Today marks the beta release for Movable Type 4. Excited? No joke.
This news merits uncharacteristic pomp and circumstance because Movable Type is the blog platform of choice for a number of enterprises, and because v4.0 also marks said platform's departure from the exclusive world of blogging.
So if you thought you knew every trick a blog could possibly pull, prepare to be dazzled, or at least sufficiently interested to download the free beta. Movable Type has decidedly 180'd on us.When last we looked at MT, it was just coming out with v3.34, a functional if unexciting update to the v.3. To be fair, the MT guys gave us a taste of the kind of segmented, flexy functionality we'd find in v4.0 with the lauded release of its Community Pack 2.0.
Movable Type 4 draws from other aspects of the Six Apart family, drawing community tools like OpenID from LiveJournal, a rich media-ready user interface from Vox, and publishing power from TypePad. Anil Dash's review -- straight out of Six Apart -- reports the following new features:
* A simpler, speedier new interface. (We've played with it. It's really quite nice.) The option set is sparse without making you feel like you're missing something, and it includes a dashboard overview of how all your blogs are faring.
* Built-in support for file assets and images, as well as standalone pages, within the MT platform
* New community features like OpenID, as well as open source availability via www.movabletype.org.
An introductory conference call for MT4 also gave us a stronger sense of what's going on back there.
Most changes to the platform have to do with extended definitions of plugins and components. For MT4's purposes, components provide semantics for plugins to extend or modify the application. v4.0 is super-modular, meaning whole features can be bolted on and removed, a flexible quality that just doesn't fly with your typical blog platform. And that's the point: we're not really looking at a blogging platform anymore.
Ultimately Movable Type becomes a collection of plugins, meaning v4.0 could conceivably exist without the blogging component. If, for example, you switched it off (which you can), you're left with a simple website management application that can still help you publish static pages.
Adding to the flexibility of the new version, you can also switch off the comments component or replace it altogether with another plugin.
Here are some other rather major changes of note:
* The ability to transform, add to or modify a page without relying on HTML, increasingly considered a "black art" by content builders accustomed to a one-two-publish process.
* The Movable Type Registry, a kind of glue that holds all your existing components and plug-ins together. Every time a plugin or component initializes itself, it adds properties to the Registry that then instruct MT on how to operate. Check out www.movabletype.org/docs, to review documented components living in the Registry. It also describes how you can add to it.
* Added support for new archives and paginated category archives. These come in addition to archive functionality already featured in MT 3.
* Backwards-compatible alt tags, meaning tags from MT3 will work in MT4. And duplicate tags, and tags that provide similar functionalities, are in the process of being consolidated. To keep things neat MT will be publishing an extensive template tag reference.
* An expanded template set, which helps keep the bucketful of information-per-user interpretable within a given application context.
Most importantly, MT 4 is itself totally open to interpretation. You can use it how you like, and developers are free to create both components and plugins. Check out the developer wiki at www.lifewiki.net/sixapart, which also houses the Movable Type componentization guide.
Right now MT is looking at quarterly updates, so there'll be four major advancements to a given platform per year. 4.1 and 4.2 are already being defined, and will reportedly have more to do with the management of styles and themes. Check it all out at the Movable Type beta site.