I've been MODX'd! ™

This is probably a surprise for most of you (I have been in touch with some clients and partners about this already), but I am joining the MODX team! Mid March I will join the team part-time for a few weeks and in April I will officially hop on board full time for hopefully years to come.

Whoah, what?!

Yep, it's a big change that will not only affect me but also the very loyal clients I have had the pleasure to work with over the past year and 3 months. It wasn't one I took lightly (it rivaled the school vs freelance business battle back in March-Sept '11 for those that sticked around since then!), however I would be crazy not to accept an offer from the MODX team!

I will be joining MODX Services (consultancy, development and support) team, which is led by James Bohan-Pitt (most Partners will know him), and includes Garry Nutting and Mike Schell as Developers, and Robert Walker as Customer & Partner Support Manager. The team deals with obviously the support requests coming in from MODX Complete subscribers as well as development work for Partners and potentially some of the amazing MODX clients. Besides that, I will also get the chance to work on some great projects I can't say anything about yet, as well as the core product: MODX Revolution.

This job offer didn't just hit my inbox out of nowhere of course, I've been talking with Ryan Thrash on and off over the past year about the prospect of joining the team. The ball really got rolling in the past weeks when talking with Ryan, James and John Corcoran (the MODX CEO) and we're all very excited to finally be able of moving forward with my addition to the team.

What about my Company & Clients?

As said before, this new job does not differ much from what I used to do. Because of that I will be able to still provide the services I have offered before, however the invoice will have "MODX" on it and there will be an entire team to handle the work instead of just me! The MODX guys have been amazing in trying to make the transition as smooth as possible and if you would prefer me as your main point of contact they'll gladly oblige!

I will be working with MODX fulltime starting in April and likely wont be able of taking on many other projects, though stay on the lookout for one of the many personal projects that I will be working on.

If you're a current client (or we have been discussing a project for some time) and I've not yet been in touch about how your project will be moving forward with this very quick transition, send me an email. I've tried to reach out to everyone directly influenced by this, but with everything going on around here it's possible I've missed you. Sorry!

What about the site?

Over the coming weeks my website's content will be updated to more accurately display the new situation. Most of the Services section will be deprecated and removed (yes, that's part of the reason I made a new centralised Testimonials page) and some information will be added here and there to indicate the new situation.

The blog will remain like it is, and I will still be aiming for 2 posts a week (Monday and Thursday), so there's plenty coming up to keep you informed!

In other news...

I'm finally moving out (again)! Around the same time we were finishing up the deal of me joining the team I was offered a three bedroom (read: a bedroom, office and washing/junk/sleep-over room) apartment and I'll be working on painting the walls, laying floors and getting some furniture in over the coming weeks as well. I hope to have officially moved by the time I join the MODX team full time... we'll see how that goes :)


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Placeholders & Resource Fields: the difference between a plus and an asterisk

One of the powers of MODX is its flexible templating. The biggest part of the flexibility boils down to the different types of tags that can be used in Templates which replaced with the dynamic content specified.

While the different tags are listed in the Documentation, not all of them are properly explained and some take time to really make sense when you just started using MODX. This blog post will explain the difference between two tags that are very often confused with eachother: placeholder and resource field tags.

Let's see what the two terms actually mean and which is which.

Resource Fields

A resource field is a field of a resource. Oh, you figured that out already? Great! So if you fill in fields of a certain resource in the Manager, the value of that field is available through the resource field tag. What is important to realize here is that you can use these tags, no matter where they are used (in templates, chunks or elsewhere), will take the value for the current resource. So if you're viewing the homepage, a resource field tag will get the value from the homepage resource. If you're looking at a contact page, the resource field tag will be replaced with the values of the contact page.

It may seem logical or common sense (and really, it is!), but that's where placeholders differ from resource fields. 

Resource fields use the *asterix* token in the tag. Some valid examples:

And their values for the current resource:

Title: 2012 Archives
Introtext:
Menu Index: 5
Content (not shown to prevent the page from breaking!)

Placeholders

A place holder can be anything. 

Yes, really. Anything.

The key thing to realize with placeholders is that they are being specifically set by usually a snippet or plugin. That snippet or plugin decides what a specific placeholder will get as a value. Some snippets such as getResources or my getRelated iterate over resources, and they assign placeholders with the same name as the resource field. 

Let's go a bit more practical.. You may have a resource listing on your homepage (for example the latest Articles), retrieved with the getResources snippet. Your Homepage template will probably use the Resource Field syntax to display the current page's title in the <head> part:

Your getResources snippet on the other hand uses placeholders to provide you with information on the resource it is looking at. With getResources you specify the &tpl property which is the name of a chunk that will be used when iterating over resources. The chunk may look like this:

This means that when getResources reads the resources with ID 2, 3, 4 and 5, it will load the tpl chunk four times, and assigns values as placeholders each of those four times. The first time it loads the chunk it sets the values to the resource fields of resource 2. The second time it takes the resource field values for resource 3, the third time for resource 4 and finally for resource 5. So in this case we have placeholders that give information on a resource which is not the current resource.

Resource Fields always contain values for the current resource, while placeholder values can be anything from other resources, custom tables or simply random stuff. 

A note about Placeholders

While placeholders are usually set by snippets or plugins, that doesn't mean that's the only way they can be set or used.

You can also add parameters to a chunk tag, which can then be used as placeholders within a chunk. This is a nifty technique if you only need minor changes depending on the template, and want to prevent repeating yourself.

 


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New Extras are released all the time, MODX LLC is always working on the next big thing and the Community is growing exponentially. In this series I'm going to try and keep you posted on interesting initiatives and stuff coming up. Welcome to Episode 1!

In this episode:

  1. [Extras] Interesting new TV Input Types
  2. [Extras] All things Analytics
  3. [MODX] Mostly Cloudy, with a 100% chance of MODX™
  4. [Evolution] Security fix for 1.0.5 now available

1. Interesting new TV Input Types

Many consider Template Variables the number 1 reason they like MODX, which is definitely something I can relate to. However, did you know you can also develop new input types to bring it all to the next level? Well, you can!

A lot of people know about MIGX, short for Multi Items Grid TV (for MODX?), which allows you to work with a grid, or table, enabling you to add an unlimited list of items. I think it could use a cleanup, but it does what it promises on the tin and I use it quite often. 

In the last few weeks, a couple more interesting TV Input Types have been released. ColorPickerImagePlus TV Input and SuperBoxSelect.

ColorPicker is not exactly new, the first version was released back in November, but it gives you a pretty nice colorpicker with different output types (such as HEX, RGB or JSON). If you allow users to change the color of certain template aspects, ColorPicker sounds perfect for the job.

ImagePlus TV Input is for those times where the default image cropping of PhpThumb(Of) is not enough, and you need to define exactly what is shown yourself to prevent weird results (like seeing only half of a face). While there's still a few bugs and I wouldn't recommend production use yet, this is definitely something to keep an eye out for as it gets further developed.

SuperBoxSelect, by the same author as ColorPicker and also first released in November, is a variation to the default ResourceList input type which allows you to select multiple resources through a combo (dropdown/select) box. 

2. All things Analytics

We all like Google Analytics (and making sure manager users don't show in the stats!), and over the past period a number of addons specifically for Google Analytics have been released.

First we have the Google Analytics Dashboard (for 2.1), its MODX 2.2 spin off using a Dashboard Widget and Big Brother, all of which request the Analytics data through its API (after authorization of course) and shows it to you the moment you login to your Manager. I've been using both the GA Dashboard Widget and Big Brother, and I have to admit I prefer Big Brother. Its authorization process was smoother (and looks super fancy, too!), and more matched the information I expected on the dashboard.

We also have two extras to put the analytics code into your templates, which are Analytics and Google Analytics (the naming isn't as original as Big Brother!). 

3. Mostly Cloudy, with a 100% chance of MODX™

.. or at least that's what the MODX team is telling us!

MODX Cloud, which is currently in private beta, will (again) revolutionize the MODX world by offering a cloud based platform where you get a fully configured installation of MODX Revolution in the Cloud. This new infrastructure, which is powered by MODX Sponsor Softlayer, will likely come with all the flexibility and benefits of cloud hosting: super fast and easy deployments, easy migration between servers and of course scaling with a click of a button (if that!) when you most need it. Rumours tell me there are some specific MODX benefits attached to Cloud as well (no specifics here though!), and from the looks of it you will also be able of getting access to MODX Cloud through the all new "coming soon" MODX College.

Seeing how the Revo development on Github has been a tad slower lately compared to the past weeks, I'm going to bet the team is working hard to get this out there! ;)

4. Security fix for MODX Evolution 1.0.5 available

Last week a critical security issue in Evolution 1.0.5 was discovered, which allows certain (Extra) configurations to be exploited, resulting in executing of snippet tags. Some people have indicated added files in the assets/cache folder which did not belong there and may have provided an entry point for further exploitation. More details in the Security Notice on the forums

The fix be applied manually by replacing the contents of your manager/includes/protect.inc.php file with the version on Github. Alternatively MODX Evolution 1.0.6 should be available soon with this fix and possibly more.

In the next episode...

I've got some ideas for the next in this series, but do let me know what you would like to hear about! The next episode will probably arrive in a few weeks.


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