Thoughts on branding, design, writing and life by Kevin Potts. Established 2003.

Textpattern 4.0: Now for Client Sites!

Textpattern is as stable and feature-rocking as ever with the new 4.0. My first client site completely driven from TXP is live, with more on the way.

I have come to really love Textpattern. I know there are a lot of choices with blogging/CMS software these days; alongside the venerable Movable Type lies Wordpress, Serendipity and Drupal, not to mention countless custom apps.

Some people try Textpattern and have a hard time wrapping their head around the system. For me, it has been far more intuitive than MT, which ran this site for over a year. TXP’s administration design takes the content and structure separation ideal very seriously, and not only provides structural sections, but content categories. It is this nuanced level of detail that has made me a fan since I first installed it for graphicPUSH in December 2004.

The software also boasts a teeming developer network and a very active forum for problem-solving, announcements and plug-in development. In fact, Dean and company recently released version 4.0 of the software — an ultra stable, feature-laden milestone that in my mind sets the bar for ease-of-use and flexibility.

I like Textpattern so much, in fact, that I have begun using it for client websites. First out the door is a new site for Rapid Power Management, a consultant for the deregulated power market in Texas. While the layout and design are not ground-breaking, there are some interesting techniques and technical things I explored with this site.

  • The navigation on the left is dynamically built with sections, and each article builds a subnav item underneath the main header.
  • Each section’s look is controlled by a single call in the body tag, so the section Energy Procurement has <body id="energyprocurement">. The CSS for each ID styles the button’s color, the color and background of the <h2> and the line in the right pullquote. Each section has its own template page in TXP.
  • Every article has custom meta description and keywords using the techniques I detailed in my tutorial.
  • Although Textpattern really requires a Unix server with .htaccess to work to its full potential, this site lives on a Microsoft IIS server running PHP and MySQL. The only restriction is not being able to enable clean URL paths, thus the nasty numbered PHP calls in the address bar. (I really fought the client on this since URL paths are critical for good SEO, but they were not willing to switch hosts.)
  • Only four plug-ins are used: Johan Nilsson’s glx_admin_db_tables, Rob Sable’s rss_admin_show_adv_opts (since the client uses the custom fields and this saves an extra click) and rss_suparchive and finally zem_contact from Threshold State.

This site started on Textpattern 1.0r3, a somewhat stable but feature-thin version that required a patchwork of plug-ins to accomplish desired functionality. I actively follow the SVN development, and after watching the hundreds of updates, bug fixes and feature additions fly by my RSS reader, I upgraded RPM’s site to 4.0 before going live. The process, like most things TXP, was simple:

  • Rename old Textpattern directory “Textpattern-old.”
  • Upload entire new “Textpattern” directory to server.
  • Copy old “config.php” into new directory.
  • Delete “setup” folder (there for new installations; provides a serious security hole if left live).
  • Login. Everything updates automagically.

The whole process took less than two minutes and went flawlessly. The new administrative interface is wonderful — things that were once buried in configuration and preference files are now available in the site admin. The only thing I had to do was re-add my four custom fields inside the “Advanced Preferences” panel (making sure they were in the same order and nomenclature as before since the actual DB data did not change), and the database hooked into the calls right away.

I am so impressed with Textpattern, in fact, that I just accepted another web design project that requires a CMS. I am also currently redesigning, so expect a totally fresh design that is generated 100% from Textpattern. At this point, I could not imagine using anything else.

commentary + criticism

Jeff Adams

wrote the following on Tuesday August 30, 2005

I agree, I really enjoy using Textpattern and have been doing so since it first went public.

I think it is much more flexible then most “blog” CMS software. If someone hasn’t tried it since version 4.0 was released they should really do themselves a favor and try it out.


wrote the following on Wednesday September 14, 2005

Indeed textpattern is by far (for me) the best solution I have come across. After trying WP etc I always come back.


wrote the following on Thursday September 15, 2005

I have actually tried to use Movable Type several times on personal and client projects, and it is a good system, but I always come back to TXP. When MT was flaking out on me last year, I started and ended my search for a new CMS with Textpattern—I never even made it to Wordpress, which is fine with me since the general consensus is that its good but you have to really tweak the system.


wrote the following on Thursday July 19, 2007

TXP is slowly drawing me in. I’m currently on WP, which has a nice interface and a TON of plugins to hack away. One drawback is that is too blogcentric for my liking. So far TXP is turning out to be more easily customizable without all the hacks and tweaks.