Revisit Blogging Software

In the (rather long) interval since I last wrote about blogging software, both the available software and my needs have changed. SimplePHPBlog, which was my choice back then, appears to be dieing as a project; both development and support appear to be fading away. In additon, I am now managing three websites, and at least one of the those sites needs capabilities beyond simplePHPBlog’s abilities. 

Motorcycle-talk.com is now running on Serendipity which shares many of SimplePHPBlog’s attributes. For the moment at least, Serendipity meets the needs of that website.

 

For the other two websites (including this one), I decided to try LightNEasy which is described as a CMS¬†(Content Management System) rather than blogging software. A CMS website can provide blog-like characteristics, but it has additonal capabilities which make it much more versatile. LightNEasy is available in two versions, one that stores data in text files and requires no database, and one that uses either MySQL or SQLite to store its data. I’m using both (not on the same website). For this website, I chose to use the database version with a SQLite database (I am not overly fond of MySQL because of the licensing policies). The database version seems to work well and offers some functionality not available in the non-database version.

Blogging Software

Since I just recently created this blog, it might be an appropriate time to discuss how I chose Simple PHP Blog as the underlying software. This is not my first blog; I have been running Motorcycle-Talk.com for almost a year. That site, however, was created using Blogger even though I don’t use their hosting service. I have nothing against Blogger; it is a nice easy to use service, but this time around I felt that I wanted to have more direct control over the website.

First I established my criteria. Whatever software I used must be free, have a pleasant user interface, and have a friendly and helpful user community. Pluses would be good documentation, and non-reliance on an external database. The language used to customize was not really important; if I didn’t alrady know the language, it would be a good excuse to learn a new one.

I searched the web for blog software and found several sites listing available packages. I, at least cursorily, looked at every package. Most I dismissed immediately; they were too bloated, they required Windows, they weren’t free, they were in too early a development stage to be useful, or users had too many negative comments. Finally, I selected a few packages to actually install and evaluate. These few are the ones I will discuss.

Bash Blogger – This unique little program is witten in bash, the scripting language common to almost all unix-like systems. Configuration involves editing a single text file (you can use any editor) and changing themes (there are only a few pre-written themes available) is as simple as replacing or editing one styles.css file. What could be simpler? There is no user community as such, but an email to the author brings a friendly and helpful response. To be sure, Bash Blogger has some severe limitations. E.g., there is no provision for user comments, a mainstay of most blogs. If your needs run to a very simple journal type program, Bash Blogger deserves a look.

guppY – I really am not sure what to say about guppY. It is much more than a blog program; it is in fact an entire portals system with forums, etc. It requires no external database and has an iconized interface for administration. There are many templates available for it, some quite nice. There appears to be a large user community. My biggest problem with guppY was the language barrier. guppY originated in France, and although the documentation has been translated to English, there is much on the guppY website and in the forums which is difficult to understand because (I think) of imperfect translation. I didn’t need all the features of guppY so I decided it was not worth my effort to overcome the language barrier and give the program a really fair trial.

Pivot – I had great hopes for Pivot; I liked what I saw on their website and there was no requirement for an external database. Unfortunately, when I got to the post-install setup, the documentation and the reality did not match so I uninstalled and did not pursue my evaluation further.

WordPress – WordPress may well be the most popular standalone blogging software on the web and little wonder. It is simple to use, has a wide variety of themes (changing themes is a trivial matter), provides excellent documentation and has an active user community. It does require MySQL, but as I said before, that is not a show-stopper in my selection. They advertise a “5 minute setup”, and that isn’t off by much. Within a very short time I had WordPress installed, a theme selected and a website up and running that looked pretty good. I almost ended my search then and there, and I would not put down anyone for picking WordPress as their blog software. It is good.

Textpattern – I could probably have been happy with WordPress, but I kept seeing comparisons between WordPress and Textpattern so I had to check it out for myself. Textpattern appears to be a little more flexible than WordPress; for one thhing, it is able to handle multiple blogs with a single installation. With increased flexibilt, of course, comes increased complexity. Installation of themes/templates is far more complex than wordpress and requires editing some php files. In addition, the template that I chose to use had a coding error which broke the Comments functionality (I eventually fixed it). During installation, I had occasion to raise an issue on the forum, and had a very pleasant experience with one of the site administrators. According to the comparisons I have read, Textpattern has cleaner code than WordPress, but I did not verify this for myself. Although it was more difficult to set up, I actually liked Textpatter better than WordPress and would probably still be using it if my hard drive hadn’t gone belly up (what’s that you say: didn’t I have a backup?).

SimplePHPBlog – Simple PHP Blog is “simple”; it is easy to use, and does not rely on an external database. There are some nice looking templates available, and they are easy to install. The forum, while not as eye-appealing as some (a Sourceforge issue I think) appears to be inhabited by friendly and helpful people. The weakest point of this software is documentation; there is almost none. Of course, it is simple enough that very little documentation is needed! I did run into one problem with the software. I created a new article and attempted to Preview it without first selecting a category. The article promptly vanished! Currently, I work around the problem by always selecting a Category and selecting Publish, rather than Preview. If I decide I don’t like the way the article looks, I can always Edit or Delete it. For now I am going to stick with Simple PHP Blog, but who knows what the future holds.