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.
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.
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.
There is moderation for comments but there is no registration.
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.
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.
The blogs you create with this package seem well constructed and search engine friendly.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As previously mentioned the community site, textpattern.org, seems well populated with code and tips, plus a forum.
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.
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.
No stats are included so you will need either a plugin or more likely to use a third party stats service.
TextPattern does support multiple authors but there is no support for multiple blogs. To have more than one blog you will need multiple installs.
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.