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Software Review: WordPress 2.0 Movable Type Import Tool

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Last week, a fellow Blogcritic, Mark Sahm, alerted the Blogcritics community that WordPress 2.0 (WP) had been released. I investigated the details and learned that 2.0 includes an improved import tool for Movable Type (MT) posts.

I’ve wanted to migrate from MT for a while, and the improved import feature was just what I’d been waiting for. While it was technically possible to import MT entries into WP 1.5, the process required file hacking and other work-arounds that I just wasn’t willing to try.

I’ve now successfully migrated my MT posts into a new WP 2.0 installation, but the process was not without a few hiccups, one of which required me to download and install a patch for the MT import file (mt.php).

Here’s an overview of what you need to do for an easy migration from MT to WP 2.0.

Download and Install WordPress
You can download WP 2.0 from the WP site. I had my web host install WP for me. I’ve actually installed older versions of WP before just to explore a little, but this time I wanted someone on the geek side to do it. I actually plan to use the software this time around, so I thought it worth $15 to have an expert set things up correctly.

Download and Install the MT Import Patch
The released version of WP 2.0 has a couple of bugs in the MT Import tool. Unfortunately, I didn’t learn about two of the bugs until after I imported my MT entries, and then I found myself starting over.

The first noteworthy bug: The MT Import tool appears to be importing your comments with each entry, but it actually doesn’t. All your posts will show up in WP, but none of them will have a single comment with them.

The second noteworthy bug: WP creates a new user for each text file you import, even if that user name already exists in WP. So, for example, after installing WP, I created the bhw user name. When importing my files, I selected bhw as the name to associate those posts with. But WP still created a new bhw user name for imported each file, so that I ended up with 9 users called bhw. Nine. With the exact same name. Oddly enough, WP assigned all the imported posts to the very first bhw user name, as I’d requested during the import. All the other bhw‘s had no posts assigned to them.

Luckily, a helpful soul, Rami Kayyali, has created a patch for the MT Import tool and made it available on the WP support forums. It fixes both of those bugs. Just replace the existing mt.php file on your server with the patch version and then import your MT files. Works like a charm.

Export Your MT Entries
Export your MT blog entries using the MT export feature. It’s simple to do and it creates a text file of each entry and all its comments and pings.

Chop Up Your MT Entries
The first time I tried to import my MT blog entries, WP ran out of memory. So I had to break my file up and try again, as the message on the Import page indicated. I have no idea how big a file WP can handle, so I created a bunch of text files with fewer than 5000 lines of text each, just to be safe. I ended up with 8 text files. My blog is pretty small compared to some: if you’ve been blogging for a long time and have a very active comments community, you might have to break your MT entries into a TON of smaller files.

Import Your MT Files
In WP 2.0, the Import feature is accessible from the main toolbar. Simply click Import, select Movable Type, and then associate the imported entries with the appropriate WP user.

That’s It!
As soon as the importing is finished, you’re all set to go. As long as you have the patch, the process is as simple as pie.

But if you don’t have the patch, as I didn’t, then the process becomes a little more complicated. I can’t see why WP 2.1 hasn’t been released yet with that patch included. At the very least, WP should put something on its download page alerting users to the bug and the patch, so that others don’t run into my problems. Surely the WP folks must want to help MT defectors like me.

So after I first imported my set of 8 text files, I was horrified to see that no comments had been imported. I searched the WP support forums, and very luckily found the patch. The patch worked, but it came with a few annoyances, none of which have anything to do with the patch but with WP:

  • In order to re-import my MT entries, I had to delete all the posts I’d just imported and start over. And I had to delete all the extra bhw user names. As a new WP user, I had no idea where to do either of those things. The Manage page doesn’t seem to let you delete posts in batches, just one at a time. I finally saw that I could delete the posts and the user names on the same User administration page. You can delete all posts associated with a user name by deleting that user from the system. But what if I’d wanted to delete a lot of posts assigned to a specific user but not all of them or the user him/herself? I still have no idea how to manage large numbers of posts in WP. Could it be that MT has the upper hand in this area?
  • In retrospect, it would be great (new feature request!) if the MT Import tool would give you the option of overwriting previously imported posts, so that you wouldn’t have to delete the posts to import a “newer” version of them. Right now, the tool is smart enough not to import the same post twice. Well, that’s very handy if you want to avoid accidentally overwriting posts you’ve already imported. But what if you DO want to overwrite them? You can’t, as far as I can tell.
  • In order to re-import the MT posts, I had to recreate the bhw user name. Unfortunately, the numbering for the user names and posts picked up where it left off the last time. So on a completely new installation of WP, I was up to user ID 11 and my first post started with #300-something. I hated that. It was just so messy. So I asked my web host to blow away my installation and database and do a fresh install. There goes another $15. But it was worth it for the fresh start.

As for WP itself, I don’t have much to say about it right now. I like that you can preview a post while writing it. In MT you have to launch a separate tab or window to see a preview, but WP displays your post at the bottom of the Write Post page.

And here’s a problem I just noticed: some funkiness with the new WYSIWYG rich text editor. I wouldn’t rule out user error, but sometimes WP is putting in a div class=post tag when I hit Enter to make a paragraph break. Then it shows my text with new paragraphs starting on a new line but with no blank line between them. But sometimes it doesn’t do that and the text displays properly. I can’t figure out a pattern for when DIV tags are being produced and when they’re not (and if they belong at every new paragraph, why they’re not giving me a blank line between paragraphs, like the p tag does). So I’ve just now turned the rich text editor feature off and removed all the extra DIV tags. Things look okay now, but it would be nice to be able to use the rich text editor.

So I’m not sure how my WP experiment will work out, but I do know that I wouldn’t even have bothered if not for the improved MT Import tool. And I wouldn’t have succeeded without the patch.

Also posted at the WP-powered, but not yet (and perhaps never to be) redesigned, Bitch Has *Word*.

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About bhw

  • Good info. Now, I think to migrate my blog to wordpress. Install wordpress is easy and no charge to download. Just if we want looks be a pro, we must have private domain.

  • I guess it would matter more what the server is, on second thinking. OSX .4 is very much unix based and i don’t know what the other means 🙂

    At some point I’m going to go begging. But first i’ll contact the peple who installed my software. I paid ’em after all, and they host the site I’m particularly thinking of.

  • Does the Mac also use a FAT-style file system? Or is it POSIX-based (UNIX)?

  • Good post. I am a blogging software retard, and I don’t think it has helped that I’m on a Mac. I know these things are supposed to be cross-platform but the stuff is always in different directories from where people tell me.

    I plan to get better but I’ll work on my old WP and old MT before advancing.

  • BHW: Thanks for the plug, although I was simply trying to spread the word on WP’s good blog software. I’ve used it for my blog since June (after Blogger decided to boycott my server) and aside from having to brush up a bit on protocols, it’s been lovely.

    Aaman: I don’t know specifically how to help you, but here is the page on WordPress’s site about their Yahoo endeavors, as well as the WP Codex which contains all the troubleshooting and guides. You should be able to find your answer there. Good luck!

  • bhw

    Thanks, Aaman.

    Unfortunately, everything I know about WordPress is contained in the post above. Maybe the WP support forums can help?

  • Great report

    I have a question that’s somewhat related. A website I manage had WordPress installed on a website hosted on yahoo webhosting. Recently, Yahoo rolled out WordPress (and MT) integration. I went in, selected a new directory to install wordpress to, and click-click the WordPress 2.0 installation was complete. When I navigate to the old directory, however, I get a message that WordPress is not installed. Is there any way I can retrieve the posts from that old WordPress installation?