The next major release for IPS Community Suite 4 is now in the final stages of development. We have added dozens of new features, enhancements to existing features, fixed the majority of 4.0 bugs (bug tracker will be updated soon), and made large performance gains. You can see the full list of items changed in our Release Notes section. Here we will review some of the larger changes and why we did them.
New Menu Structure
Our new menu structure is designed to highlight the two ways people go about interacting with a community: general browsing of specific discovery.
The Browse tab looks just like the current, default menu does in IPS Community Suite with your list of apps. The new Activity menu is designed for discovery features like our new Activity Streams and the search functions.
This is just the default menu and gives new communities an idea of the different concepts. When upgrading from 4.0 to 4.1 your existing menu items will be placed in this format with any menu items created under the Pages app moved to a location in the new menu. You will want to adjust things to best fit your community.
The Pages menu manger has been removed and replaced with a Suite-wide menu manger that is much more powerful. As shown above, you can now have both a top and second level menu bar. If you choose not to have a second bar it will hide itself automatically and will then look much more like the older menu style.
In addition to simply placing menu items, drop down menus, and special links: all menu items have permission controls so you can easily show or hide menu items based on a member's permission settings.
The new Activity Streams are a discovery feature that takes the concept of the old View New Content, Activity, Followed Items, etc. and merges them into a unified system to allow for both admin and member-defined streams of content based on their preferences. The system is very powerful and allows for countless different ways for your members to discover content or for you to more easily expose content you want to highlight.
Streams that admins create are always visible to all members. Members can simply view those admin streams, create their own, or copy an admin stream as a base. Guests also have access to view all admin streams excluding those that reference unread or followed content as Guests do not have access to those features. Always available to all members is the All activity stream that shows a list of activity in order by date. The admin can define what shows in the All activity stream.
Members can share the link to the streams they create to other members. There is no need for privacy here as all they are sharing are their various filter settings - the actual stream data returned changes based on what member is actually viewing the stream.
Use cases for Activity Streams are endless. Some examples might be:
- The current View New Content type of result.
- A Stream of all content from members you follow.
- Show a list of unread items from a specific list of members (perhaps members of staff).
- Maybe you are a prolific Gallery contributor and you want to see a feed of all unread comments on images that you posted.
- Rather than following every item you reply to, you can choose to create a feed of all content you have ever participated in.
- Get really fine-tuned and create a Stream showing unread comments in Blog only from members you follow.
The Activity Streams feature is very flexibly and you can get really imaginative with its uses. It is a really big addition to IPS Community Suite 4 and we think you will enjoy it. We already do!
We have updated our WYSIWYG editor in 4.1 to the latest version of CKEditor and we have also switched from iframe to div mode in the editor. That is basically technical speak to say that the new editor will be much, much faster and specifically behave much better on mobile devices.
Many of the custom systems we wrote for 4.0 have been replaced with native editor functionality in 4.1 to allow for both speed and greater reliability. This does mean some things work a bit differently but you will quickly see the very small learning changes are worth the editor being so responsive.
You can now move quote boxes with your mouse to embed them or move them above/below existing text. Another great feature is the new cmd/ctrl right-click menu that allow for contextual options. For example, cmd/ctrl right-click on an embedded image attachment yields:
When pasting in rich text from an external source the editor will now prompt you asking if you want to keep that formatting:
And admins can define paste and enter/return behavior in the new editor settings page:
A small, but useful improvements is allowing @member mentions to be selectable by keyboard. Just do @member and use the arrows and tab key on your keyboard to select the member. The editor also now recognizes its area size not only based on your browser window (to distinguish mobile, tablet, or desktop) but also where it is embedded. An example of this is the new status update widget:
A really useful feature is the ability to select and text in any post and get an option to quote just that text.
The new editor is a total rework and we hope you enjoy the new speed, stability, and options. Using the editor is the core function of any community so getting it right is very important.
Our Pages CMS app not only lets you create basic web pages within your Suite with either drag-and-drop ease of use or, for power users, direct HTML/PHP access but it also allows for Databases and Blocks to greatly enhance what you can do. We have made several enhancements to Pages to make it easier to use and more options.
On install, Pages now includes some default content to point out key features to new users to get them started quickly. When creating an actual page, the editor box is larger, there are more tag sections in the sidebar to access advanced features, and you can now configure a custom error page.
There are tons of new Blocks in Pages now and create quite an impressive list:
Many Blocks have been enhanced. For example: comment/item feed blocks can now have a dat limit, customizable titles, Calendar widget can be restricted to one calendar, and so on. External Block embedding is now available. You can now embed any Block anywhere on the web - not just inside your IPS-powered site.
Within the Database system we have an enhanced article-view template, you can now export and share templates with others, and database fields can now either show as "labels" as they do now or as simple text either above or below the body of the entry. We have also added a simple relational database field to cross reference other databases when viewing an entry.
There are two changes to Gallery that may seem small at a glance but actually make using Gallery much easier and more flexible. There is now a new upload process which makes adding images or videos much easier to understand. You can more easily see the category, album, or album creation options on the screen.
Once you actually upload your image you can more easily add descriptions and other data to your images either individually or all at once.
This direct change to how your members add images should result in a much more pleasant experience when adding images to Gallery.
We also now support reviews on Gallery images in addition to comments.
New Upgrade Process
Since IPS Community Suite 4.0, you have been able to download "delta updates" (a zip containing just the files you need to upgrade from the version you are running to the latest version) from the Admin CP when a new version is released.
On IPS Community Suite 4.1, you no longer need to download the zip and upload the files manually. The system will automatically guide you through a wizard which will apply the update automatically and take you straight to the upgrader.
The system will also send you an email as soon as an update is available (you can configure any number of email addresses to receive the notification), and display a dismissible banner to administrators who have permission to run the upgrader so you also no longer need to check the Admin CP or the IPS website for updates. When an update is available, just click "Upgrade Now" in the email or on your community and follow the steps.
Special prominence is given in both the email and the banner if the update contains fixes for any security-related issues. Also, the banner cannot be dismissed if an update contains a security fix.
Updated Search Interface
We have given our search interface a revamp to more effectively use space and be easier to use (especially on mobile):
As well as simplifying the way filters appear, we have separated member searching from content searching. This made sense given that the filters available for finding members are entirely different to those you see when finding content, so this visual separation should make that more apparent to users. This new approach to filters also becomes the new Advanced Search view, with results loading dynamically below when submitted.
Another change we have made is to adjust the text snippet to show you the context of the result hit. For example, if you search ‘lorem', the results will now show you the text surrounding the first match. This small improvement can greatly improve the perceived quality of results:
Finally, another small change has been made to the contextual search box shown in the header on every page. We now default the context to the app you’re currently using, unless you’re on the homepage in which case it’ll search all content. In our testing, we have found this aligns much better with user expectations.
We have introduced two new notification features: instant notifications and HTML5 browser notifications. Both work together to provide a great boost to engagement in IPS 4.1.
HTML5 Browser Notifications
We have built in support for browser notifications where they are supported (right now, this includes desktop versions of Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Opera, but not IE, and mobile browser support is patchy). This allows IPS 4.1 to let you know when important things have happened even if you aren’t active in that window at the time.
We have enabled browser notifications in three areas. When you upload files using any attachment area, you will be notified when your files have finished uploading; when there are new replies to a topic you have currently viewing; and for instant notifications (more about that below).
Instant notifications has been a long-requested feature, and we are pleased to say they are included in IPS 4.1. We have worked hard to build an approach that is as light on resources as possible.
If you are active in the window, instant notifications will show as a standard flash message at the bottom of your screen; if you are not active, and your browser supports them, you will get a desktop notification instead, and a chime will sound to alert you. Clicking the notification box will take you to the new item (or open the notification menu if alert is telling you about multiple items).
Ability to limit the number of emails received
In IPS 4.1, you can optionally choose to receive just one email notification per content item until you revisit the community, rather than a separate email for each new reply. This is an option that was previously available in IPB 3.x that we have reintroduced based on feedback.
Our well-loved emoticons have had a facelift (pun intended) and now look great on high-resolution retina screens and dark backgrounds:
The emoticon manager in the ACP intelligently handles retina versions of your own emoticons for you - simply upload emoticons with “@2x” appended to the filename, and IPS 4.1 will know it’s a high-res version of an existing emoticon and seamlessly serve it for you.
Not Included in 4.1
- Areas such as View New Content, My Content, My Followed Content, Status page, and such are replaced by the new Activity Streams. You can easily create the same functionality with admin-created Activity Streams and we ship with several default examples that will serve most communities well.
- Sphinx is no longer supported as an alternative search engine. We are evaluating alternative search technology for a future release.
- Obviously we included a lot in version 4.1 so many things were not included. If your specific feature request or feedback was not included it may still come in a future release.
We invite everyone to check our our public preview and give it a try! Please report bugs in our bug tracker and keep all discussion about 4.1 on the preview site so we can easily review it and make changes.
Depending on testing, we do anticipate a release in early October.
We hope you enjoy all these changes in 4.1 and that they help your community grow!