LinksIn my last entry, I hinted at the fact that I was going to create a Wish List utilizing MovableType (MT). I had this idea to create this feature of this site based on some work I had done for the Palm OS User Council web site. I had just completed installing MT not as a weblog tool, but as a full fledged Content Management System (CMS) for the entire web site. Yes, that’s right, MT can be used for a lot more than just weblogging. 8)

Since I began using MT for the weblogging software for mashby.com, I’ve found all sorts of interesting applications for it’s use. Anything from links management to task lists, to total content management. I’m still anxiously awaiting the release of MovableType Pro, but until then, I’ll keep bending MT to my will. šŸ˜‰ To help illustrate just how flexible MT can be, today I’ll show you how you can manage your Links page through some small changes in how you normally use MT.


Getting Started
I’m assuming that you already have MT installed and are using it already for your weblog, or other type of web site. I’m also assuming that you’ve used it long enough to become comfortable with it. In other words, you’re familiar with most of the general terminology.

The total process of using MT as a link manager can be broken down into 4 major steps:
    1. Create and configure a new weblog
    2. Customize template(s)
    3. Making Your First Entry

1. Create and configure a new weblog
From the main menu, select “Create A New Weblog” and then fill out the appropriate fields, such as the name. Since we’re create a links weblog, I titled mine “Links”. As for the paths, I set them up the same as my main weblog, then I clicked the “Save” button to create the weblog.

Now that the new weblog is created, I tweaked some of the settings in the configuration. Here’s a breakdown of the setting changes I made:
   » Preferences
      »Set “Convert Line Breaks” to “None”
      »Set “Default Post Status” to “Publish”
      »Set “Allow Comments default” To “None”

   » Archiving
      »Turned off all archiving

2. Customize template(s)
Now that you’ve setup and configured the new weblog, it’s time configure the templates. For my links page, I didn’t need RSS feeds, or archiving, so I went ahead and deleted ALL the templates. With a blank slate, I went about creating a new templates called “Links” with the output file of “links.html”

To create the Links templates, I recommend making a copy of the main template that you’re already using for your weblog and use that as the base for this template. Where your entries are listed in the template, replace them with the following code:

01: <MTCategories>
02: <h3><$MTCategoryLabel$></h3>
03: <p>
04: <MTEntries sort_by="title" sort_order="ascend">
05: <a href="<$MTEntryBody$>"><$MTEntryTitle$></a> ( $<$MTEntryExcerpt$> )<br />
06: </MTEntries>
07: </p>
08: </MTCategories>

You may need to make a few changes in the layout or design to match your templates, but here’s a line-by-line breakdown of what I did.

01: I start the code with the <MTCategories> tag because this is going to be a list by category. Some links may be for weblogs, others for news and I wanted a way to break them up by category

02. The next tag is <$MTCategoryLabel$> and this will give me the name of the category. I’ve put the <h3> tag around it so that it’s large and looks like the rest of my page headers.

03: I begin a paragraph

04: The next tag is <MTEntries sort_by=”title” sort_order=”ascend”> and this tag says I want my entries sorted by title in ascending order.

05: Now I’m building the link. I start by opening the HTML link tag with <a href=” and then insert the <$MTEntryBody$> tag, which is the Entry Body field in an entry. Next I close a href tag with “> and then insert the title of the entry with the <$MTEntryTitle$> and then close the link with </a>. Lastly, I put a line return with <br /> to finish the line. Since this is going to be a list of entries, I have to have the <br /> tag, otherwise all the links would be strung together on one line.

06: I close the entries list with </MTEntries>

07: I close the paragraph with </p>

08: Lastly, I close the categories list with </MTCategories>

Save the template and you’re all done with this step!

3. Making Your First Entry
The hard work is all done and all that’s left is to make a few entries to the weblog. Referencing the above template, here’s how you should make your entries.

Title = Link Name
In the “Title” field, enter the name of the site you’re linking to. For example, if you wanted to create a link to the Palm OS User Council, you’d enter “Palm OS User Council” in the title field.

Category = Category
In the category field, create a category for this link. In the example we’re using, you might want to the category to be “Palm OS”.

Body = URL
In the body field put the URL of the web site, for example http://www.usercouncil.org.

After you’ve made your first entry, check the page to ensure you’re getting the results you were hoping for. Make changes to the template as needed, remembering to rebuild the page when you’re done.

The End Result
What’s great about using MT to manage your links is that now you can quickly and easily manage your growing list of links. If you need to remove one, you simply delete it from your list of entries. Adding one takes nothing more than filling out two fields and selecting a category. The best part is that you never have to mess with the HTML side of things again. All you’re doing is managing entries just like any other weblog.

Expanding On A Good Idea
With the links page, we’re only using 3 fields and it’s a pretty straightforward affair. I expanded on this concept and created a “WishList” here at mashby.com. All I did was use the Excerpt field for the price and added that to the template. Now I had a links page with a price next to it. Pretty cool huh? šŸ™‚

There’s no end to what you can do with MT if you put your mind to it and add a little imagination to the mix. In the near future, I hope to show some other examples of how I’ve used MT in fun and interesting ways, such as using MT as a task management system for small work group. If you are using MovableType in a new, or different manner than it was intended, please post a comment on what you’ve done!