Kirby is the pioneer of the modern flat-file CMS. It has been developed by Bastian Allgeier since 2009. In 2014, Kirby 2 was released. Kirby 2 is a completely new version that was rebuilt from scratch. It is fully responsive and it ships with a smart dashboard for content managers.
Its long continuity is probably Kirby’s biggest strength. It is fresh and modern, but it does not follow all the hypes of the modern tech world. Instead, it keeps a focus on minimalism and usability.
Kirby for Content Managers
Kirby probably has one of the cleanest dashboards for editors out there. It is well-designed, with a focus on simplicity. After you have familiarized yourself with the navigation concept, the content work is really easy and everything is well-arranged.
Kirby does not provide a full visual editor, but a mixture of visual editing-options (for links, bold, italic, and mail) and an extension of Markdown called Kirbytext. If you prefer a full visual editor, then you can use a plugin.
One of the best aspects of Kirby is the image-handling with simple drag and drop. A lot of juvenile systems do not really care about the image-handling, although this is probably one of the most important features for content editors. With Kirby, you can simply upload a file and drag and drop it from the sidebar into the content editor. If you don’t want to use drag and drop for images, then you can also insert them manually with Kirbytext. This is done with a simple snippet like this: (image: mypicture.ipg).
If you don’t need advanced features, like versioning, or a scheduled publishing, then Kirby offers everything you need for a small website project.
Kirby for Developers
Kirby is written in PHP and you can download a free developer version to test the system.
Kirby is one of the few systems with a zero-click installation. After you copy the files into your folder, you can instantly visit the website. Even if you install Kirby on localhost, there is absolutely nothing to configure. There is no need to edit the htaccess file or a configuration file.
The startpage provides a link to the admin panel (thank you for that!), and after you have added your credentials in the login form, you can instantly start editing your content. I am not aware of any other system with a zero-installation routine like that. It is probably a result of more than eight years of continuous development.
Next good thing: The documentation is very focused and easy to understand, even for beginners. Kirby uses a good mixture of established and more modern technology. Kirby does not expect you to work with the console, with GitHub, with Composer, or with any other third party tools. Instead, it provides a guidance for an installation with XAMPP in the documentation. Many developers will appreciate that.
Like most other modern flat-file CMS, Kirby uses YAML files for configurations and settings. But, different from many younger systems, Kirby does not use a special template language like Twig. Instead, you can use plain and fully object oriented PHP.
If you want to print out a list of articles with Kirby, it looks something like this:
<?php if($articles->count()): ?> <?php foreach($articles as $article): ?> <article class="article index"> <p> <?= $article->text()->kirbytext()->excerpt(50, 'words') ?> <a href="<?= $article->url() ?>" class="article-more">read more</a> </p> </article> <?php endforeach ?> <?php endif ?>
If you want to dig deeper into the development with Kirby, then just use the documentation that is linked in the fact sheet below.
Kirby for Non Coders
Kirby focuses on the professional developer. If you are a PHP newbie with some basic skills, then Kirby might be a good starting point for your coding career. Especially because you will work with plain PHP that follows the principle of object oriented programming.
Kirby has a simple system for licenses:
- Free: developer-test-version, for local use only.
- $17 for a single website for personal and strictly non-commercial use.
- $89 for a single website with unlimited commercial use.
If you are an agency or a professional developer, then you can make use of volume discounts. There are also a lot of plugins and themes to buy.
Recommendation: When to use it?
Kirby is best for one pagers, personal websites, portfolio websites, or small business websites. Like always, you can use Kirby for blogs and other kinds of websites, too. But, if you are planning a large blog project, a shop, or a more complex enterprise website, then you should think about a more specialized CMS.
Kirby has a long history and there are a lot of small business websites and personal websites built with this flat-file CMS. Some good examples are the Symfonical Orchestra of Luzern, the Theater of Erlangen, or Yeebase, the company behind the German tech magazine, T3N. Just check the showcases for more examples.
- PHP 5.4+
- Webserver (Apache 2 or nginx, but no IIS!)
- Modern browser (Firefox, Chrome, Safari, IE10+)
- $17 single website for non-commercial use
- $89 single website for commercial use
Last reviewed: January 19, 2017