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Introduction to Textpattern

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Textpattern is a remarkably versatile content management system, suitable for use in anything from a basic blog to a complex database website, but it has two problems:

  • Some of Textpattern’s important inner workings are not obvious. If you come to it without a background in programming, you are likely to be baffled.
  • A good deal of the documentation is less than perfect, having been written by programmers for the benefit of other programmers.

By trial and error, and with a lot of patience, a non–programmer will be able to figure out how it all works. Once you have got your head around how Textpattern works, you will then be able to make sense of the documentation. Unfortunately, this is not the ideal sequence of events.

Textpattern’s Versatility

Textpattern was developed for use in blogs, and comes with all the HTML code that makes a blog work. If you just want to use it for this purpose, or if you have only a limited knowledge of HTML, the default installation will allow you to set up a functioning website very quickly. You may want to make a few minor alterations to the HTML and the CSS, but this isn’t essential.

Although Textpattern includes plenty of HTML code for you to use if you wish, it has the advantage over some content management systems of not requiring you to use any particular HTML code. The database functionality is entirely independent of the HTML.

This versatility is what makes Textpattern a fine content management system. But once you try to get much beyond the default settings, you may find that the official instructions are inadequate.

Database Websites Made Simple

The tutorials in this series are for the benefit of web designers who have a reasonable knowledge of HTML but no knowledge of PHP, the scripting language which underlies Textpattern. In particular, these instructions are intended for web designers who know how to create a static website and who now want to create a database website without all the bother of learning PHP.

The intention here is not to give an account of everything to do with Textpattern, but to explain how the system works. Once you understand that, you will be able to use the official Textpattern documentation and easily work out the details for yourself.

I have tried to be as comprehensive as possible. This, and the fact that not everything about Textpattern is obscure, means that almost everyone will find things here that they will think are blindingly obvious. But people have different levels of knowledge, and what is blindingly obvious to one reader may not be blindingly obvious to another.

Installing Textpattern

Textpattern’s installation instructions are clear enough. At least, I’ve never had any problems. I am assuming that you have installed the program and have checked out the various screens and options.

Textpattern’s Building Blocks

Textpattern contains four main building blocks:

  • Pages
  • Sections
  • Forms
  • Articles

This sequence of tutorials will explain what each of these building blocks does, starting with the two basic elements: pages and sections.

Next …

Continue with the next article: Textpattern Pages and Sections.

[This tutorial is part 1 of a series by Jeremy Bojczuk intended to introduce the Textpattern content management system to web designers who have no knowledge of PHP or databases.]

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