Technology Tales

Adventures & experiences in contemporary technology

Alternatives to WordPress

26th February 2008

Movable Type was the leading blogging platform before Six Apart disappointed their users with their licensing and WordPress came into being. Now that WordPress would seem to be king of the hill, it’s tempting to conclude that there’s nothing else out there for those wanting a self-hosted blog. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

These days, Movable Type is available as an open source entity and I have been giving it a quick whirl. Importing from a WordPress export file is very swish and a quick spot of tinkering gets you a running in no time. Getting the thing set up can be a little confusing because the processing is done by CGI scripts and they need to live in your website’s cgi-bin directory while the actual blog is instantiated in another location. Aside from that complexity, things are not that offputting and the style of the administration and content management dashboard could show WordPress a thing or two. It’s partitioning of trackbacks from comments is another useful feature in this world pervaded by comment spam.

Habari is another option that I have encountered and it seems like early days for this one. The first impression that struck me was its minimalist feel but it will do most of what you ask of it when it comes to blogging. Nevertheless, importing and exporting is one area that needs more development and its handling of themes is a matter that warrants more exploration on my part. In summary, it seems to offer most of your needs, even if there is nothing to make it stand out from the crowd at this time.

I encountered another alternative platform in the pages of PC Plus called Expression Engine. It is commercial software but there is a free cut down version available without some of the modules. There is a bit more to the offering than blogging but you have to buy it to get features like wikis, forums and the like. As it happens, the blogging capability in the free version is creditable and it seems that you can manage multiple blogs through the same interface, a feature that has potential when it comes to using the software as a kind of CMS. It cannot directly import from WordPress but a Movable Type export file is accepted without a bother. With regards to changing the look and feel of the blog, I found that editing the index and stylesheet files through the administration interface produced good results quite easily and quickly. Maybe creating a new theme might be a worthwhile project to see how one can make a blog’s appearance fall into line with the other parts of a website. After all, Ellis Labs claim that the software should work the way that you do.

I only have done a quick spot of fiddling with any of the above but there is potential for further investigations to see what else they have to offer. I am sure that there are other alternatives and the CMS Drupal comes to mind for its having a blogging module, even if I didn’t find the main CMS functionality to be sufficiently flexible for my needs when I last tried it (a new version made it appearance recently); overly complex CSS was one bugbear for me. Even with all the possibilities, I won’t be spending too much of my time exploring this area. Suffice it to say, it’s not a completely WordPress world…

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