Textpattern CMS comprises a set of files on your web server and a MySQL database in which information is stored. At the time of writing, its requirements are pretty modest:
- PHP 5.2.3 or newer (PHP 5.3 or newer is recommended)
- MySQL 4.1 or newer (MySQL 5 is recommended
The following PHP myqsl extensions are required:
…while the following PHP extensions are recommended:
Whether you’re running Textpattern on Linux or Windows, Apache HTTP Server or Microsoft IIS, if your hosting ticks the boxes above you’re good to go. We’ll get into the installation process during October, but for now I want to explain how the components interact with one another to produce what appears in the browser.
Consider the following rudimentary diagram:
Textpattern runs atop an HTTP server, whether that’s on the Internet, a local area network or your own computer for testing and development. The server serves up Textpattern as files and a database. The files comprise the Textpattern core code, plus any images and files you choose to manage from inside the Textpattern administration interface.
There is a configuration file to configure Textpattern to talk to its database, essentially the glue connecting the two things together. The database holds the content, presentational elements like pages and forms, CSS and some organisational things to allow you to arrange your content.
As an author, and let’s assume you have full rights over Textpattern, you have control over all of the above using the administration interface. A visitor to your site has a generally one-way relationship with Textpattern, unless you count leaving comments and entries in the visitor log tab in the administration area, hence my putting ‘Content’ as the last thing on the list. Comments are turned off by default and visitor logs are turned on; both are easily configured should you wish to switch.
Now, I have a confession to make. I don’t strictly follow the conventions above: I cheat a bit for my own sites. This diagram is how Textpattern works when it does what it’s designed to do. You don’t have to store CSS in the database, for example. You can, of course, serve images and non-Textpattern files from outside of Textpattern; this is particularly useful if you want to run external libraries like jQuery. The beauty of Textpattern is that for CSS, images, files and the like, it is feasible and very easy to serve from within Textpattern but it’s not mandatory. It’s your choice, and the flexibility is one of the things that attracted me to Textpattern in the first place.
As you’re learning Textpattern, I strongly recommend you get to know how it works at a fundamental level (per the diagram) before you get more adventurous and tweak things to the nth degree. By all means take my preferred approach of learning by doing, but understanding the building blocks as you go will really help you out in the long run.
Now you’ve learned some of the introductory things about Textpattern, the next task is to install it. I’ll walk you through the whole thing, I’ll be around to answer your questions and I hope you’ll join me.