New version of MovableType

I finally bit the bullet and upgraded MovableType, the CMS software/blogging system I use for IT from the venerable 2.661 version to the spiffy new current 3.2.2 version. All seems to have gone well . . . except my template and stylesheet are thoroughly bolloxed. I’ve made a termporary switch to the “old” ones, rather than the “new” ones until I can either port my favored old template and style sheet or shift to one with three columns.

And this post is a test to find out what happens with new posts.

UPDATE:I decided to ditch the old template, because templates have changed a lot since I started, and move to a new three-column layout. I’m going to be tinkering with my style sheet and template a lot before I’m satisfied. I started with a CSS style sheet I built with Arvind Satyanarayan’s Movable Type Style Generator and using Elise Bauer’s instructions for converting to a 3-column layout MovableType Template.

Google Pages

Google has a beta version of their new Web page creation tool, Google Pages. I gave it a look last Thursday and Friday. By Friday Google turned off new accounts temporarily; nonetheless, here are my general impressions.

You need to have a GMail accout to use Google Pages, and right now the only supported browsers are Firefox and I.E. The rendered Web pages are stored on Google’s servers, with a 100 MB storage limit. Others have compared Google Pages to the old Geopages, but I think they’re selling Google short. The Templates are nicer, as is the interface; in fact Google Pages is so far the best browser-based Web page creation tool I’ve seen. You can choose a Layout (1/2/3 columns, side bar on left or right) as well as a Template. There’s a simple to use Page Manager (the first thing you see after you log in) that lets you create new pages and delete them. Publish and Save are separate procedures, there’s a Preview tool, and a notification tool to let people know your pages are ready.

I think Google Pages is likely to be much easier for a naive user to figure out than other similar online tools. I note that the HTML is not standard (use View Source in your browser to see for yourself). Hard returns generate paragraph breaks. While you do have control over Font and Font style, (the fonts are as you’d expect, the Microsoft Six), and the color of text, the HTML generated by Google uses the deprecated Font tag. The font styles are limited to Bold and Italic, and the actual tags used are Em and Strong. I’d be grateful if they’d provide a Cite tag. I’m quite pleased that Google allows you to directly edit the HTML.

You can use images; there’s an Image insert and upload tool, basic image resizing, and a Link tool. The Link tool uses an exceedingly simple form; you enter a name for the link then the URL for the link. You can link to e-mail addresses, URLs, local pages or uploaded files.

There’s an odd error message and accompanying feature; I was just told “Another user has ended your editing session” with an option to “Break the lock.” Odd that; there shouldn’t be another user with my login. You can take a look at my test here.

Better CMS

I’m mostly putting this here so I can easily point to it for people: Jeffrey Veen on Making a Better Open Source CMS. Each time I look at the latest CMS or (more often) LMS, and that includes Moodle and Sakai, I think of Veen’s remarks:

Ultimately, a content management system should be designed to empower writers and editors to do content creation and maintenance themselves. I’d like to see it take a step further: empower designers, information architects, and site owners with the ability to make the CMS work for them.

And yes, BlackBoard and WebCT are worseTextPattern, LiveJournal, Blogger and TypePad give me hope. Yes, of course I know those aren’t LMSs–but they could each provide core components of a modular system.

TiddlyWiki

Jeremy Ruston, using nothing more than HTML, CSS and Javascript, has created TiddlyWiki, which he describes as “an experimental microcontent WikiWiki.” Well, yes, but what’s really cool is that TiddlyWiki works from the desktop. It’s all locally driven from the browser. Sure, there are some minor awkwardnesses, like saving, but all in all this is just plain nifty. It’s also very cleverly designed specifically for microcontent, or snippets of text.

TiddlyWiki strikes me as an interesting possibility for a Dashboard gadget. The Digital Librarian points out, quite rightly, that TiddlyWiki has enormous potential as a way of annotating the web, especially when used cooperatively with a bookmarking system like Unalog.