Professional Blog Software Reviews – TextPattern

While I was posting our previous round of blog system reviews several people suggested packages I had missed out. Well, we can’t have that can we? So here we are with TextPattern, the first of our next round of reviews. The difference this time round is we have a champion to beat in WordPress …

I must admit up until TextPattern was suggested I knew pretty much zero about the software so I was going in completely in the dark. I can’t say I am much of an expert now, mind!

The website says TextPattern is

A free, flexible, elegant, easy-to-use content management system for all kinds of websites, even weblogs.

So it’s not particularly aimed at bloggers but it can be used as a blog, a fact they demonstrate with their own blog. Good enough for me.

Installation

TextPattern like the majority of these packages needs PHP and MySQL to run. You are also advised to use Apache but IIS apparently works also.

Also like many of the packages I reviewed earlier Textpattern is open source software, distributed under the GNU General Public License. A blooming good job else these reviews might have got very expensive!

Installing involves unzipping the download and opening the setup page. This is what we like, a helpful “wizard” type install. Odd then that it asks you to create a config.php file, albeit supplying the text for you to paste in. Surely this is something the setup script could do? That minor quibble aside, installing is pretty nice and easy.

Installation

Usability

Setting preferences and bouncing around the administration side is pretty nice. If you are unsure what anything is there are little contextual help buttons next to each item. Everything is well laid out with tabs for the sections and suchlike. It looks a little formal but everything works as it should.

Usability

Comments

There is moderation for comments but there is no registration.

Search

The search facility is much like any other but it is there and it works.

Ping and Trackback

TextPattern does not support trackback but on purpose, they feel it is too open for spamming. When you post you can ping pingomatic and textpattern.

URLs

You have several options for URL formatting if you use Apache web server but there is no option to create your own pattern that I could see. The choices available should suit most needs though and you can override the end filename part of the path when you post.

SE Friendly

The blogs you create with this package seem well constructed and search engine friendly.

tp3

Templates

There is an interface for editing templates in the admin and looking at the structure they seem straightforward enough. If you search you will be able to find plenty to download, there are a whole bunch of them at textpattern.org.

The default package only comes with one lame style and using and selecting between third party templates is not as easy as with the other blog packages, a shame.

Having said that I did manage to get it to play nice with my usual design based on a version of Kubrick with a little help from a Google search.

Templates

Static Pages

You can create pages and also organise your blog into sections. I could not see a way to format your page URLs on a page by page basis other than the option to set the filename. You can though automatically have your section name included in your path so you need to choose between section and date type URLs if you want to maximise full use of the section capability for creating static content.

Categories

A post can be in one or two categories, I didn’t see a way to have a post in more than that or how I could nest categories. Of course TextPattern has the sections also which might explain why they feel more than this is not necessary.

Extensibility

The community site lists quite a few plugins and mods. It seems the community has patched most of the problems with the default package with some quite clever solutions. It is possible there is something to overcome any of the points I mark down in this review if you can be bothered to dig them out.

Support

As previously mentioned the community site, textpattern.org, seems well populated with code and tips, plus a forum.

Feeds

Initially it looked like you are stuck with the default RSS and Atom feeds but with a bit of messing around with the URLs you can also get section and category feeds also.

API

Out of the box there doesn’t seem to be any support for API access. If you want to use a desktop posting tool you will need to look to third party hacks.

Stats

No stats are included so you will need either a plugin or more likely to use a third party stats service.

Multi Author

TextPattern does support multiple authors but there is no support for multiple blogs. To have more than one blog you will need multiple installs.

Summary

So not a bad outcome. This is quite a neat package. As a blogging tool though it falls down on some fundementals, no API, not great on themes, categories could be better, but having said that I would say it is one to watch. The TextPattern community seems well up for patching the default install so if this looks like a package you would like to use I have no doubt you will be able to create a killer blog with it.

Comments

  1. Thanks for mentioning my XML-RPC addon I’ve just (officially -finally!) released the latest version over on my blog. Sorry about the personal link, but I felt it was relevant to the topic.

    Textpattern is a great bit of software, but I (personally) don’t feel it’s particularly suited to weblogs. It took lots of hacks and plugins to get it running anywhere near how I wanted it, whereas WordPress took just the basic install and a very small number of plugins. I now just use Textpattern for “full-blown” websites (I’m trialling conversion of my work’s corporate site to it right now – which is an IIS install, so it’s being a bit of a PITA), where it feels much more at home.

    The other major problems I found when I used TXP exclusively, was lack of cohesive, up to date documentation and the stop-start nature of development (that last one seems sorted now though).

  2. I’m not sure what it is, but I found Textpattern’s clean default design quite appealing. And TXP seems rather easy to use, although I only tested it briefly.

  3. Markus Merz says:

    I checked Textpattern out the whole day and I am seriously willing to give it a try. Textpattern has that two level editorial structure with the sections (read the ‘Textpattern Semantic Model’) which I very urgently need to organize my ‘local newspaper’ project.

    Regarding XML-RPC there was a blog entry ‘Posted 38 days ago by Pedro Palazón': Ask-A-Dev: When will XML-RPC show up?. It states that “… The whole XML-RPC server for Textpattern is almost ready – including complete implementations of Blogger/MetaWeblog/MovableType APIs, with the notable lack of support for metaWeblog.newMediaObject (at least for now). It will eventually be released to the public. …”

    Two fresh article out there which I liked very much are” Textpattern versus WordPress” and Natalie Jost comparison. Both articles show pretty straightforward the differences between both systems.

    Last not least Textpattern out of the box is very fast. My experience is that it ‘feels’ very fast and there are also older comparison tables out there which show that Texpattern reacts roughly 2,5 times faster than WordPress. Just google for “+wordpress +textpattern comparison”.

    For multiple blogs I did set up a LifeType installation in a sub-domain for everybody willing to have it’s own blog. LifeType was absolutely easy to install and proved to be running good on a shared hosting platform. The ‘Financial Times Germany’ (ftd.de) inspired me because they are using LifeType as their embedded blogging platform.

    I was also checking Serendepity and Nucleus but I think they don’t fit into my specification. I really didn’t get warm with them … too blogish :-)

    As always just my 2c …

    PS: My productivity geek tool of the day is AutoHotkey for Windows. Much too complicated for me but today I decided to install it and what can i say … I downloaded some available .ahk scripts and it works fine :-)

  4. Here are a couple of links for people who like to check out Textpattern

    TXP Magazine
    TXP Blogmap
    All Sites Collection
    Sites Collection by Category

    WP is a straight forward blogging tool while TXP is more a small CMS as Chris above already said.

    Other than that, great site here. Did not know at all till today. Keep up the really great work, guys.

  5. I downloaded and installed textpattern core files. Installation is sweet, easy and straight forward. I posted several articles. The pages loaded very fast and seemed clean and precise. However that is as far as it goes.

    every other aspect of a CMS is lacking, no user registration, no admin login link, no warm up plugins or modules etc.

    I wanted to change the template and add in plugins and modules. …now here is where the headache began. First of all, there are no proper standard instructions on how to install templates or how to install plugins. Each template or plugin is installed differently, and installation instructions are as per the writer of the template.

    There are no standards on what or where nor even what folder is the plugin folder. This means that every template or plugin developer simply uses what ever naming methods they chooose. The admin section of the auto plugin installer has no instructions and really works half the time…that is if you figured out how to work it.

    There are very few templates to choose from. Editing your own template requires a high learning curve i,e learn the textpattern context language, since the css files are limited on what they can do to enhance a complete template change.

    The few free online templates located at textpatterngarden website have the worst installation instructions. disorganised, scattered brief and assuming with Poor english/Languages grammmer.

    After 4 hours of installing three different templates which caused unceratin results as webpage alignment and arrangement were criss crossing all over the place, i settled for the original default template.

    The help files q-tip files are good, well written but breif. However they are linked directly to the text pattern website. For about 10 mins their website was not responding so i was out of luck for help tips. It would have been nice to have included a downloadable help file.

    The concept of text pattern is rather excellent, and they could turn out to be really agood if they can standardise things.

    The help forum is just but a complete mess. It is full of people posting any thing any where with out admin supervision. such that when searching for help, lots of material turns up with the search keyword however they are all garbage. It is as if the developers left the help forum to be developed by users. Trust me, amatuers like me have posted all kinds of useless stuff there.

    What was very impressive was the time and diligence written on the use of their textpattern context language. It could do with a little more explanation.

    I installed textpattern and gave up. However I recently got a freind to loan me a server space so that i can learn more. See my work sweat at

    or http://www.acholinet.com/uganda/

    I really hope textpattern can improve. God bless

    Kevin the bony

  6. Markus Merz says:

    No way. This is a nice long rant from you but it is not true.

    Textpattern has a learning curve but it is straight logic and very easy to accomplish things you want to do with your site (be it a blog or a medium sized website).

    You want community and more: Take Drupal
    You want the easiest way to set up a blog in minutes: Take Bloger

    But if you want a fast, clean and good scaling CMS application: Take Textpattern

    And Yes, the default template is fine to start with if you want to publish not too complicated content.

  7. I agree that TXP is not the best option for bloggers or for creating community sites. But for more ‘standard’ websites it is easy and powerful.

    It fits my requirements because I am able to design and code decently but can’t program. Other CMS I tried were not flexible enough to be able to create the dynamics I wanted. Nothing complicated — usually creating relationships between different types of information that share common themes and listing articles in particular ways and formats.

    All this I can do with TXP with sections, categories and custom fields to hold meta-information. TXP code then allows me to make it all happen without having to learn PHP.

    What I particularly like are the IF / ELSE that allow me to display information depending on certain conditions.

    An example – a site I did for a photographer. I created the blog section so that posts can have 4 different types of images:

    1. Thumbnails that link to the full picture on a page the relevant photo section:
    Eg: http://raymond.kw-wu.com/blog/professional-work/wedding-set-zoe-lawrence/

    2. Thumbnails that expand by way of a lightbox type script:
    http://raymond.kw-wu.com/blog/miscellaneous/welcome/

    3. Full size pics
    http://raymond.kw-wu.com/blog/personal-work/flying-ferrari/

    4. Thumbnails that don’t expand or link to any page (no example of that yet)

    Bear in mind that the client doesn’t know HTML. He simply uses certain values in a custom field to achieve.

    Also, pages automatically include contextual links from the blog to the photo sections.

    This is why I am a big fan of Textpattern and have decided to use it for my own site (http://www.tabletpc.it), which is much more of a challenge.

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