It’s been a little while since I’ve written about MovableType, but if you check the archives you’ll see that I’ve written a fair amount on the subject. What brings this topic up again is that I was talking to a friend about weblogging software and I was reminded of an example that illustrates why MT is such a great weblogging tool – the community.
Ben and Mena G. Trott have created a fantastic product. It’s so well thought out and documented that I would guess that 95% of what you’d like to do on your weblog could be done with MT ‘right out of the box.’ To help you discover all that can be done with MT, there is excellent documentation. Whenever I’m thinking of adding a new feature, or tweaking an existing one, I always turn to the documentation first. Chances are MT already has what I’m looking to add built in.
MT Plugin Directory
However MT was created so that users could expand the abilities of what the software can do by enabling the use of Plugins. If I can’t find what I’m looking for in the documentation. The next place I check is the MT Plugin Directory. There’s a wealth of easy to add plugins that add a new dimension to the software. In most cases, all that’s required is to upload a small file into your /plugins directory. Once installed you simply use special tags that activate the Plugin and you’re all done. I’ve been able to install, configure and use most plugins in under 15 minutes.
My favorite Plugin is called Amputator. I’m a bit of a compliance code freak, meaning that i like to make sure that my code is always 100% compliant with the W3C. I’m not going to go into all the reasons why I think everyone should validate their code, but suffice to say that if it’s compliant then all browsers should be able to view it. What I discovered is that I was having to check my code with almost every entry. I added a button on the navigation bar that would allow me to validate any page on the site. What I discovered is that 99% of the time the error was due to an “&” in a link. I don’t think validators should validate URLs, but that too is another story. The solution I found was to replace “&” with “&”, but that is a colossal PITA to remember to do that with every URL you use in an entry. Luckily I’m not alone in my need to have valid code because Nat Irons wrote the Amputator Plugin that automatically converts the “&” found in a URL to the appropriate “&”. It may be a small thing, but I can’t tell you how much time this simple little Plugin has saved me.
But what if you need help beyond the documentation and the Plugin directory? That’s where the Forums come in. The MovableType Forums offer a wealth of support; anything from install issues to tips and tricks. What’s great about the forums is the ability to see what other people are doing with their weblogs. After reading someone’s post about how to add Winamp playlists to their weblog, and the accompanying solution from another reader, I was able to easily add it to my weblog as well. What I like best about the forums though is the ability to get answers to your own unique problems.
One Saturday, I was sitting at the kitchen table typing up an entry for the day when the thought occurred to me, “I wonder just how many words I’ve typed thus far?” I was already counting the number of entries and comments – a feature built in to MT – but I was curious about how many words I had typed. I found a Plugin called WordCount that would do just that, so I installed it and in no time I had a word count for each entry. That was great, but it didn’t give me a total for the entire site.
Technically speaking, I’m running 4 individual weblogs here at mashby.com. The reason for this is that MT doesn’t support subcategories. This is the only blemish I can find with MT and I can’t wait for MT Pro to come out to resolve this problem. In the meantime, the workaround was to simply create multiple weblogs for each major section of the site: Main, Photos, Travelogue, and Workout Log. it works just fine, but it presented a unique problem. Each weblog would have it’s own total in counting words, but how could I combine them all?
That’s where the MT Forums really shine. I posted the question to the community and asked for their help. I wanted to know how I could total all the words for all 4 weblogs as well as total all entries and comments while I was at it. Who says beggars can’t be choosers? 😉 Thanks to the kindness of maddy, she posted the solution to my problem. By using PHP, she gave me all the code I needed to do exactly what I wanted! How great is that? All I had to do is copy and past the code where I wanted and bingo, it was all done.
If you’re considering running MovableType, or if you’re already running it, I suggest you browse the MT Forms and MT Plugin Directory every now and again. You’ll find all sorts of interesting things that you can do with your weblog that you may have never thought possible. There’s a plethora of tips, tricks, and code snippets that can really make your weblog fun and if nothing else, remember that you always have a lifeline should you need it.