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IP.Downloads 2.3 Dev Update: Consistency

The term "consistency" can encompass many facets of a software package. Consistency can refer to backend code, ensuring that one piece of the application is utilizing available classes and methods to ensure it behaves as similar as possible to every other piece of the application when executed. Consistency can refer to the user interface, ensuring that users navigating a piece of an application can easily familiarize themselves with it, whether that be comparing the interface to other established websites the user is likely to have visited, or comparing the interface to the rest of your application as a whole. Consistency is important in software development, because it helps ensure that the application will behave as expected, and that users will know exactly what to expect.

We are focusing a lot of our efforts into usability and consistency in our applications, in an effort to ensure that users can easily navigate and use our software, without having to first "learn" how to use it. IP.Downloads is no different, and I wanted to talk in this blog entry about some changes you can expect to see with IP.Downloads 2.3 which we feel will help improve consistency between IP.Downloads and the rest of your IP.Board applications.

Sphinx Support

Arguably the least exciting thing I would like to mention in this blog entry, is that beginning with IP.Downloads 2.3, Sphinx search support has been reintroduced. This means that websites utilizing Sphinx for their search engine will be able to also use Sphinx for IP.Downloads. With previous versions of IP.Downloads, MySQL is used for searching.

Similarly, if you do not use Sphinx, you may still gain from a small performance boost with MySQL searches, as proper "fulltext" search support has been added for IP.Downloads as well. For those of you who may be technically inclined, but not quite sure what this means, basically instead of running a query with a where statement like

WHERE file_name LIKE '%search term%'

we now will run a query like

WHERE MATCH(file_name) AGAINST ('+search +term', IN BOOLEAN MODE)

This is a minor backend change, but will help performance if your site has a large downloads section that is heavily searched.

Custom Field Formatting

IP.Downloads has featured custom fields support since it's initial release. This is a powerful tool that will help you collect additional meta data from your users when they submit files. Custom fields show up on the file information page when filled in, allowing you to easily customize the data collected and shown for users in IP.Downloads.

We have enhanced custom fields in IP.Downloads 2.3 to allow you to define how to format them from the ACP. Similar to the formatting options for member custom fields, you can use a {key} and {value} macro when defining the formatting options for your IP.Downloads custom fields, allowing you to display the data exactly how you intend to. One common use scenario we have run into ourselves is wanting to display a custom field that should contain a link as an actual link, instead of just the link text. This will now be possible in IP.Downloads 2.3.

Share Links & FaceBook

IP.Board 3.1 introduced the new share links strip functionality, and included a robust and easy to use FaceBook "Like" feature throughout the forums. We have implemented this into IP.Downloads 2.3, allowing your users to easily share and like the content throughout IP.Downloads just as they would throughout the forums. In doing so, we have removed the old "Email File" link that would appear on file display pages, as you can now use the Email share link option instead.

While I presently do not have FaceBook enabled on my development board, you can see the share links strip in the following screenshot. The FaceBook like hook will show up on the left side on the same line, when enabled.

(Please be aware that this is an early screenshot, and the user interface is subject to change before release)

Comments & Likes

As well as implementing the share links and FaceBook Like hook into IP.Downloads, we have gone ahead and implemented our new commenting and likes systems into IP.Downloads 2.3 as well. Matt previously discussed these new features in a Gallery blog entry (take particular note of the 'Favorites' feature, which we have renamed to 'Likes' and the new comments area), so feel free to check that out to get a better overview of how these systems work. As part of our efforts regarding consistency across our applications, these features will work identically in IP.Downloads as they do in IP.Gallery.

All content that you 'Like' throughout IP.Board is available in a new 'My Liked Content' option from your user dropdown in the top of every page. We will be further expanding this central control panel in IP.Board 3.2. When you like a file, you can choose to like anonymously (so that other users do not know you have liked it), and you can choose to receive notifications of updates. If you enable notifications, you will be notified when the file is updated and/or when someone comments on the file. This new like system replaces a couple of existing features in IP.Downloads, but in a manner that will make it more consistent with every other application: Favorites (including the UserCP "Manage Favorites" area) and Subscriptions (including the UserCP "Manage Subscriptions" area). You can now manage these from one central area of IP.Board for all applications, including IP.Downloads.

The comments area will now support AJAX replies, hovercard moderation, and more, all in an interface consistent with our other applications. Again, check out the previous blog entry with a video of Gallery for an idea of how this section works.

I would take a couple of screenshots here, however we are in the process of overhauling the user interface and as such I don't think screenshots will help you visualize the changes much at this time. When we blog about the user interface changes later on, we will be sure to point out these two specific changes to show you how the look and work.

In addition to changing these systems for our file view page to be more consistent with our other applications, we have also added the ability to "Like" a category of files, allowing you to optionally be notified when new files are submitted to a category. This is analogous to the "Watch Forum" option in the forums, allowing you to be notified if new topics are submitted. We believe this will help your members monitor areas of your site more effectively and with better control, keeping your members interested in your downloads area as new content is submitted.


We are working towards improving usability and consistency in IP.Downloads (as in all of our applications) and to that end we have implemented some new functionality that will allow your users to navigate your downloads area with ease. They can expect to be familiar with how the downloads area works based on consistency with our other applications, without having to figure this out on their own. Additionally, the inline AJAX functionality of the likes and comments systems provide for a more robust user experience, allowing them to interact with the site in useful ways, without having to jump from page to page unnecessarily. We hope you like these changes, and stay tuned for other upcoming blog entries regarding the direction of IP.Downloads 2.3!

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