SPF 4.2 Approaching
First off, Andy and I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. This is a great time of the year especially for spending time with the family. As such, we might be a little slow around here for the next couple days as we enjoy the holiday season with our families. In addition, we are nearing completion on our next endeavour, SPF version 4.2.
This version has been in development for some number of months now and is maturing nicely. In fact, we have been running an alpha version of 4.2 on the Simple:Press Forum support forum for the last 3 months. It provides us a great test bed for trying out the new features and catching some bugs we might have missed. We are very happy with the progress on 4.2 and are about ready to release it into beta, hopefully, by the end of the year.
The beta period is very important to us. As a two man show, it is very hard for us to fully test a new release given the complexity and myriad of options, components and server set ups that folks might have. We use a beta period, followed by a release candidate period, to try to catch any bugs or issues that might have slipped our testing. We won’t release our software into beta until we have confidence that it can hold up on a production site. That said, there is still some risk in running beta software because it will continue some bugs. But, we ask the SPF community’s’ help when 4.2 reaches beta to test the plugin prior to release.
With the 4.2 beta program approaching, I thought I would update everyone on what new features and bug fixes will be this version of Simple:Press Forum. Here are some of the items that have made the cut and what you can expect in v4.2.
- Sitemap Generation – Now, if you are using Arne Bracholds Google XML Sitemaps plugin, your SPF forums and topics will be automatically added to your sitemap. Each time a new topic is made, the sitemap is automatically updated. This has been a much requested feature and we are glad to have finally completed it.
- Avatars – We have made numerous updates to our avatar system. Now, SPF users can define an ‘avatar pool’ of available avatasr for users to select theirs from. In addition, a lot of uses have requested replacing the wp comment avatar with the SPF avatar. In the past, this has been accomplished via a template tag. Now, in 4.2, by simply checking an option, we will automatically replace all wp avatars with the SPF avatar. No more editing theme files with a template tag. We have also updated the avatar priority logic regarding wp avatars and gravatars to allow more options. Another new avatar feature will be the displaying of the current logged in user (or guest) in the login strip of the forum.
- Blog/Topic Linking – Blog linking, the ability to have wp blog posts auto make a new SPF topic and vice versa, has gotten a major overhaul in 4.2. A common request was for schedule posts to work with blog linking. That will now work as the needed hooks are now available in wp. You will now be able to automatically have new wp blog posts create a blog linked topic vs having to fill out the form on the wp new post page. The comment integration with SPF has also been increased and tightened. We think users will love the new features!
- 3rd Party Login – Another one of our most requested features that we have yet to implement is 3rd Party logons. Many users have requested the ability for their users to login to SPF (and hence wp) using one of their other 3rd party application logons such as Twitter, Facebook, Google, OpenID, Yahoo, etc. With 4.2, this will now be possible. It will require the use of an application web service RPX (https://rpxnow.com/), but its a free service and provides numerous options. Watch for this new component to debut here on our support forum in the next couple of days, prior to the beta.
- Private RSS Feeds – The ability to have private RSS feeds will make its debut in 4.2. Now, if you have a private forum, you can also enable the RSS feed for the forum and it will only be visible to users that have permission to access that forum. The private RSS feeds will make use of feed keys and should be supported by most RSS feed readers. However, since there is not industry standard for private RSS feeds, it will not work if you use an external RSS feed generator for your site (ie FeedBurner).
- Policy and Privacy Documents – SPF has always had an ability to show a policy document at registration and have users be required to accept it before they registered. But it was only every available on the registration page. Now, you can have a policy/privacy documents be an integral part of your forum and be generally accessible as well as some additional options.
- Private Messaging – The private messaging system has also gotten a major overhaul. We have completely overhauled the addressing system for PMs including a new slew of options including limiting number of users, single user PM, CC and BCC fields. We have also added an option to have automatic deletion of PMs older than a certain number of days to help with DB storage. Also, there is a new option that will allow users to elect to receive an email or not when a PM is received.
- Users Online – SPF has always shown the current users and guests online, but only on the main forum page. Now, that has been extended to all forum pages. When viewing a forum or a topic, you can now display other members/guests viewing that forum or topic.
- User Timezone – Previously, SPF had a single timezone setting for the forum, but that meant that users were not seeing the forum time as their own. In 4.2, each user can now adjust the forum time based on their actual timezone in their profile. In addition, users, if enabled by admins, will now be able to hide their online status.
- Image Enlarger – The image enlarger component has been updated to allow for admins to set a default alignment. You can now set the alignment of the thumbnail to have it displayed where you want it.
- Image, Media and File Uploads – SPF 4.2 will include a significantly rewritten uploader (renamed File Manager) to make it our own and to provide increased security.
- Post Assignment – Another much requested feature will make its debut in 4.2. Admins (or other users with the proper permission) will now be able to reassign a post from one user to another user.
- Sneak Peek – The sneak peek feature has been updated in 4.2. Previously, admins had an option to display forum and topic titles to guests but not the actual post content. This component has been extended to now offer an option to just show the forum, but not topic titles or post content. Another variation will be a new permission for admin posts. You can now specify which users can view posts by the admins. These feature would be useful for a paid support forum where users could view all posts but the admin posts unless they belong to the paid membership user group.
- Block Admin – This has been one of the most used features of SPF. It allows admins to prohibit access to the wp admin backend for users. With 4.2, you will have another option for the block admin redirection to take users to their SF profile page.
In addition, we have taken an entire look at the security of SPF to make sure we are providing as hardened application as possible. Numerous changes have been made to try to ensure the security of your sites. We have also made some slight reorganization of the admin pages completing the significant admin restructure begun with SPF 4.1. We also provide some new options for admins to control the behavior of their forums. And of course, we have a number of bug fixes for issues that have been discovered in the current version. Despite it’s growing complexity, SPF 4.2 ‘AJAX’ routines should also load a little faster as we have reduced the code footprint.
As always, you can check out the other features and our current status on V4.2 by viewing our bug tracker 4.2 page.
We look forward to getting this new version to our users in beta form by the end of the year and then final gold release around the end of January!
One last item… The SPF team is primarily two folks, Andy and Steve with some WPMU support from Radio (thanks!). If there are any community members out there that would like to join the SPF team, we would be interested in talking with you. We could use some more wp/php developers as well as some folks to help improve the documentation. This project continues to grow in size and popularity. The feature requests keep coming in (and we love em!). But, with just the two of us, we can’t get to everything. Andy and I still have a lot with SPF that we want to accomplish. We will continue to press on, but would appreciate any help that others might be able to offer. Thanks for listening!
Andy (Yellow Swordfish) and Steve (Mr Papa)