There are now three different versions of the Movable Type Publishing Platform: Commercial, Open Source and Personal. And with the newest version of Movable Type in Beta, release v4.1, there's and interesting change of orientation deep down in the product's core.With the recent release of the Movable Type Open Source incarnation, it's probably not a big stretch to think people are wondering why pay when there's a free version available? According to the company's website, the Open Source License has all the features of the 4.0 Commercial License, and a little bit more.
Movable Type 4.1 is now in beta and the list of fixes and enhancements is rather huge. What's notable is that many of these enhancements are making their way into the Open Source and Personal Licenses, as well as the Commercial version. That's not to say the versions are equal. Of course they mustn't be.
Commercial Version Uniqueness
There's a compelling difference in the commercial version. Not all will see this, not agree with it, but in our opinion, it's a serious differentiation. What we're talking about is something called Custom Fields.
Custom Fields provide Administrators with the ability store and manage different types of content within MT by defining new fields and input types. Things like product catalogs can be created; administrators can create default values and restrict the type of content through the use of input types, etc.
This is not new ground in the world of content management. In fact, we'd rather say that its a necessary checkbox. Most competitive products have this ability these days. We typically refer to it as data model extensibility. It's a good thing. It allows a product to be adapted to the customer's business model.
Native Data Model Extensibility Signals a Transition
With the introduction of Custom Fields capability, MT 4.1 is starting to pull away from the pure blogging world and into the even more competitive world of web content management. Other products in the Movable Type competitive sphere offer this functionality as well, for example ExpressionEngine.
It's an important shift for the product and with the near simultaneous release of MT Open Source, it may be one of the key turning points in the life of the software.
Enhancements for all Versions of Movable Type
Six Apart have broken the enhancement list down into 4 main groupings: Users and Authors, Developers, Designers and Administrators -- there's a little something for everyone. Users and Authors New features for users and authors include the ability to install and select a set of custom templates for an entire website and support for authors using Windows Live Writer or an alternate Rich Text Editor. And, how cool, the ability to upload photos for use in profiles. Ok, maybe it's not that cool. Developers For developers, the ability to package up a set of templates into a plugin, which is then used by users as described above; the ability to register Help URLs for template tags; the ability to create a pluggable Rich Text Editor; and the ability to use MT's abstraction layer to implement archiving. Designers A number of new tags, many related to the new User Pics and comments, plus a few modified tags (Else, Tags, Authors) have been added.
A really nice new feature is the Global Templates feature. It enables designers to share code and template fragments between blogs. Very nice if you manage a number of blogs and need to make changes fast that affect them all. Administrators For Administrators, the ability to publish a web site across multiple servers using a feature called Publish Queue. Which means MT now the ability to support load balancing for performance and availability.
Finally, a number of new configuration directives, some regarding resyncing, others for notifications. There is one directive retirement: PublishCommenterIcon.
Note that not all of these features are ready for testing yet, but hopefully they will be ready soon.
In addition to all these enhancements, there's a list of bugs fixes. Put the two lists together on a page and you get dizzy trying to read them all. This is a good thing.
If you want to beta test 4.1, you can grab it today from the 6A website. If you've already gotten yer mits dirty, do let us know what you think.