A Headless API-based CMS is a content management system that offers an API endpoint to view, manage, and create content, users, and settings instead of the classical web interface.
Many developers like API-based approach as it is easier to scale, build, manage, and allows developers to use any front-end technologies they want.
In this article, we will explore the best working functional API-based headless systems for developers and enterprise.
The Cockpit CMS is an open-source self-hosted headless CMS "content management system" that is completely API-driven.
It uses SQLite or MongoDB as a database backend, and comes with a straightforward user-friendly interface. However, MongoDB is highly recommended in production.
Cockpit released under the GNU Lesser General Public License v2.1.
dotCMS is a Hybrid content management system CMS built in with Java language, it delivers the most flexible API-first infrastructure. It used by marketers and developers.
dotCMS has the ability to create and reuse content to build connected, engaging, and memorable digital products. It also gives users the enterprise content management feathers from scalable, flexible capabilities you need, drag and drop editor experience, secure workflow, multilingual, and multi-tenant capabilities.
dotCMS is secure, scalable, and fully customizable, it allows you to set up authoring and publishing environments across geographic regions.
HashBrown is an open-source headless CMS built with Node.js and MongoDB.
HashBrown can manage several projects with several environments, deploying content to several servers. Also, you can build any structural content and post it with any format and to any protocol.
4- Umbraco Heartcore
Umbraco Heartcore is a headless CMS with a strong backend and editor experience that makes working with content delightful, structured, logical and scalable.
It allows users to worry less about time-consuming that administrative takes, its help with creating great content and displaying it beautifully any front end you build.
Umbraco Heartcore comes with a managed API, which means that all user content automatically exposed via a RESTful API.
Umbraco Heartcore licensed under the MIT license and written with C#.
Statamic is a transformer Laravel+ Git powered CMS open-source designed for building beautiful, easy to manage websites. It comes with no database until you need one.
It is a front-to-back CMS until you need to go headless, It’s full-stack until you go Jamstack, it has a beautiful control panel.
Craftcms is an open-source content creation that comes with user-friendly interface aims to make life enjoyable for developers and content managers alike.
It allows user to build entry type and custom fields, it also let relationships between entries easily to create, and it has a Matrix fields that let user create repeating and long form content.
Craft CMS comes with many features including an intuitive, accessible control panel, an auto-generated GraphQL API, a robust framework for custom module and plugin development, a built-in template system and headless APIs, and self-hosted, so you have full control over your data and infrastructure.
Payloadcms is an open-source, powerful TypeScript headless CMS for developers. It licensed under the MIT license. It built with TypeScript, Node.js, React and MongoDB.
ApostropheCMS is an open-source website builder to create custom solution for business, digital agencies, SaaS companies, higher education, enterprise, and more. This app is powerful, flexible, easy to use.
It comes with Drag and drop in context live editing, it makes changes in real time, manage all the business from a single dashboard, integrate with native modules and flexible content APIs, it uses many visual design tools that allow for dynamic styling
It builds with technologies like Node.js, Express, MongoDB, Vue.js, and released under the MIT license.
Webiny is an open-source self-hosted serverless enterprise CMS that help you with keeping your data within the security perimeter of your own infrastructure. It has written with TypeScript.
Webiny does manage your content, allows you to build and deploy sites and forms, manage all project centrally and use advance processes that support organization-wide collaboration.
It keeps your data in your own cloud, it runs on highly-scalable fault-tolerant serveless services. It used from marketing team to manage content, landing pages, file and forms, it supports a multi-site.
Webiny comes with built-in utilities that reduce risk and ensure quality and control such as site reliability, content control, access control, with it, you can customize every aspect of the platform.
BuilderIO is an open-source drag and drop page builder, integrate with any site or app. This CMS can be used for React, Vue, and Angular projects.
BuilderIO is using an API-driven UI that allows you to decouple page updates from deploys, schedule, a/b test, and personalize via APIs, reduce code, and increase composability.
It was written with TypeScript, and released under the MIT license.
Superdesk is a new digital newsroom system. It comes with powerful workflow features for an end to end news creation, production, curation and distribution platform.
Superdesk workflows are created and controlled by your editorial users, The system manage the production process from creation to distribution across all channels, and save time and effort with flexible article template.
12- Google Drive CMS
Google Drive CMS is uses a combination of Google sheets and Google Docs to maintain content on a website. It used to publish the content of that spreadsheet to your site's API.
Google Drive CMS require duplicate copy of the Google Drive CMS template, an API endpoint to handle the data sent from the spreadsheet.
Contentacms is a content API and CMS based on Drupal 8. It provides a standard, jsonapi-based platform for building decoupled applications and websites.
Contentacms it provides many preconfigured, including customizations to default endpoints.
For end-users, Strapi has an API editor, user can use it as a media Library for upload images, video, or any file, It is flexible content management, come with user-friendly interface.
Strapi come with customizable API, Role-Based Access Control (RBAC), SSO authentication feature,
15- Gentics Mesh
Gentics Mesh is an open-source comfort headless CMS under Apache License v2.0 and written with java. It is built to speed up deployment and development.
It supports multi-language, versioning, roles, and permissions. Furthermore, it also comes with automatic navigation menus, unbreakable links, with it, you will be able to create custom and reusable content components for rich and dynamic layouts, it is scalable and built for clustering.
16- Unite CMS
Unite CMS is an open-source platform that is really flexible headless CMS, built on top of Symfony and GraphQL.
Unite CMS allows you to connect and manage all your digital projects data in our single backend. With its headless architecture and powerful GraphQL API, you can display your content on any device and every project.
It was written with PHP, and licensed under the MIT license.
17- Enonic XP
Enonic XP is a headless CMS built for digital team. It is open platform, software development kit, and intuitive framework enable developers to quickly become productive.
It is searchable, has the ability to access your data from any device or client with the strongly typed GraphQL API, it is available as a managed platform, It helps users to set up their first project and provides templates to choose from.
Enonic XP is licensed under the GPL-3.0, Apache-2.0 licenses found and written with Java programming language.
AbeCMS is an open-source API first and static site generator with a great back-office for users. It is lighting and fast CMS allows you to create blogs easily.
Unlike the CMS manager, AbeCMS does not require a lot of resources. It is enough to have a front developer to use it.
Tina is an amazing open-source headless CMS for building content management dirictly into your website with the ability to add visual editing to your NextJS site.
Tina was written with TypeScript and licensed under the Apache-2.0 license.
Directus is an open-source suit of software that provides an instant API wrapper for SQL databases and an intuitive admin app for non-technical users to manage the content.
Directus is one of the best modern data stack licensed under the GNU General Public License v3.0. It is free, instant REST+GraphQL API, it manages pure SQL, supports PostgreSQL, MySQL, SQLite, OracleDB, CockroachDB, MariaDB, and MS-SQL, completely extensible, it is run locally and comes with modern dashboard.
Keystonejs is an open-source programmable backend that allows you to create a highly customized CMS and API in minutes.
Keystonejs is a platform for next-gen development workflows and evolution. It has rich features including automated CRUD, Extensible GraphQL API, next-gen WYSIWYG, session management, 100% typescript, custom roles & access, Flexible relationships, Powerful filtering, Database migrations, extensive field types, event hooks, intuitive CLI. GitHub:
With it, you can design your schema, customize your content story, query your data, deploy anywhere.
SonicJS is a headless CMS that uses NodeJS, Express Framework and supports several database backends: MongoDB, MySQL, MS.SQL Server, DashDB, DB2, PostgreSQL, SQLite, Redis and even flat files and in-memory database.
Sonic comes with a rich dashboard which features a rich page builder, dynamic content creation, form builder, custom content/ field types and advanced user management system with rich permission support.
This CMS is highly modular and it was proven solid in many projects especially mobile apps and IoT projects.
BoltCMS is an open-source CMS with extensive headless capabilities. It's based on Symfony 5; the popular PHP framework which is packed by a large community. It offers a complete headless experience with RESTful and GraphQL API.
BoltCMS features a built-in internationalization experience for the created contents and the CMS itself acts like a rich dashboard for the generated API which works seamlessly without configuration.
There are many open-source content management system (CMS) that developer can choose from. Most of them are rich of features and can be used directly with any project, or even customized to meet the special cases whenever need.
Open-source tools are no longer secondary tools that are only used when no budget is available to purchase premium ones, instead, they are taking over the entire proprietary software market.
See other open-source tools such as: Best 18 Open-source Flat-File CMSs in 2022 or The Best 21 Open-source Headless CMS (2022).