MT 4.2 Brings New Features, Some Gotchas

Movable Type 4.2 came out about two weeks ago, and since then I’ve been poring over the documentation to learn about the new features in this release. There’s a lot here for developers and designers to enjoy. Things like social networking, improved templates, and better performance make upgrading an easy decision. Let’s look at some of the new things we have to play with.

Community Features

The MT Community Solution was first introduced over a year ago. With 4.2, that feature is expanded and, possibly more importantly, now free for non-business users. Your blog can include forums, ratings, user profiles, and more.

What makes me excited about this is the combination of a full suite of social networking features with MT’s powerful templating system. Designers can break out of the standard forum look to develop new (and hopefully better) user interfaces.

New Default Templates

Although the modularity of the default templates in 4.0 simplified site-wide changes, many developers found them too complicated. The 4.2 templates attempt to correct this. The line-upon-line of <mt:setvar> tags that started many of the templates are now gone. There’s also far fewer includes. These new templates should be easier to modify for people new to MT.

Template Module Caching & Server Side Includes

The results of template modules can be cached so they don’t have to be recreated every time you publish. This is great for sidebar content that doesn’t change with each entry you create. Combined with the new settings for Server Side Includes, this should be a powerful replacement for my optimal includes.

Custom Fields

Custom fields is another feature that’s been around a while, but with 4.2 it becomes available to more people through the free blogger license. This is huge for people using MT as a CMS. MT’s custom fields are particularly nice, because each type of field you can create comes with its own set of template tags.

Pagination for Dynamic Publishing

Any dynamically-published template can be paginated. This feature is not a part of the default templates, but the implementation is very simple. This goes hand-in-hand with new options that give you more control over how each template is published.

…and many more changes, both large and small. Over the next few weeks I’ll be exploring these new features more and giving you new and interesting ways to use them.

Notes for Upgraders

Since the initial release, a couple of changes have come to light that you should know about if you’re upgrading an existing blog. First, because of a change in how per-template publishing is handled, any index template you had set not to publish automatically will now be set to publish. You’ll need to go into each one and change the Publishing option to Manually.

Also, the dirify modifier no longer strips out hyphens. If you have a custom archive path that uses dirify (e.g. <mt:entrytitle dirify="1">.php), it would change where some files get published. On the ProNet mailing list, this work-around was offered:

<mt:entrytitle regex_replace="/-/g","" dirify="1">

It’s likely this change will either be reversed or someone will release a plugin that makes dirify work the way it used to.

Have you tried MT 4.2 yet? What are your favorite new features?