Review: Xerte authoring tool

The more I play with Xerte, the more I realise how powerful it can be in the right hands.

Introduction to Xerte

Xerte is an open-source, multi-user, server-based content authoring and delivery sytem. It’s come from the university sector - with the main development team based at the University of Nottingham. But don’t let that put you off. I’ve seen it used very successfully in a commercial “Teaching English as a Foreign Language” setting.

Digging into some of those words a bit… By open source we mean that the code in which the application is written is available for anyone to examine. You’ll find it on Github. But not only examine. You can also download and modify it freely.

It’s multi-user. It’s designed for settings where you’ll have lots of people creating and reviewing content. In that respect, it’s playing in the same space as tools like Dominknow and Elucidat, but without the huge price tags.

It’s server-based. There’s nothing for the end-user to download or install. Everything is managed and stored on the server. You could, if you wanted, install it on your own computer - as long as you’ve also installed the necessary software to run a web server, PHP scripting and a database. So, it’s a bit technical, but you don’t have to be a superbrain to do it.

Most people will be using Xerte through some sort of hosted server setup, like a shared hosting provider or an institutional IT team. Unlike a lot of modern server software, it’s actually pretty straightforward to do, even on the cheapest hosting package. No need for Docker or shell access.

It’s a content authoring system, by which I mean it’s a simple way to create web-based content without needing to know any HTML, CSS or Javascript. Now, I’d always argue that you’ll get better results if you can work in those languages, but for most of us, an authoring tool is a shortcut to quick results.

Xerte can create three types of content:

Xerte encapsulates the positives and negatives of open source software. There is so much about it that is really good, but it’s let down by the sorts of things that would rarely happen in the commercial world.

Good points

Areas for improvement


Xerte is extremely powerful and useful in the right contexts. It does take some work to set up - including some fairly technical stages. But once that’s done, then it’s relatively easy for content authors to pick up and produce quality materials.

If you are going to use Xerte, then, unless you’re a developer, consider “paying” for it by volunteering with the documentation or the marketing. That’s where you will probably have the most impact.

Response from the product team

You’ll find a helpful response to this review on the associated LinkedIn post

Xerte screenshot

Posted: 24 March 2024

Tags: Open source Content management Reviews

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