Movable Type Basics / 1


I am going to describe the basics of Movable Type in a short introduction. You do not have to know anything about Movable Type for understanding it. However, when following this three-part introduction, you will learn to know the most important components and gain a good overview.

Movable Type is a CMS

Movable Type is a tool for creating websites. However, it is completely different from for example Macromedia Dreamweaver or a Microsoft Frontpage. Both are tools with a major emphasis is designing a website. You will understand the special features of Movable Type better if you regard it as a Content Management System.

A Content Management System - also named CMS - is an application for the administration and editing of contents for a website. With a CMS the single most important concept is the distinction between contents and layout. Every author, who is writing some text for the website, has absolutely nothing to do with the layout or design. He enters the text in standard input fields and saves the data in some database. A separate generation process converts this data into the HTML for the website.

Separating layout and design from content has a major advantage. With a simple rebuild you might create a different website. It might differ completely from the original website. The individual pages might contain different data and of course, the layout and design might be different.

Let us look at the central parts of Movable Type.


Movable Type is a normal application running on your intranet or internet server. With a single instance of this application, you can create several weblogs.

After you have installed Movable Type, you might have one weblog for your personal adventures and have another weblog for expressing your enthusiasm for or against your current political leader.

The weblogs will be created at different locations. If you want so, you might reserve a distinct domain name for each of those weblogs.


Everybody wanting to work with Movable Type has to identify himself. Therefore, Movable Type allows the creation of several authors.

You can give specific rights to authors. You can specify whether an author is able to access a weblog at all. Moreover, you can specify the access rights for a weblog individually. Maybe one author may only insert new content. Maybe another author may also modify the layout of the generated HTML pages.


The most important entity that will be created with Movable Type is the so-called entry. For example, the text you are currently reading is an entry.

In Movable Type you will create entries with a dialog. Currently Movable Type does not support true WYSIWYG - at least not with the standard installation.

If you are working as an author and editing an entry, you will not see the text in the same way the reader is going to see it. All visual elements (font family, bold ...) are not directly visible. Rather you see the corresponding HTML and you must know the outcome of those HTML tags.

Each entry has a couple of properties. You will enter these in distinct textboxes when working with the dialog.

  • The Title describes the entry with a short one-line text. Usually the title is output in lists and also above the body text.
  • An entry may be associated with several Categories. So grouping related entries into meaningful sets is possible. Usually the categories will be listed in the sidebar (on this weblog on the right side of each page). Clicking a category will open a list of entries belonging to that category. It is possible and reasonable to associate an entry with several categories.
  • The text for the entry consists of three parts. You can use them to your liking. This is the Entry Body, the Extended Entry and the Excerpt. Rather often you want to show a short introduction about an entry on one page and after the user has clicked a "continue reading" the full text is displayed on a page of its own. For achieving this, the author will write these two parts into the Entry Body and the Extended Entry. The Excerpt should describe the entry with a few words. You might use it on summary pages.
  • Each entry has a Post Status. It allows you to define whether an entry should be published or whether you want to continue editing the entry.
  • You can enter an Authored On date for an entry. Usually this date can be found near the entry's title. By looking at it, a reader can easily find out which entries have been published recently.
  • You can specify whether Comments are allowed for an entry. You can allow comments right after the entry is published, or you can disallow comments, or you can close comments after some time.
  • As mentioned above, you will enter the entry's text in a standard textbox. There you will see pure text. Any formatting is shown as HTML tags. If you want, Movable Type can enter certain formatting tags automatically when later creating the HTML pages. For example, with active Text Formatting Movable Type will embrace your paragraphs with the p-tag.
  • An entry may support a feature known as Trackback. This is a technique for bringing two websites together. One website is able to find out whether another website has referenced it with a link.

I got used to always entering all three parts of an entry. This will give the greatest flexibility in arranging a website.

I recommend to not using the Text Formatting function. This has the disadvantage that you have to embrace any paragraph with the p-tag yourself. However, the setting is more consistent as you must code some HTML tags anyway - such as header or image tags.

Page Types

A weblog usually contains three different types of pages.

  • The Entries are the central part of a weblog. In an entry a certain subject is discussed.
  • If you open a weblog and look at the start page, you will see an Index Page. This page type lists several entries with respect to different criteria. For example, a start page might always show the 10 most recently published entries, so a reader can easily find out whether anything new has been published. There are other types of index pages. They might list entries alphabetically or grouped by category. In my weblog you can find these kinds of pages via the sitemap.
  • Additionally all entries are collected on Archive Pages. For example, if an entry is no longer on the start page, it should still be available in the archive. Usually several archives will be maintained. It is reasonable to collect entries in an archive according to its category or its month of publication. For example, a reader is able to find all entries for the category »Problems« or all entries from »March 2005«.

To be Continued

This introduction consists of the following three parts

You have just read part 1.

mgs | 03/03/2005

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