Professional Blogging

Professional Blog Software Reviews – Pivot

Today’s addition to our ever-growing list of blog software reviews is Pivot, a database-less blog system written in PHP. Not needing a database could be an advantage in the ease of installation stakes, let’s see.

I always think it is odd when people build blogging software or blog-related products and do not have a blog. At the very least an obvious way to to subscribe to a news feed is useful. Thankfully Pivot has both a blog right on the product homepage and a full feed to subscribe to for news updates.

Installation

First you need to decide if you are going to try the beta software (which in theory ought to have better features but possibly also bugs) or stick with a stable release. Just to be fair to the others in these reviews I chose the 1.24.3 release version.

Once you have downloaded and extracted the zip and placed the extracted files into your web space you simply launch Pivot in your browser and set your admin password in the form that appears. That’s it, installed. Pretty cool. I wish all blog software was this easy.

Usability

Pivot, once you get into it and have a poke around, is quite easy to use, if a little quirky. The configuration and administration is neat and tidy and the defaults are sensible. Posting is made a little bit easier than the norm with the inclusion of an optional WYSIWYG editing box rather than a plain text area. There is also the option to use textile formatting as well as convert breaks to HTML line breaks.

Comments

You can turn comments on or off and there is a capability for semi-threaded comments (you can reply to someone else’s comment) and you can limit how many links people are allowed to drop. While users can register and log in, as far as comments go this only allows you to change the way registered users comments appear. There is quite a decent IP banning feature for if comments get out of hand.

Search

Search is included. If at first a search does not work it may mean you need to rebuild your search index. I had to rebuild my index even though I had the option “Auto update Search Index” set.

Ping and Trackback

Pings and trackbacks are featured and you have freedom to choose which sites you wish to notify in a free text area. You can also set trackback pings as you post an entry.

URLs

Using Apache you have the choice of friendly URLs but there is little flexibility in the formatting.

SE Friendly

As with most of these blog packages, depending on how you configure it and which template you use there should be no search engine problems.

Templates

While not as well supported with template designs as WordPress or Movable Type there are a few templates to download to get you started. Even Kubrick yet again makes an appearance. Changing templates requires rebuilding pages for every change you make, lots of small changes could be a hassle.

Static Pages

While static pages are not directly supported a few users have come up with solutions in the forum such as this one.

Categories

When posting you can choose multiple categories but nested categories are not available. Configuration is quite comprehensive apart from that, you can have categories that are only available to registered users, set permissions for which users can post to a category and hide categories from archives. Bizarrely you can set up a category that you yourself are not allowed to post to.

Extensibility

Pivot extensions are the equivalent of plugins in other packages. They are almost hidden out of the way but there are quite a few extensions listed in the forum.

Support

The main developer seems to have his hands full just building the thing so support is mostly achieved through the online documentation and the forum. Even though the community is not as big as for the big name platforms there is still quite a following for this package. Perhaps because of the main developer (Bob den Otter) being from the Netherlands much of the buzz and raving fans seem to be from Europe.

Feeds

There are feeds for posts and comments, and you can have RSS or Atom. I can’t find how you would have category feeds but it might be possible.

API

While the base install does not support blogging APIs, the community has risen to the challenge and produced solutions.

Stats

The package used to include referrer stats but the developer decided that referrer spam was more trouble than it was worth so there will not be any stats included going forward.

Multi Author

Out of the box you can have authors and sub blogs. In the interface you can quite simply create a new blog and you just need to set the file locations. This is not the most comprehensive multi blogging tool but for basic needs this might suffice.

Summary

If you are looking for a blog tool that is easy to setup, or you do not want to pay more for the hosting plan with MySQL support, then this is for you. It has no major bits missing and works pretty well. I am not entirely sure I would want to host a blog with a possibility of massive traffic using flat files as a datastore, I would be more inclined to go with a relational database. With a database too you have the possibility of more flexibility, such as “most popular posts” and sorting options which are a little trickier to achieve with text data.

This is a good package though and one to watch. It might not have the polish or masses of support of MT or WordPress but it is quite certainly nipping at their heels.

Author: Chris Garrett

Chris Garrett is a content marketing and blogging coach and co-author of the Problogger Book with Darren Rowse.