Movable Type review

Typically I use this weblog as a way to present some new or different ideas. Or at least I have for the last so many entires. However for anyone who does check this site they’ll notice that I have changed the format in the last couple of days. Instead of being just a site about “Ideas for a New World” I’ve blended it with my personal website. I needed a better way to get to my personal website and well these “ideas” are personally mine. So it all works out. In trying to blend the two sites together I had a figure out a way to do it.

Roxics.com used Movable Type so that I could easily add entries to it. My personal site used a little piece of software called php-update. It was nice but started getting error prone on me. My first reaction was to just hand code the new site with PHP, HTML and CSS like a do for a couple of my other sites. But I didn’t want to lose the functionality of being able to easily update entries. Yet at the same time I thought to myself “Movable type is blog software, how would I add just regular pages to it.” So I went searching the net for an awnser. Turns out it was going to be a lot easier then I thought.

My first encounter with Movable Type was a couple years ago when I was looking for an easy way to add news updates to my film site ScapeFilms.com. I really didn’t trust the software because it’s perl/CGI based and the only experience I had with those kinds of scripts were the hours and hours of headaches I got trying to maintain an Ikonboard back when I was running a site called The Filmmakers Forum. I had since moved on to PHP scripts in general and they were a breath of fresh air. Installation, updating and hacking always being a breeze. However I installed it and used it for a few months. Unfortunately at the time my webhost wasn’t the best. Somehow my database ended up getting deleted and that was the end of that. However because of the way Movable Type works it had published all my content to HTML files so I never lost any data, just the abilty to add any more using the MT system. To that end I stopped using MT even thought it wasn’t the softwares fault and it had saved all my content for me. Even to this day the front page of ScapeFilms.com is built off the entries I originally made using MT. If you look at the code you will see MT div tags before I even knew what div tags were used for. Just nowadays whenever I add a new entry I do it by hand coding to the index.php file.

When I decided to build “roxics.com: Idea’s for a New World: I went looking for PHP blog scripts. Nothing I found impressed me. So I looked into Movable Type again. But this time I was coming to it with a couple years of knowledge about servers, scripts and CSS under my belt. Still perl/CGI is rare for me so it took me a little bit of time and a couple questions before I had it successfully installed
I used it for a few months but rarely. Always having it do what it does by default. Then I looked deeper into it and discovered some very cool features.

As I mentioned earlier MT publishes all it’s content to static HTML pages. Being as I use a lot of PHP these days I wasn’t thrilled with that idea. Then I discovered you can have MT publish to whatever kind of pages you want including PHP. If you look at this site you’ll notice all my pages end in .php. Because they’re php they can take advantage of some very cool php action including rotating banner images, php includes and other php scripts. MT uses a series of templates to layout the design and content of your website. Typically the “Main Index” template controls the overall look of the site. You put in MT specific tags to place the content where you want it in the design/layout. however I’m used to using header and footer templates and then adding php include tags at the top and bottom of each of my content pages. So I decided to try splitting up the main Index template into three templates. A header, footer and sidebar. Because all my pages that MT generates now are php pages this new layout will work. And it does very well. Now I can build pretty much anything I want using MT. Plus take advantage of MT specific features like multiple blogs and the abilty to update pages on my site without having to FTP anything to the server. Everything is done in the control panel.

Well that was wordy, but it’s great. I may just have to change my other sites to Movable Type. of course I’m using the older (free version) 2.661. Not the newer 3.0 (pay) version.

So although it may not be the most enjoyable to install it works and works well. And if your database ever goes ballistic, you won’t lose your content. That’s something not even most PHP scripts can say. So two thumbs up for Movable Type. After two years I finally understand you (somewhat) and look forward to working with you again

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