Among the blogging community, WordPress seems to get almost all of the attention. However, among enterprise customers and loyal followers, Movable Type, the blogging platform owned by Six Apart, remains a powerful and popular contender.
Recently, Six Apart announced the release of Movable Type 4. With over 50 new features and a completely redesigned administration area, it aims to convert bloggers and change the way blogs are administrated.
All of this comes just before a release of Movable Type that will be open sourced, which will provide a free version to the community that will be both unlimited and community-maintained.
But while Movable Type 4 has been generating a lot of buzz, the question is whether or not the new features are worth the attention. As with everything else though, the beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
When first logging in to the MT4 administration area, the first thing you notice is that the interface has been cleaned up a great deal. Almost all administration functions are located in drop-down menus at the top and very little extraneous information is displayed.
Furthering that simplicity, the home page displays an interactive graph that can be used to display comments or entries over time as well as a tag cloud. You can also use the sliders to select a date range and then pull up a list of all related items from the period you selecting. That makes it very easy hone in on periods with higher commenting or posting activity, enabling you to better control the comment/post flow.
Other pages in the administration area receive a similar treatment. The post editing page, for example, is very minimalistic by default. It displays only the editing box itself with other features available via the options panel to the right. Movable Type, by in large, keeps the work space as clear and as usable as possible.
Another interesting feature of MT4 is the way it handles styles and themes. in addition to coming prepackaged with 30 styles by default, MT4 makes it easy to install new themes. Rather than downloading a theme, uploading it to your server and selecting it, MT4 lets you add repositories in your administration area and then, once selected, MT will download and set up the new style for you. The system works very similarly to apt-get in Linux and is extremely easy to use.
However, perhaps best of all, is that the entire system was designed to be practical and safe. Not only does editing anything involving code, such as when editing styles, widgets or plugins, receive the benefit of syntax highlighting but MT4 will alert you when you are in danger of doing something that might cause your site not to work.
All in all, MT4 is a powerful, easy-to-use system that will, undoubtedly, serve many bloggers well. However, these features do come at a cost.
Though the MT4 interface itself is easy to use, as has been pointed out on other sites, the install of MT4 is not as simple or as fast as the install of WordPress. This is due, in large part, to MT4s wider support of databases and configurations, but may be an obstacle to a blogger that just wants to get their site up and running.
Second, while MT4 does have a variety of plugins, a solid API available and a large number of legacy plugins that still work, WordPress users will likely rely on and use plugins for which no alternatives exist in MT4. This may become less of an issue as the plugin community for MT catches up and some WP plugins are converted over, but at the moment it remains a potential problem.
Finally, depending on the way you use your blog and how many people write for it, you might have to obtain a paid license to use MT4. Though you could, at least theoretically, wait for the open source version and miss out on some features, a commercial license today will cost you between $50 and $800 depending upon who you are and how you use the product.
If these drawbacks are worthwhile, however, MT4 may still be a viable option for a blog platform, if not, most likely WordPress or another platform may be a better application, at least for the time being.
Though I have been critical of Six Apart in other areas, I have always respected their blogging software. I, personally, find the new features in MT4 to be very interesting and exciting. I love the interface and I enjoyed playing around with the demo.
However, I can not see myself, at this time, converting any of my WordPress blogs over to MT4. The hassle of importing content, modifying themes and finding/installing needed plugins is simply too much for me to justify.
That being said though, any new blog or site that I build, I will have to seriously consider MT4 as an option for running it. Though I may decide that the features and setup are not right for that particular site, I can see situations where I would favor MT4, especially in conditions where very high traffic volumes might be expected.
The decision is up to the Webmaster but what is clear is that it is not possible, any longer, to simply ignore MT. Six Apart has made a major push and, along with it, has made some significant progress.
It is, at the very least, worth a look and serious consideration. It might not be for everyone, but it might be right for you.