Jason Smith
Chief User Experience Officer

Open-source Alternatives to Adobe AEM

Sep 11, 2021
By: Jason Smith

Adobe has been in the creative software industry for over three decades. In recent years, Adobe's Experience Manager (AEM) has become a popular enterprise web content management system (WCMS).

With its wide range of features and extensive UI, Adobe AEM is considered to be one of the top enterprise content management systems in the market. Yet, that doesn’t mean that it’s the perfect platform for every company.

Open-source alternatives to Adobe AEM are a great way for companies to save money and increase the ownership of their data. There are a number of open-source options available that offer many of the same capabilities as Adobe AEM, but cost less and have greater value.

Why Look for an Open-Source Alternative to Adobe AEM?

Adobe's AEM product is a robust tool that helps manage digital experiences. However, its monolithic nature makes it expensive and unwieldy. It offers smart automation tools, solid development tools, and cloud hosting to deliver content across multiple digital channels but includes them all in one platform.

As such, AEM is often described as an all-in-one solution suite CMS. It comes ready to cater to you and help you work on multiple areas of your digital presence using the same software right out of the box.

While this sounds appealing, Adobe AEM has two fundamental problems that highlight a major issue with the software suite: a lack of flexibility.

  • Adobe AEM is not Cost Efficient: Firstly, the proprietary architecture increases the price of Adobe AEM. Although this architecture allows the software to offer various digital tools, it also causes you to pay for features you may never need. You will find yourself spending more than what you bargained for.
  • Adobe AEM is Difficult: Many developers and designers may be put off from AEM due to its steep learning curve and the difficulty it has with integrating with third-party software. That means you will have a hard time finding professionals capable of using the software. Not to mention that the user experience in AEM is unintuitive.

Therefore, while a proprietary suite CMS sounds like a great idea on paper, think twice before committing to one, as their costs and lack of flexibility have the potential to make website building and digital experience development a pain.

What Should an Alternative for Adobe AEM Have?

An open-source alternative for Adobe Experience Manager should give enterprise companies the flexibility to adapt to the rapidly changing marketplace. Open-source software prevents vendor lock-in ensuring that you will always be free to choose the technology stack that works for your company’s particular use case and meet your unique business requirements.

Read More The Anatomy of an Open Source Headless CMS

Best Open-source Alternatives To Adobe AEM


Alfresco is an open source Enterprise Content Management (ECM) system that manages all the content within an enterprise and provides the services and controls that manage this content in a user-friendly interface.


  • Solid support
  • Useful for DAM
  • Good granular permission system


  • Requires a knowledgeable team of developers
  • Slow and sluggish at times
  • Not mobile-friendly
  • Not-so friendly UI


Founded in the US in 2008, dotCMS is an API-first, open-source platform that offers Content-as-a-Service. Due to its hybrid architecture, dotCMS can act as both a headless CMS and a traditional one, giving both marketers and developers the flexibility they need to create, search, and reuse the content in multiple formats and channels.


  • Powerful Personalization
  • Multisite/Channel support
  • GraphQL out-of-the-box
  • Workflows and Permissions


  • Requires some previous CMS knowledge
  • Permissions can get too granular


Enonic XP is a free, Java-based, open-source web application platform where users can build progressive web applications. The platform features integrated NoSQL and search, while the CMS interface “Content Studio” can be installed and upgraded as an application.


  • Flexible and user-friendly
  • Strong community support


  • Immature tooling
  • Not so good to receive migration from other platforms


Liferay is an enterprise-grade platform that enables companies to create and connect personalized digital experiences across web, mobile, social, in store and other touchpoints. It provides the technical foundation for your digital business to orchestrate unique customer experiences.


  • Easier to integrate
  • Easy to navigate


  • API responses can be slow
  • Support needs improvement
  • Portal concept can be hard to wrap your head around
MagnoliA CMS

Magnolia is a powerful and robust content management system that helps create custom apps and helps store the data in those apps. It is secure and provides multisite support. It is an open-source platform that provides cloud storage and multi-level security.


  • Customizable based on user needs.
  • GraphQL out-of-the-box
  • Multisite support.


  • Complex user interface
  • Resource intense if your use case isn’t common
  • Manageing Layouts can be difficult


dotCMS Alfresco Magnolia Liferay
Score 4.1 (62 Reviews) 3.4 (33 Reviews) 4.1 (30 Reviews) 4.3 (53 Reviews)
Meets Requirements
Responses: 50
Responses: 21
Responses: 21
Responses: 18
Ease of Doing Business with
Responses: 35
Responses: 29
Responses: 12
Responses: 15
Quality of Support
Responses: 49
Responses: 29
Responses: 17
Responses: 18
Ease of Use
Responses: 50
Responses: 29
Responses: 21
Responses: 19
Ease of Admin
Responses: 35
Responses: 21
Responses: 12
Responses: 15
* No review data for Enonic XP

Open-source vs. Proprietary Software

A headless, open-source alternative to Adobe AEM enables developers to explore the source code and modify it to their requirements, something that’s not possible on a proprietary digital experience platforms like the Adobe system.

Let’s explore more advantages of the open-source model versus proprietary software.

Bigger User Community

One of the biggest strengths of open-source vs. proprietary software is that by opening the source code to everyone, open-source projects build a community of fellow users and developers looking to explore the possibilities of the CMS.


Enterprise businesses need to be quick to stay relevant. An open-source CMS is usually faster to implement than proprietary solutions and enables businesses to deliver digital experiences and increased value to visitors faster.


Open-source software is usually more cost-effective than proprietary software. This becomes much more evident in the enterprise environment where an open-source solution can tip the scales in terms of fewer costs for superior or equivalent capabilities.


An open-source content management system enables you to start small and test things quickly. This enables you to test a platform before fully committing hundreds of thousands of dollars in resources. An open-source platform enables you to try different alternatives at a lower cost, pick the best one, and then scale it to fit your needs.


Enterprise companies are often the victims of cyberattacks, but a vibrant open-source community can help mitigate these issues as the community has more possibilities to spot bugs and potential attack vectors before a malicious actor has time to exploit it.

No Vendor Lock-In

Vendor Lock-in is a real problem for companies using Adobe AEM because it does not integrate well with third-party applications. You may end up in a situation where you can’t use other software and attempting to change to a different vendor could be too costly to be feasible.

Why dotCMS is the Best Alternative to Adobe AEM?

Many open-source alternatives to Adobe AEM are other headless CMS’s who are just that- headless. By choosing a pure headless platform you disempower your marketing teams and prevent them from taking ownership over the company content. This approach leads to a slower time to market and a higher total cost of ownership.

With dotCMS’ marketing-friendly content authoring features, content teams can finally claim back control in a headless environment. dotCMS’ NoCode vision gives non-technical users the tools they need to create impactful content and digital experiences with ease.

Here are some of the features in dotCMS that make it the best alternative to Adobe AEM.

  • User-friendly Interface: Among the other alternatives, dotCMS has the most user-friendly interfaces. The platform includes drag-and-drop page composition for easy editing and content personalization as well as inline editing and WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editing all without having to code.
  • Edit Mode Anywhere: Edit Mode Anywhere allows content creators to preview and manage how their content will look on different devices. With Edit Mode Anywhere, editors can now edit content for different devices and channels, including SPAs, PWAs, and any other frontend apps that have been built using dotCMS’ Layout as a Service API.
  • Personalization: dotCMS personalization engine gives marketers the ability to apply analytics and deliver content that fits each type of visitor. While some alternatives to Adobe AEM can deliver content to a wide range of users, much of that content feels like cookie-cutter content that doesn’t address the needs of different types of visitors. In dotCMS, marketers can tailor their content based on a no-code rules engine that shows dynamic content to customers across different devices.
  • NoCode Workflow Management: Workflow management also sets dotCMS apart versus its competitors as it enables project managers to assign tasks, and the order in which the tasks need to be accomplished. The workflow processes in dotCMS makes it easier for a marketing team to work together on content, ensures smoother content approval, and keeps all parties accountable for their tasks.
  • Push publishing: dotCMS' push publishing architecture lets marketers schedule publishing dates, site updates, and remove outdated content, all from an easy-to-understand user interface. Enabling teams to easily move content and assets between authoring and production environments. The system also ensures that distributed servers remain in sync with one another across various locations.
  • dotCDN: Powered by Bunny CDN, dotCDN is an integrated content delivery network that helps users scale their operations, which reduces latency. A CDN-enabled headless CMS gives users the resources needed for faster content delivery through a reliable network made of cache servers around the world.

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