I've set a few clients up with Adobe (formerly Macromedia) Contribute to edit static html content. Add the comments to prevent them from causing too much damage and it works okay:

<!-- TemplateBeginEditable name="UserEditedSection" -->
<p>stuff the user can edit</p>
<!-- TemplateEndEditable  -->

So my questions:

  1. Are there any Contribute competitors that are worthwhile?

  2. Are there any Contribute competitors that don't require a piece of desktop software?

  3. Are there any Contribute competitors that work on mobile (iPad, iPhone, Android, Blackberry?)

  • 5
    Would a CMS like cushycms.com do the job, or do you have more complex requirements than that? – MrChrister Jul 20 '10 at 18:35
  • @MrChrister: CushyCMS appears to be an answer to 2. Have you used CushyCMS? – artlung Jul 20 '10 at 19:34
  • Just the demo, but your question reminded me of it as a flat file based online CMS – MrChrister Jul 20 '10 at 22:48
  • How static are we talking? No database? – Andres Jaan Tack Jul 21 '10 at 21:10
  • 4
    I hate to say that if you're at the point where you're doing this a lot, it's probably time to delve into a low-level CMS like Wordpress (or the many that others have mentioned) Yes, it's a bit more work to customize and costs a few dollars more to host, but the payoff is easier editing if the client has you in charge and a higher margin product you could offer to your clients. My clients often update their sites CMS via phone. I look at it this way....we could all do our graphics in MS Paint, but most of us choose not to for a reason.... – bpeterson76 Jul 30 '10 at 3:56

13 Answers 13


Here are a few different options of simpler CMS's, hosted and downloadable:

For a more comprehensive list of CMS options, check out OpenSourceCMS. You'll find all sorts of non-hosted options there, ranging from the simplest solutions to more complex, each with a demo so that you try it out before downloading. Note that I've not used any of these, so I can't make a recommendation of one over an other, but hopefully you'll find something useful.

  • +1. BTW Phpns link is broken. And what's your brief opinions on each/some of the CMS you listed? – Marco Demaio Dec 6 '10 at 20:22
  • I wouldn't use any of them, personally. I don't like hosted options that don't let me control the details of the website and the flat file option is also limiting. As for the remaining options, I would choose Wordpress or Joomla over any of those listed. – Virtuosi Media Dec 6 '10 at 20:35

If you just want to allow them to modify a few static texts on the site, I recommend CushyCMS

You just put some html tags around the areas you want to make editable, you give CushyCMS your ftp access, and you're done. Very very easy.

  • I have used CushyCMS in the past and it is actually pretty darn amazing. You just have to be ok with giving a 3rd party app FTP access to your server. – jessegavin Jul 22 '10 at 1:45
  • @jessegavin - agreed, it would be awesome if they could support one time passwords. – Tim Post Jul 31 '10 at 19:05
  • Looks very cool. I'm a bit concerned that since you have to mark editable areas with the class cushycms it makes it pretty obvious that you're using CushyCMS and that you have opened FTP access to them. Can you define your own class name? – Adam Aug 2 '10 at 21:33
  • Presumably you can use SFTP as well? If so, then I don't think there's much security risk to letting people know that you use CushyCMS. – Lèse majesté Dec 6 '10 at 2:37

Some ideas :

  • Amaya by W3C , open source
  • WYSWYGPro can be embedded on a web page - No desktop software (does not do task requested)
  • TinyMCE Javascript WYSIWYG editor - No desktop software (does not do task requested)

I haven't any personal experience with any of them.

  • 1
    +1 for Amaya, but WYSWYGPro and TinyMCE don't do what I described, they would require another backend tool to actually implement the edits. – artlung Jul 21 '10 at 22:26

CouchCMS (http://www.couchcms.com/) also seems to be a perfect alternative to Contribute. It uses XHTML tags to mark out editable regions within existing HTML pages (just like several other micro CMSes), however it shines when it comes to creating cloned pages out of any existing page.


Honestly, I'd recommend creating one. (and when you do, release it as open source!) CushyCMS, if I understand correctly, requires they know your ftp details? Eek. Also, I'm not one for depending on an outside service like that. It's too risky: they could go under, and then all your clients are mad at you.

  • I have mixed feelings about that argument. On the one hand, many of these SaaS apps are a rip-off, and they do make you dangerously dependent on a third party service. On the other hand, most businesses already depend on third parties for web hosting, email hosting, internet access, power, etc. So it's really down to balancing the extra dependence/risk versus the convenience offered by hosted solutions. Also, a SLA could mitigate most of the risk you'd incur. – Lèse majesté Dec 6 '10 at 2:24

Perch is an excellent and simple CMS. I don't know CushyCMS, but - from what I can tell - the two are pretty similar.

  • 1
    I thought MySQL was a requirement to use Perch? Or can it edit files directly? – Tim Post Aug 4 '10 at 8:48
  • Yes, it appears to require MySQL based on the features page. And there's not much point in building a static site if you have access to both PHP and MySQL, so I'm guessing the questioner won't be able to use this. – Lèse majesté Dec 6 '10 at 2:19

For small websites you can create a Google Docs account for your customer and have a document for each web page. If you enable sharing on the document, then you can pull it from the server-side and display it in their website. To them, all they see is the Google editor and their changes immediately become live when they reload their website.

  • How is the page included on your website? It seems like this would necessarily be JavaScript or an iframe, which makes the search engine and accessibility implications of this pretty bad. Maybe I'm misunderstanding though. – artlung Jul 31 '10 at 20:03
  • To use an example I found by googling (docs.google.com/…) - if the page is shared by allowing it to be viewed on the web, then you can use any server-side language to include it. For PHP, this is as simple as... echo file_get_contents('docs.google.com/…); The docs page then gets inserted into your page without javascript and without iframes and without hurting search engine performance. – dmsnell Aug 2 '10 at 11:56
  • If you're going to need PHP, then you may as well run a dynamic website. Using URL rewriting may be an option, but it still seems hackish. How static are Google Docs sharing URLs? – Lèse majesté Dec 6 '10 at 2:29
  • In that case, why not a Google site ? – Patrick Honorez Sep 5 '15 at 13:02

InPlaceEditor can be suitable. To limit editable area one have to set the selector for editable area in js/inplaceeditor.js

cosnt editable_container = '.editable_area'

demo http://xreader.github.com/inplaceeditor/demo.html


While this question is quite old, I'd like to add my 2 cents. Most answers include links to CMS, some I like (e.g; GetSimple), but a CMS is not exactly a static site. I recently discovered Sitecake which is just that: a static site editor. Their demo is definitely impressive. (I am in no way affiliated with them!)


Personally I use Drupal for such things. Drupal is a content management system, it takes a bit to get setup and a developer can be expensive if you want to do anything real fancy, but the end result is usually a good site. If it is setup well then it is easy to use also.

more info at druapl.org

  • 3
    Drupal is not a static website. Drupal requires a complete rewrite and rethink of an existing static website. Drupal is great, but it is in no way a competitor to Contribute. – artlung Jul 21 '10 at 15:07
  • 2
    You spelled druapl.org wrong = / – rlb.usa Jul 21 '10 at 22:10
  • I thought that I made it clear that "Drupal is content management system" as in not a static site. As Drupal does awnser all three of the askers question; it is worthwhile, doesn't require a desktop application to run, and can be edited from any device that can connect to the web; I think that Drupal would solve the problem just fine. All Content Management Systems are competitors for Static sites. @rlb.usa, whoops. – Frank Robert Anderson Aug 24 '10 at 8:25

If you are looking for a "competitor to contribute," the most common one I've heard used it Dreamweaver, also available from Adobe. But, this is also a piece of desktop software.

  • I'm really looking for simpler editors for static content, but Dreamweaver is certainly an option. Overkill for simple editing for clients though. – artlung Jul 21 '10 at 21:09
  • 1
    I have experience with both Dreamweaver and Contribute. If he's worried about users messing up the site enough to use the TemplateBeginEditable , they are definitely going to be messing up a lot of things with Dreamweaver. It's more complicated. – rlb.usa Jul 21 '10 at 22:02

Check out the new Aloha Editor.

Aloha Editor makes HTML5 contenteditable possible - now. All major browsers support contenteditable. But they provide no interface or even break the HTML source code. Contenteditable is the heart of Aloha Editor and makes it to worlds most advanced Editor. With Aloha Editor you are one step closer to the exiting new world that comes with HTML5. The future of content editing. Available now with Aloha Editor.

It allows you to directly edit elements on the page, no special CMS backends required. Could definitely make life easier if your clients aren't so technically inclined. They just start editing what they see right there on the page where they see it.

  • I don't understand how the changes are saved to the server? – nute Jul 22 '10 at 18:28
  • It's a competitor to TinyMCE, so there is no default backend. It's very nice, but does not meet my criteria. – artlung Jul 26 '10 at 17:11
  • It depends on jQuery and ExtJS. Developer Docs here: aloha-editor.com/wiki/index.php/Implementation_Guide – artlung Jul 26 '10 at 17:14
  • That product is buggy at best. IMO its just a POC not one for actual use. – corymathews Jul 30 '10 at 13:22


I've been using CKEditor in my proprietary content management system for some time. It is JavaScript based with a great deal of configurability. Customers seem to be able to handle it well enough and it provides enough power to create some very detailed HTML without touching the raw HTML.

  • 1
    But that requires content management system-managed pages, right? The question is specifically about editing a static website. – artlung Aug 2 '10 at 13:19

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