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What is SPIP?

A publishing system for the Internet

May 2003 — updated on : February 2010

All the versions of this article:

SPIP, a publishing system

SPIP is a publishing system for the Internet.
Come again? It consists of a collection of files installed on a web server which allow you to take advantage of a number of automated tasks: multi-user management, laying out your articles without the need to use HTML, easily modifying the structure of your site, etc. Using the very same application as used to browse a site (Netscape, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla, Opera...), SPIP enables you to build and update your site thanks to a very simple user interface.

There are other content management systems; and each one has its own characteristics. One of the best known, at present, is phpNuke; it imposes a rather rigid structure for the site in the shape of a portal containing short articles. SPIP, on the other hand, is more flexible and mainly orientated towards the creation of a magazine structured site: i.e. with sections, sub-sections (and so on), where you can insert articles and news items which can then be supplemented with discussion forums.


SPIP is a free software distributed under the General Public License (GPL). SPIP’s requirements in terms of software and hardware are very modest indeed and they are even provided by some free hosting ISPs (see the FAQ and the installation guide for more details – or to be extremely brief: PHP+MySQL).

SPIP is freely distributed on this site at: Downloading SPIP.

SPIP’s benefits consist of…

-  managing a magazine type site, i.e. one made up chiefly of articles and news items inserted in a hierarchy of sections nested one within another. See the complete list of SPIP’s features for more details.

-  completely separating and distributing three kinds of tasks amongst various contributors: the graphic design; the site editorial input through the submission of articles and news items; and the site editorial management (which includes organising sections, validating article submissions, etc.).

-  relieves the webmaster and all site contributors from a number of tedious aspects of web publishing as well as the need to spend a long time learning special technical skills. The installation of SPIP is performed step by step through a simple interface and, when completed, allows you to start creating your own sections and articles straight away.

SPIP has the following features…

For the editor(s) and administrator(s)

-  An intuitive web interface greatly facilitates article and news item submissions as well as the editorial management of the site. Furthermore, a number of typographical shortcuts allow the layout of text without needing to use HTML tags, which makes editing tasks accessible to everyone since it is as simple as composing an e-mail message.

For the webmaster

-  The graphical side and the navigation in the site are defined by HTML layout templates (or "master pages") each of which defining a "view" (for instance: a view of the index page, another showing a section and a brief summary of its contents, a third one for the details of an article, a fourth for the details of a news item). The way that editorial content is inserted into those pages is defined by a number of HTML-like pseudo-tags which are relatively straightforward to understand.

-  SPIP does not restrict the graphical and navigational possibilities of the site. The HTML templates are entirely customisable by the webmaster. It is possible to control a number of elements of the site with SPIP, with the rest being managed manually or even with other publishing systems (providing these systems are just as tolerant as SPIP, of course).

For site visitors

-  A cache system in the public area of the site speeds up browsing by avoiding an excessive number of database queries, and which safeguards against that database crashing (which can be quite frequent on "overloaded" servers): in such cases, the site remains available transparently even if no content modification is possible (including forum contributions).

-  A search and indexing engine integrated into SPIP, which, if enabled by the webmaster, enables search functionality over the entire content of the public site.


For the time being, SPIP’s flexibility implies need for a modicum of study by the webmaster to be able to modify the default layout of the templates. Unlike some rigid systems such as phpNuke where you can change the colours or the logo with a click of a button (but that is all you are allowed to do), the SPIP webmaster only needs to learn a few rudimentary pseudo-HTML tags to enable him to do what he wants once he has mastered them.

SPIP is supplied with a complete navigational interface; as soon as you start to create some content for your site, that content can be viewed and will be displayed using the default graphical interface. It goes without saying that the webmaster can create his (her) own graphical interface if he (she) wishes so.

In the future, we plan to include several sets of layout templates in SPIP, making it easier for webmasters to re-use the most suitable one for them in order to minimise the customisation efforts. There are already many such contributions available as Themes or as Templates


The best (and historically first) example of the use of SPIP is the e-zine uZine2 (it was initially the specific code of this site which was used to create the original SPIP). Amongst other sites running under SPIP, we would like to mention Le Monde Diplomatique in English and Vacarme.


In order to get deeper into SPIP, you are advised to read the documentation, the examples and the "first steps" as proposed in this section. Mailing lists are also at your disposal to exchange enquiries and tips. Goodbye for now!

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