A Look at Movable Type 3.31


Published on July 23, 2006 at 12:29 PM EST
In the Discussions category.

The franchise owners—Six Apart—are making some changes around the restaurant.

I didn’t get much opportunity to play with Movable Type version 3.31 during the beta cycle. Backing up a little, during the MT 3.2 beta cycle, there were a lot of user reviews constantly being released. I was a little disappointed to not see these kind of experience reports with this version. But now, several weeks later, I’ve been playing with 3.31, and have found some great additions and changes (as well as a few that don’t do anything for me… so I don’t really mention them here).

The Dan Wolfgang Edition

Well, maybe it’s a little presumptuous to call this version “The Dan Wolfgang Edition,” but right off, I noticed four features I had been lusting after and submitted as feature requests.

  • http://www.eatdrinksleepmovabletype.com/upload/2006/07/new-entry-thumb.gif
    Back in the day, I was looking for a file I had uploaded. I had the filename in hand, but clicking through my host’s file management interface—one page at a time, with more than 100 pages—was getting simply painful. Clearly, some sort of organization was needed, and Making a Dynamic Upload Directory was born, allowing me to upload to a folder structure based on the date (such as upload/2006/07/). This feature has matured quite a bit to its current incarnation in the Better File Uploader plugin. Finally, it’s been added to 3.31.
  • Using Alternate Templates is easier. Included in the install archive is an empty alt-tmpl/ folder and the associated configuration option is already there, too. In other words, the Setup step is completely eliminated. It’s a minor piece of setup, but removing certainly makes them less daunting for a new user to implement.
  • I’m a big fan of tags and tagging. I’ve been using the Keyword field to do this for quite a while, in combination with Mike’s Subject Index instructions and some other hacks. The problem with many of the early tagging solutions is that it was too easy to have near-duplicate tags, unnecessarily cluttering and confusing things: A Tag-Suggest Feature was born. Along with tagging officially coming to MT, I’m glad they included the suggest feature.
  • During The Style Contest and my development of Bulletin Board, I really needed some extra specification to tell the templates apart. In MT 3.31 each template has a unique identifier such as main-index and individual-entry-archive, allowing for much more flexible design.

Ok, I concede. It is possible that others requested these, too, and maybe even before me. Clearly more research is required.

There are a handful of other features that I’m excited about:

  • Resizable editing fields (templates, entry body, and extended entry).
  • Tagging capabilities are completed with tag searching.
  • Deleting statically-published files when unpublishing.
  • For whatever reason, I’ve never been able to get scheduled publishing through cron to work (though I never tried very hard, to be honest). The… uh, elegantly named… “non-cron periodic task framework” fills the bill.
  • http://www.eatdrinksleepmovabletype.com/upload/2006/07/notification-thumb.gif
    Send an e-mail notification to anybody (and/or everybody) without having to add them to the notification list.
  • Plugin icons. I’ll just have to design some for my plugins now.

I’m Missing Something

There are two significant features to Movable Type 3.31 that I don’t really “get.” Perhaps I just need to play with them more, or maybe I’m just not the demographic for them.

Widget Manager

http://www.eatdrinksleepmovabletype.com/upload/2006/07/widget-manager-thumb.gif

The Widget Manager seems like a great tool: it let’s you organize and reorganize your sidebar with simple drag-and-drop. Creating new Widgets is easy, and it’s just a single tag to add to your templates to get your Widget Managers published. But there are two issues I have with this tool:

  • The <MTWidgetManager name="First Widget Manager"> tag isn’t in the templates already. There’s a lot of HTML to be replaced with this one tag and it’ll be easy to make a mistake when deleting the existing sidebar code to replace with the Widget Manager tag—so, for example, when a new user deletes one too many </div> and sees some odd results with the resultant Widget Manager, they’re going to think something doesn’t work right. I just think that supplying the Widget Manager in a fully-functional and usable manner would make it more useful.
  • How much do most reorganize their sidebar? I know I typically set it and forget it.

Between not changing the sidebar much and Widget Manager not being set up completely, is it really worth the effort? Perhaps just building my sidebar in the templates is easier. I may not be the target audience of this feature, though.

Activity Feeds

I think Activity Feeds will be useful for the administrator of an active site with many authors. There are many kinds of Activity Feeds: Entry, Comment, TrackBack and System. I can definitely see it helping to track what is happening with the site. As the administrator of sites with only one or two active authors, though, I really can’t “see it in action.”

Actually, I thought Comment Activity Feeds could prove useful to me. Rather than receiving an e-mail about each comment, I could get them through my feed reader. Most of the comments at danandsherree.com are on entries I’ve written, so that’s a good way for me to get them. My wife Sherree is also an author, however. If she gets her comments e-mailed to her, then I have to get them e-mailed to me, too. Therefore, using Comment Activity Feeds just results in redundancy… and therefore I won’t use them.

That also makes me wonder, though, how many administrators of a multi-author site is also an author? Do they send e-mail to the author when a new comment is made, and therefore see the same trouble as me? Or is this feature for the single-author sites who just want to get comments through a feed?

Plugins

This section was initially a summary of plugins I’ve found to not work with 3.31 as well as a number of links to newly-updated ones. Learning Movable Type has published a thorough Plugin Compatibility list, though, so I’ll just refer you to that.