Movable Type 3.2

Pros: Incredibly flexible; feature-rich; wide variety of plugins; adaptable to all sorts of needs; robust
Cons: The documentation, oh, the documentation…
Rating: 4 out of 5

I’m always keeping one eye out for better, faster, more flexible ways to do what I do–namely, write, review products, and put stuff up on the web. At some point I stumbled across Six Apart and their package for self-hosted blogging and content management, Movable Type.

It had many features I was looking for. I could host it on my web site, giving me better control over it than I had with blogspot. It was as much content management system as blogging software, including rich, user-editable templates, category and sub-category management, the ability to publish multiple blogs with multiple authors (each with its own look and feel, categories, content, and so on), and more.

Best of all, the simplest personal version, allowing unlimited blogs and one author, was free–which meant I could try it out for a while and make sure it worked for me without risking money on it.

In Practice

Using Movable Type has been an odd mix of simple and frustratingly complex. Anything that is a function of the user interface tends to be pretty simple and easy to use, while anything that requires looking up information on how to do it drives me insane. Which is to say, the program is beautifully designed, and I hate the documentation.

The docs remind me of UNIX man pages–great if you already know what you’re doing and the syntax of what you need to do and just need a reminder of a specific detail, but fairly horrid if you need to figure out how to do something from scratch. If you plan to muck around beyond the basic settings much, I recommend that you have one of the following things:

  • A good background in mucking with web stuff
  • A helpful friend with a good background in mucking with web stuff
  • A willingness to spend time searching forums and the web looking for users’ answers to your dilemmas
  • A stubborn willingness to poke at things until they work

I have a mixture of the first two and the last one, so things have worked out well, although sometimes I do feel like thwacking my head into a wall repeatedly when I first go off to read the docs on a matter.

That said, the functionality of the software is just gorgeous. While the original package only provided access to a handful of styles, the style contest has now provided access to dozens more gorgeous templates, and of course you can create or edit your own if you have the talent for that.

I love being able to do so much at the touch of a button–create a new blog, give another author access, upgrade to a better license, install a user-created plugin from the vast plugin directory, set up comment authentication so users have to sign in using Six Apart’s TypeKey service in order to comment, “trust” certain verified commenters so they can post comments automatically while others are moderated, have a blog entry automatically ping any blog entries it references for trackbacks, have new entries automatically ping places like Technorati…

The list goes on and on.

If you want a self-hosted, flexible, incredibly customizable blog and/or simple content management system, Movable Type is a wonderful choice.

Posted in Reviews

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