Migrating from one system to another

My next project involves moving some sites from a now defunct application called Article Manager by Interactive Tools to WordPress. Since this also involves a redesign of the site, there is no need to translate the templates. This will be a data transition only.

Article manager creates flat files from its data. It is not a “live” system like WordPress is. The good part about that is the low database utilization and very quick serving site as all you need is a quick web server. The down side comes from the very limited template language the system uses. There are no variables you can create, very little branch control, very little state you can check. It was quick and relatively simple but in the end too simple for our needs. Interactive Tools has moved on from that product to one they call CMS Builder.

Article Manager (Artman) contains all its data in four tables, one for the articles, one for categories, one for users and one for what it called publish rules. The publish rules are instructions to the system on how the create the flat files. Since those are not needed in WordPress, I can ignore that table. That leaves three.

The first I will convert is the user table. I choose that one because it is referenced from the other two via creator ids and such. Second, I will move the categories and third will be the articles themselves. This will be the most interesting one and will take the most manipulation. I’ll need to update the user ids and category ids. I will also have to decode the way Artman stores image references for articles. Instead of keeping the original link to the images the way WordPress does, Artman had a code system for placing images into the article.

Since I will be doing this conversion more than once, I plan to build a tool to do the job. In the end, I will be combining many sites into one WordPress multisite install.

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Been a programmer, primarily in the internet space, since late 1997. Google+ Profile

22 thoughts on “Migrating from one system to another”

  1. I am currently at the very beginning this process. Do you have any recommendations, notes, suggestions or advice for this process (if you can remember)?

  2. If you are making the exact same move as I did, from Interactive Tools’ Article Manager, then I do have some useful information. There are several tricks you can use to ease the transition.

    My first bit of advise is keep the ID fields from the source. You can insert specific IDs into the WordPress tables as long as there are no conflicts. This makes things much easier as you will not have to update references. You can do this for users and for categories. Saves lots of time and simplifies the thinking process pretty well.

    The somewhat harder part of this conversion is the images. Article Manager kept special character sequences to mark where photos went in the text. WordPress puts the image HTML directly into the text. You will have to do this conversion. The images in Article Manager are stored in an odd format. I can’t remember it directly now, but I will see what it was and document it when I find it again. I need to make an update to my import process related to the images and will be revisiting this myself very soon.

    Take it one step at a time. I did users, then categories, then a subset of articles. I wrote it as a script I could access easily and re-run. I also created parts of the script that delete the entries so I could re-import. If you do this, be careful to protect your admin user in WordPress.

    1. My main recommendation is to study the WordPress database structure and make a map of fields from the originating database to WP. WP has some interesting structure differences, so for example category mapping isn’t just a single field in a table, but records in multiple tables. Watch for those things.

  3. I am looking at converting a AM 2 site to a WordPress site. we have about 3,000 articles. I have hacked around with AM for years and understand MYSQL. Do you have more details on how your process went and any tools that might help. Thanks.

    1. I didn’t use any special tools with my conversion. It came down to studying the structure of the AM database and WordPress and developing a map. The AM database is nice and simple and it took a bit for me to understand how to map some of it to the WordPress database. Special care had to be taken with any custom fields added to the AM database.

      The biggest tip I can give is keep the IDs the same for categories and articles. Move those with your other data. It may seem obvious, but at first I went through a whole translation system instead, keeping track of old IDs and mapping them to new ones. If you do not have existing data in the new WordPress database you need to keep, skip that step and keep the old IDs. This allows you to delete a group of data (ie: just the categories or just the articles) and re-import with impunity.

      The second bit of info I can give relates to the size of your database. Some of the databases I had to move were also large and the problem I ran into were processing timeouts. The import would take longer than the allowed script processing time on the server. For those cases, I implemented limits on the import and kept track of where I was so I could import say 500 articles at a time. That number of articles depended on the actual articles being moved and if I was moving the images as well. You may only be able to process 100 at a time.

      I wrote a PHP script in a simple page I called datatool. That page had buttons that allowed me to import data or delete data from the WordPress side. It also showed me how many of each type of data was on each system (6 categories in AM, 7 categories in WP for example). It served as a check to see if the import was complete.

      I hope this helps some. If not, feel free to ask for more details and I’ll will elaborate.

    1. I have successfully moved several sites from Article Manager to WordPress using a custom tool to translate between the database structures. Is there something specific about this you’d like to know?

      1. Thanks for the reply Dan! Is the tool available for our use? I forgot to mention that we have an older version of the AM, one that used the flat file’s?? Does this make a difference?

        1. That does make a difference. In our case, we started with flat-file version of AM. The first step in our process was to upgrade them all to AM 2 and move the data to a MySql database. The let me use the tools in MySql to make the transition easier. We did this for sites we never intended to continue using on AM, as it eased the transition.

          If that is not an option for you, then you’ll have to make a tool that parses the flat files. That shouldn’t be too difficult, but it may be a challenge if you have to break your articles into batches for the conversion.

          The tool is something I wrote for my personal use and is thus quite rough around the edges. I don’t mind sharing it if you want to see it. I’ll just have to make a few small changes to get rid of personal info (like passwords) and I cannot guarantee support or anything. Let me look at where an how to post the tool.

  4. dan – can you please contact me at my email address in reference to an artman import? I didn’t see any contact information anywhere else on the site thus the reply here.

    1. I have not posted it anywhere. The process I took was mostly direct database manipulation. I made a map of the old Artman tables to the WordPress ones. If you have some specific questions, or would like me to send you my code let me know.

  5. Hi Dan – I’d very much like a copy of your datatool. I understand it is “as is” and you aren’t providing support (unless, if we need it, we can pay for your time?)

    Please contact me at my email address.

    Terri Z

  6. Help!
    We have had artman for just around 10 years. We need help because we moved it from one server to another, which took two weeks. The help at interactivetools.com is just about useless. They promise us and then delay us while our business is down.
    Programmers don’t seem to want to mess with article manager.
    Can someone here help us? lisa@kellyincorporated.com

    1. If you mean replicating the exact URLs from AM in WordPress, that wasn’t a concern of ours. In fact, we left the flat files generated from AM in place. Off the top of my head, I don’t see why the same file structure couldn’t be made. It would involve carefully constructing your permalinks in WordPress. As long as category names are the same I would think it should be possible but I have no direct experience doing it.

  7. Hi Dan, I am looking for conversion of article manager to wordpress database. It would be very helpful if you can provide the tool you built. I know it would be ‘as is’ but i can make the changes accordingly. This would be solely for reference. I had searched lot for this but found helpless.

    Thanks in advance

    1. I can provide the tool I created. There are many caveats to its use. It expects to be placed at the WordPress root. It expects that Article Manager and WordPress will be on the same host in the same home directory. There are some things that are likely to fail if those are not the case. Those things are mostly around the image translation portion of the tool.

      The tool can be found here:
      Article Manager to WordPress Tool

      1. Thanks a lot Dan.. I will make the necessary modifications accordingly..

        Thanks for your help đŸ™‚

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