Textpattern: CMS of the Gods

Posted by Ryan Jerz on Friday October 5, 2007.

Way too many of you use Wordpress than is healthy for society. You know who you are: you talk about it like it’s the best thing since, I don’t know, MovableType or something. Well, Wordpress sucks. This site is powered by Textpattern, the CMS of the gods. Textpattern is simple, powerful, flexible, and hot. It’s the world-class gymnast of content managers. As a service to you, I want to give you all a look at the changes I have made to the site in the past few days. I might even include a few pictures here and there.

The basics

  • Textpattern uses PHP as its programming language. I know nothing of PHP, so that’s all I know.
  • An included feature is the Markup Language Textile. Textile absolutely rules. Until you use it, you have no idea that it could be this good.
  • Posting is very simple. Here is a look at what greets you when you log in. It’s the posting screen.
    • On the left are expandable/collapsible menus offering help with Textile, Advanced Options, such as keyword entry, custom URL names, and custom input fields. I use the custom input fields to enter specific book information for my Short Book Reviews.
    • On the right you get the post status selector, section selector, post time editor, and comments on/off switch. By default you can turn comments on or off and assign a specified time for them to remain open (I choose four weeks due to spam attacks happening on older posts). The section selector is a key component. Sections can be used to build the site the way you want to do it. I use a different section for each type of post—Short Book Review, Reactionary Hurl, etc. You can customize whether you want posts in a specific section to appear on the front page or not, or you can use a section to fill out a sidebar area. By sectioning your posts, you have the ability to be very flexible.
  • Articles can be easily searched and edited individually or in bulk.
  • Pages are put together the way you want to do it. You can code a page using HTML with the specific Textpattern snippets or you can create Forms that are dropped into pages and can easily be moved around for different pages or sections. The Form is a smaller bit of code that is self contained and can be called using a simple tag placed on a page template. My Sidebar consists of several forms, such as my Flickr photos, Google ads, and Links. By keeping them in forms, I can place them on multiple pages in different locations if I so choose without having to change every place each time I update them. I change the form and it changes that piece on all pages instantly. It’s a lot like CSS.
  • Textpattern will build code snippets for you. All you have to do is tell it all the parameters and voila, the code is generated for you to drop into the appropriate place.

What I’ve done

The past several days have seen some serious changes in the site’s architecture without much changing on the front end. That’s because Textpattern is beautiful. I’ve done it all without encountering major problems and without any downtime. It’s also very easy to update versions.

Since I started really segmenting my posts into more specialized sections, I’ve wanted to make sure that as those sections grow they have the ability to be moved around and branched off into their own spots on the site. Here is a rundown of how I experimented with and achieved that:

  • Downloaded tru_tags, a plugin for tagging articles. I had been using a Technorati-based tagging plugin but it did not allow for multiple words. This plugin allows for multiple words and keeps the tagging links internal, so I can list a page of all posts tagged Nevada, for instance. That was only the start, though.
  • Once that plugin was running, I began tagging much more effectively. Each section I had created was tagged as such and I was able to put links to each section in the sidebar.
  • After realizing the usefulness of sectioning using tags, I decided that simply creating sections would be even better. Instead of theugly URLs that were generated by the plugin, I would have very smooth and clean URLs, which I like a lot better. Search engines like them, too.
  • Alas, I moved all special section posts to its own section and have cleaned up the sidebar to reflect the new function.

Why it’s better than Wordpress

  • Simple, clean admin interface.
  • Once you install it, you’ll never need FTP access again—it’s all done through the admin, even theme changes.
  • The people developing for it are way cool.
  • You can have multiple link categories and display them how the hell you want.
  • Recent article and recent comment displays can be filtered however the hell you want.
  • The plugin selection is solid and not filled with crap. For instance, there is not a list of 43,238 calendar plugins that all essentially do the same thing.
  • The code generated is very simple. It only gets complicated when you start screwing with it.

Bonus for Wordpress users

There’s a cute little import function that will take your Wordpress data and suck it right in. You’re welcome.

Ryan JerzRyan Jerz is an all-around good guy who wants people to eventually refer to him as "that dude who climbs mountains."

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