Spidean News

Outlook on the PN .8 Template Engine and AutoTheme  
Posted by: Shawn on Sunday, July 13, 2003 - 08:58 PM
Just thought I would take some time to give my outlook on the upcoming Template Engine that will supposedly be included with the .8 release of PostNuke (due???) and the future of AutoTheme...
AutoTheme is here and now, (for PostNuke and PHP-Nuke) and has been since late last year as a no cost GPL product and early this year as a commercial offering. If you use it now, I guarantee that it will function perfectly with the new PostNuke .8, unless they do something radical, like discontinue support for all pre .8 themes! AutoTheme is built for the user. It makes theme design as easy as designing a web page in whatever editor you choose. It is also highly customizable, flexible and powerful, allowing custom design of individual pages and individual blocks, as well as precise block placement using positions (Nuclei or AutoBlocks) or placement by using individual block names.

In the commercial version, you get GUI administration integrated into PostNuke and PHP-Nuke, a command editor to add custom commands to use in your themes, the ability to specify languages that make the theme display Right-To-Left automatically and search engine friendly URLs.

The one thing that AutoTheme does not provide at this time is an API for module developers to make use of the theme system. As I said, AutoTheme is for the user. Just as all core and third party modules look and function differently, they will continue to for quite a while. I don’t see that the core devs or third party module developers will expediently convert most modules to use any API. Just look at the core modules, how many are pnAPI compliant?

Enter the .8 Xanthia Template Engine. I have been waiting for this for a very long time! This was going to help me design my PostNuke sites quickly and easily with much flexibility. So I waited and waited… The first attempt (Phoenix Template Rendering Engine) was “lost” and now the second is tantalizing but is hard to pin down. Don’t get me wrong, I have all of the faith in the PM and the devs and I still look forward to using the new system that is based on Xanthia a descendant of the old Encompass engine. However, I think that you will find that this will not be up to the AutoTheme standard from the user perspective. What I believe that you will find is a powerful engine and API for module developers to make use of and help module display consistency across the site, combined with a user interface that will be a big improvement over the old theme process.

The future of AutoTheme: I have every intention of continuing AutoTheme development. It’s great fun and has helped many new and seasoned users alike. So if you want to quickly and easily build highly customized themes now, check it out! As for PHP-Nuke development, I'm getting frustrated. F.B. hasn't posted my news in many months (free or commercial), not sure why. Given the state of his CMS, AutoTheme is the only thing that will keep it afloat. I'm not sure, but I don't believe there is a theme system or modification to the current theme methodology even in the plans for PHP-Nuke. If you want to see AutoTheme continue for PHP-Nuke, let F.B. know! But, since this article is dragging on, I’ll just list some of the new features coming up in the next versions of AutoTheme:

AT-Lite .7
• Include an AutoInclude (much like the earlier betas) that automatically includes block title images, templates, etc...
• Migrate theme.cfg to be interchangeable with the commercial AutoTheme 1.x
• Implement the same command syntax as the commercial AutoTheme 1.x
• Implement a Home Page custom module setting
• Include Nuclei Blocks (maybe modify and rename to AB-Lite)
• Increase render speed
• Include template and color capabilities for tables
• Standardize commands and configs between PostNuke and PHP-Nuke
• Whatever comes to mind while I code…

AutoTheme 1.x
• Extend Custom Modules to all sub-pages (i.e. Downloads category=5, or Sections section=2, etc…)
• Customizable Home Page module for the start page
• WYSIWYG editor for templates
• Include an AutoInclude (much like the earlier betas) that automatically includes block title images, templates, etc...
• Include all News commands
• Increase render speed
• Include template capabilities for tables
• Maybe some new Short URL functionality (AutoURLS)
• Whatever comes to mind while I code…

• API for module developers
• Whatever comes to your mind and you let me know about…

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