Long time SEB readers know that back in the beginning we ran on the uber-popular MovableType blog platform up until they released version 3.0 and put a prohibitively expensive licensing system into place. By the time Six Apart recovered from the firestorm that broke out over the licensing issue we had managed to land one of the 1,000 free ExpressionEngine Personal Licenses that the folks at EllisLab handed out to take advantage of Six Apart’s misstep and we made the jump to EE.
The outrageous licensing issue and the free EE key were only part of the reason we made the jump, though. MovableType 3.0 was billed as a major release and it did include some notable new features, but it was so long in coming and was so much less than what had been discussed in the past that it was a disappointment for a lot of folks including myself. At the time Six Apart was busy with their TypePad hosted solution that seemed to be getting all the new features love while MT seemed to have been forgotten. The biggest improvement in 3.0 was the new plugins system they added that allowed third-party developers to work plugins into the system just about anywhere, but it would be awhile before that system would be taken advantage of and it contributed to the feeling that Six Apart was setting MT up to rely on third-parties to add any new features folks wanted so they could concentrate on the more profitable TypePad. Since then Six Apart has gone on to give MT more of the attention it deserves, but it still seemed to me to be lagging behind other platforms such as EE and WordPress unless, that is, you wanted to shell out the big bucks for the Enterprise edition they eventually released.
So the release of the beta of MT4 comes as a pleasant surprise as it appears to be a major reworking of the code base. Here’s a brief listing of some of the new goodies from the MT4 Announcement:
What’s new in Movable Type 4?
With more than 50 new features, MT4 will enable you to quickly start a blog, easily manage entire blog websites, and better connect with your audience. Here’s some of what’s new in MT4:
- A completely redesigned user interface
- It’s easy to install and easy to get started
- Get an at-a-glance summary of your blog activity from content to contributors on our new dashboard
- Easily insert text, photos, files and more with a rich WYSIWYG editing
- Built-in asset, photo and file management
- Support for creating standalone pages that automatically inherit your blog’s design
- Built-in member registration system for reader and comment authentication
- Support for OpenID
- Aggregate posts from multiple blogs into a single blog
- Expanded options for archiving and displaying content
- And much more…
Some of those, such as a built-in member registration system, are features I know I had been clamoring for back when I was still running MT and active in its user community. It appears that quite a few of the goodies that TypePad users have enjoyed for a long time will now be available to MT users as well and it’s interesting to note that some of the features mimic long-standing features of other packages such as EE and WordPress. Most interesting of all, however, is word that Six Apart plans to release an Open Source version of MT 4 later this year.
I played around a bit with a MT4 Demo installation the folks at Pro IT Service have made available and I have to admit that I’m very impressed so far. You can only do so much with the demo version so it’s hard to say how it handles things like the multi-blog aggregations and such, but the WYSIWYG editor is very nice and the simple interface is impressive. It does have support for one feature that I’d love see become native in ExpressionEngine: Tagging, but I believe that’s been in for a while now added at some point in the MT 3.x series.
All in all the MT4 Beta is intriguing enough that I’ll probably download a copy to try out so I can get to the nitty-gritty under the hood. I have no immediate plans to migrate off of ExpressionEngine at the moment, but I like to keep up with what the alternatives are offering these days and I’ll never say that I won’t ever consider making the jump back to MovableType as I once wrongly claimed that I’d never leave MT. There’s a number of EE features I’ve gotten used to having that still aren’t part of the default MT package though a fair number of them could be emulated with plugins. Still for people who are jumping into blog that don’t want to go with a hosted solution MT once more seems like a promising option. If nothing else, die hard MT fans should be plenty happy with the new goodies they’ll have available to them.
You can keep track of the beta’s progress as well as the upcoming Open Source version at the newly revived MovableType.org website.