ties to the PHPNuke community and always try to help fellow nukers whenever possible.  This comparison of PHPNuke and PostNuke is mine and mine alone. It doesn't not necessarily reflect that of the PHPNuke community or that of the PostNuke community. So please if you disagree with my statements don't direct them at one or the other of the CMS systems direct them at me.

In this article we will compare the features and benefits of the PHPNuke and PostNuke CMS systems in the hopes that others will benefit from my experience.



The Documentation on PostNuke at first was simply the PHPNuke documentation. However, within a short period of time the documentation was written anew and it was good, thorough and professional. As of late there have been a few speed bumps with the documentation as might happen with any open source project. However it looks as if those issues are being worked out and the documentation should be well on track by the 1.0 release.


The Documentation on PHPNuke is spartan in nature and that is to be expected of a one-man development team. The files give you instructions on how to install or upgrade the product as well as some decent coverage once the program is running on other various features. While the documentation does fit the bill it's nothing to get excited over.

Bug System tracking


PostNuke currently tracks bugs using the SourceForge Bug tracking system. This is a wonderful tool that systematically records and tracks any bug submitted by a registered user or an anonymous one. In addition to this there are forums and directly after the release period the staff is on standby at the site to answer questions that are posted as comments to the release statement. Generally all but a few really weird bugs are repaired within a 24-hour period, which lends great support to the success of PostNuke.


This is a sore subject with me as I started out using PHPNuke. In the beginning PHPNuke had a very active mailing list that the author killed, against the objections of the majority of users, as he wanted everything moved to the forums. Now the forums are gone as they had problems and the author for whatever reason chose to drop them. The Mailing List was never restarted and support went away from the official site. There appears to be no official support for any of the PHPNuke bugs that are found and it is all taken care of by the community at large. All of this I assume stems from a number of factors.

  1. the authors inability to keep up with all of the moving pieces (and there are a lot of moving pieces)

  2. "Script kiddies" bombarding forums and the e-mail list with their generally unpleasant comments about this and that.

  3. A large number of bugs in a system that was not tested aggressively before implementing on a production level site.

  4. The sudden surge in membership and overall site traffic on a site manned by a staff of one. Currently there is no OFFICIAL bug tracking system for the PHPNuke project that is known to this author. The site admin may be reading 3rd party forums or he might not but this is a feature sorely lacking on the part of PHPNuke.

Installation Script


This is a nice topic and a relatively new one. The concept is that you need not know a lot about sql to set it up. The PostNuke install.php script tries in a mostly successful manner to create the database or upgrade any PHPNuke database from 4.4 all the way up to the 5.01. If this fails there is a backup plan for those upgrading only (and this is not OFFICIAL) Hidden outside the html directory of the source package is a developer's CVS update script. It is soon to be incorporated into the install.php script but its current function is to upgrade whatever it finds in a current PostNuke beta database with new table information. In both cases if you are upgrading backup your files and database first first. This is all still new so something could go wrong.


No install script

Admin interface

PHPNuke and PostNuke

Generally speaking they share the same design for the admin interface. While there are differences "under the hood" for now they are very similar.

User Interface

PHPNuke and PostNuke

The User interface (user.php) for both programs is basically the same. PostNuke has a slight edge as it has a pre-user page that gives you a few options and a disclaimer included standard with US regulations on minors and information gathering. They both lack a real good user information screen. A total lack of links to the various IM programs and both could use a total overhaul in appearance.

NOTES: Currently on PostNuke Dev Network there are some changes on the user system being debated and they all look like steps in the right direction. As is the norm with PHPNuke the author has not leaked any real detail about his next release.

Theme System

PHPNuke and PostNuke

I believe in total honesty. They both suck badly. Unless you know how to program in the php your choices are limited to about 35 different themes. There are a few sites claiming to have 75 themes available for download. However I downloaded one of these theme packs and tested every one of them. 25 were thrown away from the start as being identified as pure clones of another theme. Another five were just broken. What was left was a good collection of fairly decent-to-wonderful themes. The theme system does have a great interface if only the average user who is using FrontPage or DreamWeaver or some other GUI could develop themes. Until then we are all just going to have to suffer.

User Support


PostNuke has an excellent official user support system. SourceForge has a good amount of assets available to both the staff and the user for many needs as well as the forums on the PostNuke.com website. In the very near future subsections of the main site lang.PostNuke.com, themes.PostNuke.com, and mods.PostNuke.com will be available and both will focus on support and service for their respective systems.

This community however is rather small, but with good reasons, they are new and they are growing. Just like PHPNuke did when it first started. Lets hope the staff of PostNuke (once the users of PHPNuke) remember and learn from the mistakes made at PHPNuke.org and keep the fire burning


While PHPNuke official user support died at the same time its forums died. There are two rather large 3rd party Forums available. And a large community base that tend to help out users with problems. With PHPNuke now being included in the Linux-Mandrake operating system this user base may indeed grow rather quickly. With this large base of information to draw on just about anything you throw out there should get answered. This is a good thing overall, so I have to give a thumbs up to the PHPNuke community for supporting their fellow nukers.

Multi Language capability


While neither programs support a 100% full TRUE translation site from what I understand ML Nuke moved itself into the PostNuke Camp. The ML system here is more modular and tends to move faster and have a larger translation team. ML Notes: Both systems have very nice systems and it is unclear who will become a leader in this area, if anybody. The Multilanguage users, who for the most part are still sitting on the fence waiting to see who does what next, support both.


While neither programs support a 100% full true translation site the ML Nuke Fork was started on PHPNuke 5.4Beta. This system allows the user to input menus and text in any given language and offers limited (and expanding) languages for almost all of the menu systems.

If you are looking for a 100 % full trabslation of any one given page you can copy the translation links from my website at http://www.secondcavalry.com the links are found in the upper right menu area. Its not perfect but it will translate any one page at a time.

Program Response Speed

PHPNuke and PostNuke

This is a hotly debated area. So I wont break them down beyond the following statements.

  1. The more php code the web server is required to load the longer it takes. No way around it it's a simple fact.

  2. The Larger and more graphic a theme is the longer it takes to load. It is also a simple fact.

  3. The connection speed of the viewer, of the ISP, backbone provider, and the designation web server. Will always fluctuate.

Looking at the core programs PostNuke wins with its very modular code and small core program

Looking at the themes its anybody's game

Everything else is up to the Internet

Html 4.01 transitional compliance?

Yes on both counts

The core program and themes that come with each package, do they test out with html 4.01 transitional compliance.

CSS compliance?

Yes on both counts

The core program and themes that come with each package test out with CSS compliance.

Open source


PostNuke is GPL'ed and can be modified under the terms and conditions of the GPL. PostNuke also embraces the open source development model. Suggestions are encouraged. Anybody wishing to help with development is generally accepted. CVS is used and to a great extent, and SourceForge tracks PostNuke as one of the 20 most actively developing programs in its huge repository.


PHPNuke is GPL'ed and can be modified under the terms and conditions of the GPL. However the Development of the Official PHPNuke program is closed. You can submit your ideas to the site and some are taken but it is all mostly at the whim of the author. The Author has stated publicly that while it is Open Source it is not Open Development. Most of the development of PHPNuke for PHPNuke that is not from the author happens as 3rd party plugins, modifications, or modules. Remember you get what you pay for.

Amendment #1 I was just informed of a CVS tree on Source Forge for PHPNuke by my assistant that is proofreading this document and checking my source information for accuracy. I am told this is rather new so for now I will withhold comments until it has had a bit of time to mature and I can see where it is going.

Modular code


PostNuke which started as PHPNuke has been torn to shreds and rebuilt in an extremely modular format. Almost every function of the site is in the modules directory. And this makes the program (I'm told by programmers) not only faster but also much easier to work with from a programming point of view.


PHPNuke code is not modular at this time. The files contain a large amount of code that is not needed for every different type of site application. This tends to slow down the overall response of the web server. Will you notice it? Maybe, maybe not.

Closing Statements

It is my personal belief based on the information provided above that PostNuke is the CMS system for me. It might not be what you're after and that's your choice. I wrote this article to help you in that choice. There are many people out and about on the internet who swear by PHPNuke and Linux-Mandrake has included version 4.4 in its last release of the Mandrake Operating System.

Whatever CMS you decide to use make sure that it's for the "right" reasons. Take your time and think out the issues. Don't make plans on something that is "scheduled" to be released because you never know what can happen. Last but not least; be proactive, plan ahead and be prepared for speed bumps. Ask questions, ask lots of questions and never assume the answer your given is the final answer. Best of luck!

Isaac Golding is the webmaster for a National Non-profit Veterans Group "The Second Cavalry Association", He volunteers his time helping others in the creation of web related projects for non profit organizations.

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