Apostrophe vs. RefineryCMS: A Comprehensive Comparison Guide

Apostrophe vs. RefineryCMS: A Comprehensive Comparison Guide


Welcome to our comprehensive comparison guide between Apostrophe and RefineryCMS, two popular Content Management Systems (CMS). Making the right choice when it comes to a CMS is crucial for digital leaders and decision-makers looking to streamline their organization's content management processes. In this guide, we will explore the features and functionalities of both Apostrophe and RefineryCMS to help you make an informed decision on which CMS is the best fit for your organization.

Foundations of CMS

Apostrophe is built on Node.js, a powerful JavaScript runtime, while RefineryCMS is built on Ruby on Rails, a popular web development framework. Both CMS platforms are open-source, meaning that anyone can access and modify the underlying codebase. The choice between the two will largely depend on the technical expertise of your development team. If your team is more familiar with JavaScript, Apostrophe may be the preferred choice. On the other hand, if your team has expertise in Ruby on Rails, RefineryCMS might be the better option.

When it comes to ease of use, Apostrophe shines with its intuitive and user-friendly interface. It provides a visual editor that allows non-technical users to easily create and manage content. RefineryCMS, while still relatively user-friendly, may require a bit more technical knowledge to navigate and customize.

Both Apostrophe and RefineryCMS support multi-language content management, enabling you to create and manage content in multiple languages within a single instance of the CMS. This is particularly beneficial for organizations with a global presence or language-specific websites.

Regarding support and community, both Apostrophe and RefineryCMS have active communities of developers and users. You can find extensive documentation, tutorials, and forums where you can seek help and advice. Regular updates and bug fixes are also released, ensuring the CMS remains stable and secure.

Design & User Experience

Apostrophe offers a wide range of pre-designed templates and themes that are fully customizable, allowing you to create visually stunning websites without the need for extensive coding or design skills. The drag-and-drop interface further simplifies the process, enabling you to arrange and customize elements with ease.

RefineryCMS, although not as focused on pre-designed templates, provides a flexible and modular architecture that allows you to build custom designs tailored to your specific requirements. It provides a wide range of plugins and extensions that can be installed to enhance the design and functionality of your website.

Both Apostrophe and RefineryCMS offer responsive design options, ensuring that your website looks and functions seamlessly across different devices and screen sizes. This is essential in today's mobile-driven era, where users access websites from various devices.

One notable feature of Apostrophe is its ability to preview content changes in real-time. This allows you to see how your edits will look on the live website before publishing, reducing the risk of errors or inconsistencies.

Content Management

When it comes to content management, both Apostrophe and RefineryCMS offer robust solutions. Apostrophe's key strength lies in its ease of use and visual editor. Non-technical users can effortlessly create and edit content using a familiar interface similar to popular word processors. It also provides advanced content management features such as versioning, scheduling, and workflow management, empowering teams to collaborate effectively.

RefineryCMS, while not as visually intuitive as Apostrophe, offers more advanced content management capabilities. It provides a flexible content structuring system that allows you to create custom content types with specific fields and attributes. This is ideal for organizations with complex content requirements and specific data structures.

Both CMS platforms support media management, enabling you to easily upload and organize images, videos, and other media files. Integration with popular cloud storage services like Amazon S3 is also possible, ensuring scalability and ease of use.

Another noteworthy feature of Apostrophe is its ability to handle high volumes of content. With its robust architecture and efficient querying system, Apostrophe can manage large amounts of content without compromising performance. This makes it suitable for enterprise-level websites with extensive content needs.

Collaboration & User Management

Effective collaboration and user management are vital for large organizations with multiple teams and contributors. Apostrophe offers a comprehensive user management system, allowing you to assign roles and permissions to different users. This ensures that only authorized individuals can access and edit specific content or sections of the website.

RefineryCMS also provides user management capabilities, but the level of granularity may not be as extensive as Apostrophe. However, RefineryCMS integrates well with popular user authentication systems, making it easier to manage user access and authentication.

Both CMS platforms offer collaboration tools such as comments, notifications, and version control, enabling teams to work together seamlessly. These features help streamline the content creation and review process, reducing inefficiencies and bottlenecks.

Additionally, Apostrophe supports multi-site management, allowing you to manage multiple websites from a single platform. This is particularly beneficial for organizations with multiple brands or websites.

Performance, Scalability, & Hosting

When it comes to performance, both Apostrophe and RefineryCMS have proven to be robust and reliable. However, since Apostrophe is built on Node.js, it utilizes event-driven, non-blocking I/O architecture, making it highly efficient and scalable. This allows Apostrophe to handle large amounts of traffic and content without significant performance degradation.

RefineryCMS, built on Ruby on Rails, also performs well but may require additional configuration and optimization for optimal performance in high-traffic scenarios.

As for hosting options, both Apostrophe and RefineryCMS can be hosted on various infrastructure providers, such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, or dedicated servers. The choice of hosting provider will depend on your organization's specific requirements and preferences.

Furthermore, cloud-based hosting solutions like Heroku and Netlify are compatible with both CMS platforms, offering scalability, flexibility, and ease of deployment.

Customization, Extensions, & Ecosystem

Apostrophe comes with a wide range of built-in features and functionalities that cater to different website needs. It provides a robust framework for developing custom modules, widgets, and templates, allowing you to extend the CMS's capabilities according to your requirements.

RefineryCMS, on the other hand, offers a vast library of plugins and extensions that can be installed to enhance the CMS's functionality. These plugins cover a wide range of features, from SEO optimization to e-commerce integration, providing flexibility and customization possibilities.

Both CMS platforms have active developer communities, offering support, resources, and documentation for customization and extensibility. Regular updates and bug patches are released to ensure the CMS remains secure and up to date.

When it comes to third-party integrations, both Apostrophe and RefineryCMS offer APIs that allow seamless integration with other systems and services. Whether you need to integrate with a CRM, e-commerce platform, or marketing automation tool, both CMS platforms provide the necessary flexibility.

SEO, Marketing, & Monetization

Both Apostrophe and RefineryCMS provide SEO-friendly features and capabilities to help improve your website's visibility in search engine results. You can easily customize meta tags, URLs, and sitemaps to optimize your website for search engines.

RefineryCMS offers additional SEO functionalities through various plugins, allowing you to leverage advanced optimization techniques for better search engine rankings.

When it comes to marketing, Apostrophe offers built-in tools for content personalization, A/B testing, and analytics integration. These features enable you to track and optimize your marketing efforts effectively.

RefineryCMS provides similar marketing capabilities through plugins, empowering you to deploy marketing campaigns and measure their effectiveness.

In terms of monetization, both CMS platforms support various e-commerce integrations, allowing you to create and manage online stores. Whether you're selling physical products, digital downloads, or subscriptions, Apostrophe and RefineryCMS provide the necessary functionalities.

Security & Compliance

Security is a critical aspect to consider when selecting a CMS. Apostrophe and RefineryCMS both have measures in place to ensure data security and protection against common web vulnerabilities.

Apostrophe provides built-in security features such as role-based access control, user session management, and secure password storage. It also provides regular security updates to address any potential vulnerabilities.

RefineryCMS follows secure coding practices and provides security guidelines for developers. Additionally, security audits and vulnerability scans are conducted regularly to identify and mitigate any potential risks.

When it comes to compliance with data protection regulations, such as GDPR, both CMS platforms offer essential features and functionalities that can aid in compliance. However, it is essential to consult legal experts to ensure full compliance with specific regulatory requirements.

Migration, Support, & Maintenance

Migrating from one CMS to another can be a complex process. Apostrophe provides a migration tool that simplifies the transition from other CMS platforms, ensuring a smooth migration path. However, it is worth noting that migrating custom functionalities may require additional development work.

RefineryCMS, although lacking a dedicated migration tool, offers various migration scripts and documentation that assist in the migration process.

When it comes to support and maintenance, both Apostrophe and RefineryCMS have active communities offering support and assistance. Official documentation, tutorials, and forums are available to help troubleshoot issues and find solutions.

For additional assurance, Apostrophe offers paid support packages that provide direct access to their support team for faster response times and priority assistance. RefineryCMS also offers paid support options for organizations requiring dedicated support.


Choosing the right CMS for your organization requires careful consideration of various factors. Both Apostrophe and RefineryCMS offer unique features and functionalities that can cater to different requirements and preferences.

Apostrophe excels in its user-friendly interface, content management capabilities, and performance scalability. It is an ideal choice for organizations looking for an intuitive CMS that offers advanced content management features.

RefineryCMS, on the other hand, provides a flexible and extensible architecture, making it suitable for organizations with complex content and design requirements. Its extensive plugin ecosystem allows for easy customization and enhancement of the CMS's functionalities.

Ultimately, the choice between Apostrophe and RefineryCMS will depend on your organization's specific needs, technical expertise, and long-term goals. It is advisable to involve key stakeholders and thoroughly evaluate each CMS platform's features and capabilities before making a decision.


Martin Dejnicki
Martin Dejnicki

Martin is a digital product innovator and pioneer who built and optimized his first website back in 1996 when he was 16 years old. Since then, he has helped many companies win in the digital space, including Walmart, IBM, Rogers, Canada Post, TMX Group and TD Securities. Recently, he worked with the Deploi team to build an elegant publishing platform for creative writers and a novel algorithmic trading platform.