Movable Type 5: An Introduction

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I’ve been a longtime user of MT, since version 3.2, and have followed its evolution closely from the inside out. When the beta-test and release-candidate versions of MT5 were released for public testing, I jumped on them and got my hands as dirty as I could, cloning my own MT4-driven site and testing it out in a separate MT5 instance (almost everything, plugins included, worked as-is).

With each set of changes, I’ve also identified a couple of gotchas and potential problems that new users will want to keep an eye out for, and that any current MT user will want to be mindful of when they upgrade.

Pages And Sites: Getting (Re)Organized

The single biggest outward change to Movable Type is a reworking of how blogs are organized. Movable Type 4 introduced the ability to create and edit individual HTML pages in a folder hierarchy, each styled with the same templates used to create one’s blog.

With MT5, this is paired with a new meta-organizational feature: the ability to create “websites” as an adjunct to one’s blog. A website contains a page hierarchy, but is kept as physically distinct as possible from a blog, so one site could contain a number of different blogs. This way, one could create a set of pages that changed very little—a corporate mission statement, an about-us page, personnel, etc.—and keep them entirely distinct, not just in the file hierarchy but in terms of permissions and editability. It’s another step towards making MT into a general content management system—or, at least, to add CMS-like features to the program to make it that much more powerful generally.

One downside to this new behavior is that it throws first-timers and MT4 users for a bit of a loop. You can’t just create a blog—rather, you have to create a website (even if it’s just an empty one) and then create a blog under it. The blog and the website can share the same page hierarchy as long as nothing’s formally published in the website, or at least as long as no pages from one overwrite the other.

Databases: MySQL All The Way

Sometimes a new version of a product means features are dropped rather than added. Movable Type 5 is no exception, since it removes support for a number of database products. Oracle and Microsoft SQL Server are now only supported in the Enterprise edition of the product; some (SQLite and Postgres) have been relegated to plug-ins.

Several things were behind this decision. First, MySQL has by and large been the database that people have used with Movable Type (and with blogging generally). It’s free, it’s been ported to most every platform of significance, and it’s already accumulated a large enough user base—both with Movable Type and other blogging programs—that consolidating on it as a standard would probably not inconvenience too many people. The second decision: convenience of support. It’s easier to support one commonly-used (and free) database system instead of several that are both free and commercial.

If you’ve been using SQLite or PostgreSQL as your database, MovableType.org has some migration instructions for moving to MySQL. The short version: create a backup of your site/blog through MT itself, make a new installation of MT 5 on a MySQL instance, and restore the blog in MT.

I’ve jumped through these exact hoops myself, so a word of caution. If you’re dealing with a really big blog (more than, say, 10MB) and you’re hosting the blog on a remote server, your best bet is to send the backup file to someone at the host and have them perform it for you locally. Part of the reason the MT full-system backup process is a bit clunky is because it is typically done through the progam’s web interface; it’s not something that can be done through a command line. (There is a third-party command-line backup solution for MT—but it’s been written for MT4, so there’s no guarantee it works with MT5, and it hasn’t been updated since 2008.)

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