When planning Invision Community 5, we knew we had a unique opportunity to hit the reset button.
It's hard to believe, but how we work with the framework has been the same since 2013. The priorities we held a decade ago no longer align with our current vision.
The landscape of modern frameworks has evolved, and we have adapted accordingly.
When we initially designed the Invision Community 4 framework all those years ago, our goal was to create an open development platform. We aimed to empower you with the ability to extend virtually every function we built, granting complete freedom to shape our UI, workflows, and functionality according to your needs.
However, over the decade, we have realised that this freedom has inadvertently become a prison. While monkey patching allowed the overloading of any method we had written, it came at a significant cost. Even the slightest change to our original method signatures could break an entire community, forcing you to update your applications.
Ironically, the more we strived to enhance our framework, the less stable your applications became.
We dismissed requests for proper workflows like extensions, webhooks, and event listeners, urging you to rely solely on method overloading, often having to copy chunks of code just to add a few lines of your own.
Invision Community 5 represents a much-needed reset. It is a moment to reassess everything we know about extending frameworks and construct definitive pathways and workflows that serve you better.
Our aim is for you to continue crafting exceptional applications that bring fresh functionality to the Invision Community while protecting the integrity of our core functionality.
Change can be intimidating, but let us embrace this opportunity to bid farewell to outdated and fragile tools and pave the way for a collaborative future with precision-designed resources instead.
In the coming weeks, we will delve deeply into the new development tools offered by Invision Community 5, but today, I wanted to give you a brief overview of what's to come for code development. We will do a near-future entry on creating themes with Invision Community 5.
Out with the old
Monkey patching via code hooks was the primary way to add functionality to Invision Community. However, it meant that we could not update our code base without risking breaking many popular applications, a situation that will only get worse as PHP starts to lock down type hinting and casting.
Furthermore, IDEs have a tough time working out relationships between classes requiring special tools to create alias files to allow full use of many advanced tools of PHPStorm and other editors. Finally, monkey patching relied on heavy use of eval() which is not a very efficient PHP method.
Monkey patching has been removed in Invision Community 5.
Your IDE with Invision Community 4.
Your IDE with Invision Community 5.
Template hooks, as you know them, have also been removed. I only mention this now as they often go hand-in-hand with code hooks to add items to menus, data-attributes to blocks and CSS classes to many areas. We will do a more thorough blog on theme editing soon, but we still retain a way to hook into key areas.
In with the new
We will write a series of developer blogs to look in more detail at the new systems, but here is a quick overview of the new tools and a brief description of what they are capable of.
We have removed much of the menu logic for content items and comments from templates and created a simple, extensible way to add links to commonly used menus, such as the item moderation menu and the per-post 'three dots' menu. You no longer need a template hook to perform such a basic task.
This framework provides you with an easy way to add CSS, data-attributes and even templated HTML into specific areas within nodes and content items/comments. A common reason to create template hooks was to tweak the CSS classes or add data-attributes for client-side scripting.
In the same way that we've stripped menus out of templates, we've removed the content item badges (pinned, hidden, etc.) and into the UIExtension making it easy to add your own badges to this area without the need for template or code hooks.
Finally, UIExtension can add form fields into Invision Community content forms.
The easiest way to describe this is like MemberSync but for content (items and comments), members, Commerce invoices and Commerce packages.
Do you need to run your code each time a forum post is made? Not a problem. Do you need to run your code when a topic is locked? Perhaps when an item is viewed? All this and more is possible via the new listeners.
The advantage is that you don't need to copy chunks of our code when overloading a single method in a hook. You write your clean code in an object-specific listener.
We have also undertaken a long overdue code clean-up. Every single file has been updated to update return types and function signature types and to use aliases instead of fully qualified names (for example, new Url() instead of new \IPS\Http\Url()).
Many methods have been removed from the Content classes and moved into traits. Likewise, many interfaces are now traits to reuse code properly, reducing the behemoth-sized classes.
Elsewhere, all the search indexing logic that was entwined in content and node classes has now been moved to the extension system, further reducing the noise and volume of key classes.
A Quick Recap
- Generic broad reaching tools such as monkey patching and template overloading have been removed.
- New precision tools with a specific use-case have been created.
- There are less opportunities to overwrite and change our UI and functionality but easier ways to extend and create new functionality.
We have worked hard on these development tools to ensure that most of what you do now can be achieved in Invision Community 5. We have had input from various stakeholders, including those who regularly create modifications for Invision Community to ensure our new tools are fit for purpose.
Through the alpha and beta testing phase, we want your feedback, and we will listen to your suggestions. We cannot promise that you can do everything with Invision Community 5 that you currently do, which is intentional, but we are confident that you can still hit all the major beats. We want to protect our UI and functionality a little more but encourage you to build amazing new functionality to work alongside Invision Community 5.
Together, we will shape the next era of Invision Community.