Customizing Movable Type’s backend

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I just looked under the hood in MT’s backend templates (mt/tmpl/cms) and I find plain old HTML 3.2 there. Maybe MT Pro will make it easier for customers and consultants to customize that part of the product. I noticed that MT’s backend pages can be slow to load sometimes, maybe a CSS-based version would feel faster to use.
Anyway, right now I want our backend to ease our editor’s work:

  • Warn users that they forgot to categorize their entry or to add a summary in the excerpt field (both are key parts of how we add value to our content).
  • Provide overlay metadata about the previous and next entries (one shouldn’t need to go back to the editing menu to know these entries title and author).
  • Show the entry’s author name with a mailto link. We’ll have more than a dozen authors at the end of the month, so I’d like to support some basic email workflow right from MT.
    But is it me or backend tweaking isn’t documented and not even much discussed?
    I also want to log search engine queries (the internal search engine, not Google et al.) apart from the other activity log messages (here’s someone tailing that long log). Search engine keyword monitoring is a marketing need which has nothing to do with tech info such as ping time outs and users logons.
    08/23/03 update: How to see searches separately from activity log
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