At the Forge - WordPress
Open-source applications often are criticized for their lack of a friendly user interface. This is largely because open-source programmers are writing the software for themselves and their colleagues, which means that anything other than core functionality is cast aside.
Like most software with good user interfaces, WordPress includes many small features that add up to a pleasant experience. For example, it automatically creates en and em dashes when you use two or three hyphens. It allows you to classify postings as drafts (the default), private or public, which means that you can start working on a Weblog entry, go to lunch and then return to work on it.
With the exception of deleting, it is easy to undo any mistake that you might make in WordPress by returning to the menu in question and changing the value. All entries, including drafts and comments, can be edited repeatedly until they are ready for publication.
Finally, the look and feel of a WordPress Weblog can be changed by modifying the CSS, which handles the fonts, colors, sizes and placement; the templates, which largely are standard PHP; and even the plugins, which can change almost anything. It is possible to change the template within WordPress itself, although I expect that most readers of this magazine would prefer to use Emacs or vi to change the file directly on disk.
Installing a plugin requires downloading it and placing it within the appropriate plugins directory, but activating it is completely Web-driven. This means that system administrators can install a number of plugins for their users and let the individuals choose which plugins they would like to activate. Several sample plugins are included in the WordPress distribution, and others are available from the WordPress Web site.
Over the past few months, we have looked at a number of different types of Weblog software. With the exception of COREBlog, a Zope product that installed easily and quickly into my Zope server, WordPress was by far the easiest and fastest to install. It has a full list of features, many of which have to do with the clean, easy-to-use user interface. Even novice computer users and Webloggers can publish regularly with this software. Although the underlying code and technologies used—PHP and MySQL—are not my favorites, the set of features, growth of the platform and the large community all make WordPress a winning choice.
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