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Moving forward with Composr

ocPortal has been relaunched as Composr CMS, which is now in beta. ocPortal 9 will be superseded by Composr 10.

Head over to compo.sr for our new site, and to our migration roadmap. Existing ocPortal member accounts have been mirrored.


Sneak peek - ocPortal version 9

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#86695 (In Topic #17715)
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Today we're releasing alpha 1 of ocPortal version 9 for very early testing (available under the 'Bleeding edge' section of the download page).

We've done a major refresh of the default theme, prompted by some recent feature sponsorship.

The sponsored features required breaking theme compatibility. As we try not to break theme compatibility between releases (to avoid inconveniencing users), this meant really we needed to go full out and implement a complete refresh of the theme, so that we don't need to do it again in the near future. To this end, there have been enormous themeing changes: 1000s of changes, the biggest of which will be summarised in this announcement.

We have used the opportunity to improve design standards, increase consistency, leverage new technologies, and make themeing easier.

Theme improvements

In the ideal world we'd have created a presentation showing off just how cool this stuff is. It really is, but there's no time for that at the moment, so here's it all in list form…

Standards and semantics:
  • Enabled HTML5 as standard (it has settled down now) and broadened our implementation (for example, attachments are 'figures' and boxes are 'sections').
  • The output has been simplified in a few ways, for example we have dropped some unnecessary old XHTML baggage, and by default Dublin Core is not output (because Facebook Open Graph has become the dominant standard, and we don't want to bloat HTML output with too much repetition of unused stuff). All the old meta data possibilities are still there, merely commented out by default.
  • Improved our code validation technology to better support HTML5 and CSS3.
  • Toned-down our references to XHTML to favour references to HTML, although this is what we continue to support (XHTML5) so that our code is as tidy as possible.
  • The HTML semantics have been greatly improved. Pieces of grammatical presentation used for layout have been removed, such as line breaks, brackets, hard-spaces, 'raquo' and 'middot'. Now these styles are placed via CSS, allowing greater control. For example, you could now change the way 'associated links' are displayed to not use brackets, but perhaps a little box, just via changing a small amount of CSS. To achieve this, significant use of HTML lists have been used, which provides the 'hook' that CSS can modify.
  • The OCF topic-view no longer uses a table. Instead, table-style rendering is injected via CSS.

Code/layout structure:
  • Standard boxes have been relegated to being a Comcode feature. Now box styles are placed into simply and templates directly, using normal HTML and CSS. This is now possible due to the CSS2 features IE6 never supported, and CSS3 curved border support allowing us to make nice styles without needing to inject a div-soup. Of course, we still have kept things consistent – but now the consistency is in our set of re-used CSS styles, rather than at the Tempcode layer.
  • HEADER.tpl, FOOTER.tpl, and GLOBAL.tpl have been removed and replaced with a simpler GLOBAL_HTML_WRAP.tpl template. In addition, many referenced variables that used to be parameters to these templates, are now Tempcode symbols, meaning you have more flexibility to move stuff around however you want it.
  • Templating and CSS applied to overlays, popups, and iframes, has been simplified, so the themer can better understand where particular styles will be applied.
  • All HTML wrapper templates (global, overlays, popups, iframes) now share the same HTML header, meaning you only need to add things like jQuery or Google fonts once and they'll also work in frames.
  • The panel width setting has been removed, and now this is handled via regular CSS. This allows greater flexibility and simplicity.
  • The member and stats bars in OCF are now blocks. These blocks are put in via panel_top and panel_bottom and by default now exist on multiple 'social' pages in the system. The horizontal menu across the top of the forum is now editable by default, and links to all these 'social' (aka community) pages. The forum zone menu link is now titled 'Social'. In essence we have broken down walls between OCF and other parts of the system, and simplified navigation around these areas.
  • Our default left-panel menus are now simpler, as we have taken social pages out of them due to the above change. We have also moved 'Rules' to the footer.
  • Tidied up the concept of content boxes (i.e. how a box previewing some content should look).
  • There is a new catalogue display mode, grids of boxes.
  • Internal Javascript naming standards have been introduced.

Themeing usability:
  • Much more code commenting in key theme files (now that we automatically minimise CSS, and have Tempcode comments, we can do this without worry of increasing output size).
  • Many templates have been renamed, and many parameters renamed, for greater simplicity and consistency, both within ocPortal, and in relation to better use of industry-standard terminology. Some examples:
    • the catalogue templates have been renamed to clarify which are used for what.
    • 'results browser' is now 'pagination'.
    • 'tree' is now 'breadcrumbs'.
    • 'link' is now 'URL' (to indicate the difference between an actual URL, and an <a> tag).
  • Added example usages of jQuery and Google Fonts, to make sure people understand we are embracing these things even if ocPortal isn't requiring them by default.

CSS:
  • The CSS has been completely overhauled - almost all of it has been touched in some way.
  • The CSS class names, and file structure are now far more logical and therefore far easier to understand.
  • Some styles that did the same thing have been merged.
  • Some stuff is taken out of global.css and adminzone.css and side_blocks.css and removed into separate addon-specific CSS files.
  • The forms CSS is taken out of global.css and put into forms.css.
  • Theme Wizard colours are now defined in a table at the top of global.css, making it easier to manage your complete site colour scheme from one place.
  • The number of colours has been reduced, as similar ones have been merged.
  • The colours have been given more logical names and clear definitions, so you can understand exactly how they work.
  • The Theme Wizard can now be talked-to via OcCLE, which is incredibly useful if you want to extend the accurate result of Theme Wizard equations into your own theme changes.
  • We have embraced the concept of 'margin collapsing' in a big way. Rather than trying to explicitly define the spacing between each box, through hard-line breaks or explicit top/bottom margins, we now surround all boxy-elements with a margin and let CSS margin collapsing automatically set them apart at sensible distances. This is a very major change to how we go about things, and a big improvement.
  • Almost everything is now spaced using 'em' units rather than pixels. This means that spacing is more accurate, automatic, and consistent. For example, most boxes are spaced with a '1em' margin – if the font size for the surrounding element was reduced, the margin would reduce in proportion.
  • We have a very handy new Tempcode symbol called 'BETA_CSS_PROPERTY', that can automatically add vendor prefixes to CSS properties. This is used extensively. Through maintenance of the symbol we can fix late-changes to specifications and ensure things keep working right. For example, IE10 was announced just last night to implement an updated version of the CSS gradients standard, and all other browsers only support the standard of the previous draft – through this symbol we can now support both the draft and the standard, smoothing things out through the transition period, but with no need to give it any consideration to it at all in the CSS files. It also allows the themer to clearly see what CSS is standard, and what is making use of upcoming functionality, or functionality that ocPortal is kludging to work on IE8 (e.g. opacity).

Design:
  • Up to now the Theme Wizard has worked mostly by blending saturations of the seed colour. We have now injected some use of colour theory into it, and as a result mathematically correct complement colours are used in a few places.
  • CSS3 has been used to add flourish to many existing styles. A lot of use of gradients, curved borders, and transitions, has been added.
  • The default start and panel pages feature a new 'deboxification' method that may be deployed anywhere at the webmasters discretion. By wrapping a CSS class around some elements you can trigger them to be rendered without boxes (i.e. no borders, gradients, boxed-title). Instead, they are rendered in more of a newspaper format that is less cluttered and draws the eye towards the content.
  • The welcome zone is back on by default, and the default welcome zone features a modern marketing callout and animated content scroller. It's not quite the old splash page that rightly went out of fashion, but it's more of a decluttered and powerful marketing landing page.
  • The forum styling used on ocPortal.com is now standard in ocPortal.
  • We have been through all the screen previews defined for ocPortal (i.e. every template, every style) and made sure each really looks amazing (and of course, this allowed us to easily ensure all our sweeping changes hadn't broken stuff).
  • CEDI is now named Wiki+.
  • Improved gallery display a lot, so that if thumbnails have inconsistent styles it doesn't break the grid layout.
  • Improved all content view screens to have a more attractive, tidy, and consistent way of displaying meta-data (such as who submitted the content, and the submission date).
  • All kinds of new design styles have been added. We'll let you discover them yourself, but it's really cool how nicer some things look, and how consistent these new styles are.

Very little across over a thousand templates and many CSS files is untouched by these changes. Changes are broad and deep, detailed, and consistent. It really brings quality up a few levels.

Compatibility

Some compatibility has been dropped:
  • Theme compatibility is broken, so all themes will need to be rebuilt. We recognise this is a biggie, which is why we've tried to hard to make this a one-off and to really make it worth it.
  • The old syntaxes for the Comcode 'page' tag have been removed.
  • The Comcode 'box' tag no longer accepts a height; the dimensions parameter is replaced with a width parameter which accepts CSS units.
  • The old 'internal_table' Comcode tag is dropped (history lesson: ocPortal was originally developed before good CSS layouts were possible, so standard boxes used to be tables, which are sized outwards while CSS is sized inwards – we are finally removing the last subtle references to this in our underlying architecture design).
  • The 'side_stored_menu' block now accepts a 'title' parameter instead of a 'caption' parameter (for consistency with other block parameter names).
  • The side_zone_jump block has been removed.
  • To be more touch-friendly, the default menu type is now 'embossed' rather than 'tree'.
  • Otherwise, compatibility with v8 is pretty good – we have not done major database changes or changed the internal structuring greatly.

Compatibility with Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 (IE6) and Microsoft Internet Explorer 7 (IE7) has been entirely and irreversibly dropped. This is a change that has allowed us to make substantial improvements without taking months working-around IE bugs or implementing stuff using old time consuming, inflexible, techniques. IE8 and IE9 (and soon, IE10) are essentially a clean start for IE, far more stable and supporting newer standards, and we are leveraging it for all it's worth. We have essentially just done a rendering technology leap of 12 years. Most of the theme changes we have made are due to new engineering decisions that improved technology has allowed us to make.

Some of our visual techniques will not work on all browsers, however these techniques are optional. For example, we make use of CSS curved borders (IE9+), CSS transitions (IE10+), CSS transformations (IE10+), and CSS gradients (IE10+).

Use of modern CSS techniques have allowed us to achieve better display, with less code. Less-prescriptive HTML that relies on modern CSS capability allows themers the flexibility to make sweeping changes without having to modify many templates.

Other features

This release is definitely not just theme improvements. It also has:
  • Better catalogue CSV import (e.g. control of how duplicate records are handled).
  • New anti-spam system:
    • Blocklists: DNS:BL, RBLs, stopforumspam – advanced configuration to say exactly what checks and thresholds take place.
    • Black holes defined on forms to detect spam-bots.
    • Support for linking in Project Honeypot honeypots, in a way likely to prevent spammers auto-detecting the honeypot.
    • Internal support for temporary IP bans.
    • An OcCLE command for checking against blocklists.
  • New content filtering system:
    • A highly flexible filtering systems, supporting many different modes of operation and great richness in filter definition.
    • New mini-language for defining filters: ocSelect.
    • Filter block, for easily building up content filtering forms for most major content types in ocPortal.
    • Merged category browsing option (per-content-type), where browsing subcategories works as a filter metaphor rather than as an exploration metaphor).
  • Complex calendar recurrence support (e.g. every third Tuesday of the month).
  • A hint about if either Safe Mode or Fatalistic Mode are active is provided, for usability reasons.
  • Member directory search by email address (admins-only).
  • Integrated OCF signup into the purchase wizard (so you can, for example, purchase a subscription account without having to join separately first).
  • Lots of code cleanups (mostly really pedantic stuff, like tab spacing, or fixing spelling mistakes in the API).

Testing

We are releasing this now because we want a time window where people can give theme feedback. So if you have any feedback on how the theme might be improved further, or maybe even if you want to supply patches to add new styles, now is the time – otherwise a window might not come up again for perhaps 5 years (for some kinds of changes anyway).

We encourage testers to post screenshots, as we don't have the time to give all this work the presentation it deserves at the moment.

This release does pass our test set, and include the fixes to v8.1 released so far – so it should at least not be completely broken ;).

Release schedule

This is an early sneak-peak at improvements recently made in the github 'alpha' repository (which is the primary source of development – during alpha development fixes will be commited there, rather than through patch releases).

This release should in no way be considered an admission of any kind of release cycle as no commitments are currently being made to this (we're all extremely busy, and have ongoing commitments we have to meet before we can open up any new ones – and doing all these changes has led to expanding personal/business TODO lists).

We don't know if there will be additional features in version 9 compared to what we have here: it might be none, it might be hundreds, we really don't know yet. We just know if this is the full v9 it would still be an awesome release more than worthy of that name.

We are not supporting upgrade paths from this release, so it's not a good idea to use it on a live site – future updates could break your site.

We are also not supporting bug fixes with any kind of timescale. We absolutely want all bugs reported, but expect we could take 6 months to respond to them.

So, please take this release as a demonstration of what is coming, and our commitment to the product, to the users, and to the feature sponsorers – but not an indication of any kind of implied release schedule.

Credit

This release includes work kindly sponsored by (in alphabetical-order):

Apologies if we missed off anyone – please let me know if we did. We have only included people who have made sponsorships public.

Also apologies we've been slow to get back to people recently, whilst this has all been in extremely rapid development.


Become a fan of ocPortal on Facebook or add me as a friend. Add me on on Twitter.
Was I helpful?
  • If not, please let us know how we can do better (please try and propose any bigger ideas in such a way that they are fundable and scalable).
  • If so, please let others know about ocPortal whenever you see the opportunity.
  • If my reply is too Vulcan or expressed too much in business-strategy terms, and not particularly personal, I apologise. As a company & project maintainer, time is very limited to me, so usually when I write a reply I try and make it generic advice to all readers. I'm also naturally a joined-up thinker, so I always express my thoughts in combined business and technical terms. I recognise not everyone likes that, don't let my Vulcan-thinking stop you enjoying ocPortal on fun personal projects.
  • If my response can inspire a community tutorial, that's a great way of giving back to the project as a user.
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Posted
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Community saint

Chris-

Congratulations on this great milestone. I was hoping that this was the news to be announced today based on the recent renaming of the 'unstable' fork to 'alpha'.

While I do hope that a few more things get added prior to release (e.g, if we get the multi-categorization feature sponsored), this is already quite a substantial release that opens new opportunities for ocPortal and lays a foundation for growth for both the developers and themers alike.

I hope many people will test this alpha even knowing there will be the obvious issues and frustrations. As Chris said, this is likely a once in a five year opportunity to upgrade the theming capabilities of ocPortal.

Thanks so much for your efforts; they are truly appreciated.

Bob
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Community saint

I will setup a test version on my server. And congratulations to this new child of ocPortal.

Harry


http://digiflash.nl Photo community  (dutch)
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Posted
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#86699
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Community saint

Thanks, Harry, for always being one of the first into the mix. Your efforts save many other users frustration as you do a great job of identifying issues.

Bob
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#86700
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Community saint

Still re-reading.

Done the 'Duke of York' bit by going all the way to the top of the hill, and then back down again. Now repeating it all, but a bit more slowly!

Last para: 'Credits'.

Missed baycroft

 :thumbs:

Take my advice. I'm not using it!

View my working ocPortal site (version 9.x.x) at Anglo-Indian Portal
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Well-settled

Except for all the tecnical jargan I didnt completely understand i think I like it. I did see the word "Theme" like 20 times, and the word "easier" 3 times. So hey I am all about easy theming.  :thumbs:

Don't be skeerd its me learning ocPortal.
Take a look you never know what its going to be like.
Here is the box of chocolate link. 

Expand: What the site is to be for. What the site is to be for.

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Community saint

Congratulations to Chris and his ocProducts team for a monumental achievement!

I'm looking forward to test and discover all that cool themeing stuff and then share my findings here.

Cheers!

:thumbs:

Jean
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Posted
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#86812
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Well-settled

I love the idea (Thanks Harry-S) that a test server has been setup to preview the changes for the alphas, rather than each of us loading the new releases on a test (or even live!) site.

This might be the way to get the best input from us who are reluctant to be on the 'bleeding edge' and experiment with things, trying to break them  :P
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Posted
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#86848
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Community saint

I just reread the release notes and came away even more impressed than the initial reading. This is like a whole new start to ocPortal. The design and theming options are greatly improved. This, in itself, would be a worthy upgrade. But the inclusion of new features for filtering and displaying data are also major new features, as well as substantial calendar improvements.

Chris has shown what highly-structured and determined development can do for an open-source project instead of the usual hodge-podge we see in other offerings.

While I am still hoping to see a few more things (did I hear someone say "multi-categorization :), 0000063: Multi-categorisation - ocPortal feature tracker), this already looks to be a landmark release.

It's a great time to be an ocPortal user.

Bob
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Community saint

It's a great time to be an ocPortal user.

Yup.

It also occurs to me that, despite being a generally welcoming and helpful Forum, we long-term users who have been with the software through several version upgrades, still need to 'sell' it to people that trip across ocPortal in their search for a CMS - whatever the hell that means to each individual!

I think more emphasis on ocPortal's ability to be set up as a simple Wordpress-type blogging device with interactive bells and whistles - to its ability to knock the socks off Drupal and Joomla, ought to be mentioned from the get-go. That way the acolyte can feel that he/she isn't taking on a 'monster', only to ultimately leave, dejected.

I know most of us do a fine job of 'selling' our favourite CMS, but sometimes the 'selling' itself is confusing.

In future I shall attempt to welcome first-time users with a simple, "Welcome aboard. You've discovered the best CMS there is. What do YOU want it to do for you?"

And I think that is probably the hardest question a wannabe user has to answer. But with a little help from us regulars I'm sure they will focus on what it is they wanted to do in the first place.

Is that too patronising ←(Brit spelling!)?

 :S

Take my advice. I'm not using it!

View my working ocPortal site (version 9.x.x) at Anglo-Indian Portal
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Posted
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Community saint

Not patronizing at all and I think it sounds like a splendid approach.

This will be an even easier sell with the changes made in v9. The ease with which design changes can be made directly with standard HTML and CSS will be important for many who felt ocPortal's template structure was too rigid.

I can't find it now, but there is an entry in the tracker where Chris talked about making most everything not central to actually making ocPortal run an addon so that new users would be able to attain anything from a WP-simple type site to the complex sites we are already familiar with. I know I was a little cool to the idea of so many addons, but this would probably allow ocPortal to be a viable option to many who now pss it by due to its complexity. With good version control tools, the addons simply become simple and straight-forward tools to take your site to a new level.

Bob
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Posted
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#86862
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Community saint

Agree. I doing the same in my region as webhoster, to new clients. :)


http://digiflash.nl Photo community  (dutch)
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Posted
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#86890
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Community saint

Congratulations, excellent improvements coming
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Non-joined user

It would be great if you use bootstrap tools to build a new theme as its light and create a very polished look
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