Having a local copy of WordPress, Joomla, and/or Drupal can be extremely helpful. But since these CMSs are web-based software, you can't just download and install them the way you would with a game or a browser. It used to be quite complicated to get web-based software to run on Windows or a Mac. Today, thanks to a program called VirtualBox and a group called TurnKey Linux, you can set these CMSs up on your Windows or Mac computer with relative ease.
Problem: A Web-Based CMS Needs a Web Server
So how does this actually work? A web-based CMS is not a normal "application" that runs by itself, like a game or a browser. If you go to the WordPress site and download "WordPress" to your laptop, you can click your download all day, but nothing will happen. It's kind of like downloading a Firefox extension, and trying to run it without Firefox. WordPress relies on an underlying "stack" of software, a web server.
If you're running Linux, this is no problem. The software management tools will download everything you need. On Debian or Ubuntu, installing WordPress is as easy as:
apt-get install wordpress. Done.
But on Windows or a Mac, it's different. You can't just go to the WordPress site and download a program that will run on your box.
Solution: VirtualBox and TurnKey Linux
However, thanks to a third-party group called TurnKey Linux, you can almost do that. You can download a single zipfile that has not only WordPress, and not only the web server software it needs, but a whole Linux operating system to run this software.
But wait! Am I going to ask you to erase Windows? Or (gasp!) dual boot into Windows or Linux?
Not a chance. Breathe. You'll still run Windows.
But within Windows, you'll run a free program called VirtualBox.
VirtualBox is pretty amazing. You fire up VirtualBox, then you fire up a whole other operating system within this program.
Suddenly, you have a window that is running Linux. On your Windows desktop.
A Computer Within A Computer
How can you have Linux inside of Windows? VirtualBox creates a "virtual machine," which is like a computer within your computer. Basically, it's a program that "thinks" it is actually an entire computer. Unlike a normal program, it can't "see" the rest of your computer.
It can only access as much memory and processing power as you allow it.
It can only read and write files on its "virtual disk image." To your main computer, the "virtual disk image" is a huge, single file. Inside the virtual machine, this single file holds all the files for the virtual operating system.
TurnKey Linux: Preloaded Virtual Disk Images With Your Favorite CMS
This is where TurnKey Linux saves the day. They've put together virtual disk images that come preloaded with entire operating systems and a particular CMS.
Want to run WordPress? Download the WordPress virtual disk image. Joomla? Download that virtual disk image. And Drupal has its own virtual disk image as well.
Then just fire up VirtualBox, and tell it to boot up that virtual disk image. Done.
Installation: As Easy As Possible (Not Quite One-Click)
Ok, almost done. Since we're running a whole operating system, you actually have to "install" this operating system the first time you boot up. It won't look like the usual Windows setup program, and you have to do a couple unusual steps, like set a "root password".
But don't panic. It's still pretty easy. Let's install VirtualBox and TurnKey Linux, and get you set up with a local copy of WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal.