capsule review

Movable Type 4.0 Beta

At a Glance
  • Six Apart Movable Type 4.0 Beta

    PCWorld Rating

    The free version of this powerful blogging tool is now open-source, and thus much more customizable.

Six Apart's Movable Type is widely recognized as the powerhouse of blogging tools because of its extensive management features and customizability. But if you don't need professional support and multiple licenses, the free version may be all you need. I tested the personal license version of Movable Type 4.0 Beta, which includes some powerful editing tools and significantly improves on the previous free offering.

The final version of the software will be open-source, though the beta is not. With access to the code, Movable Type users will be able to modify the platform extensively; but even so, the most important improvement may be the long-overdue addition of a WYSIWYG editor. Enhancing that upgrade is an HTML/WYSIWYG toggle that lets you quickly switch back and forth between the editing screens--a feature that users of the competing Wordpress service have enjoyed for quite a while.

Getting your blog up and running is simple. As with Wordpress, the software's client and server components take only minutes to install. If you don't host your own blog, you upload the server portion of the software to your host's server. To set up the blogging portion of your site, surf to a specified page on your site and let the platform do the rest.

The clearest improvement to Movable Type is the ability to customize how your site looks. In the new beta, editing themes is as simple as modifying HTML. At least at first, however, only a few themes will be available; in contrast, thousands of themes are available for Wordpress. The interface in Movable Type is more awkward than the ones in Wordpress and Blogger. For example, when you're editing your blog's design in Movable Type, you have no simple way of switching back and forth between template sections, such as the header and the footer. Also, changing the look of these sections can take time if you don't know your way around the template editor. Movable Type's page design is cleaner and more elegant-looking than the alternatives, however.

One feature that eclipses any other platform's comparable offering is the graphical statistics display on the dashboard, which lets you see which of your posts are most popular. Graphs and charts help you visualize your site's traffic, offering up-to-date information so you don't have to surf to a hit-counter site like onestatfree.com to figure it out. A new community tool allows readers to become members of your site and post text, audio, and video.

Movable Type 4.0 represents a significant step forward for a platform that has been losing its competitive edge to free, less sophisticated alternatives that continue to improve. The full-featured Movable Type 4.0 Beta is a fine alternative to Wordpress or Blogger. Developers and bloggers who want to create a unique platform will like this GPL-licensed open-source version, though the awkward interface still makes it less than ideal for inexperienced Web publishers.

Don Reisinger

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    The free version of this powerful blogging tool is now open-source, and thus much more customizable.

    Pros

    • Open source
    • WYSIWIG editor

    Cons

    • Awkward interface
    • Still in beta
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