Two weeks ago we saw the release of MODX Revolution 2.2 - you probably heard a thing or two about it already. In this article I will introduce to you the new features I think are most impressive.

One of the hardest parts of writing this article is picking which features to discuss. Of course there's the big ones like the ability to use custom resource classes and media sources, but there's also a number of little (and slightly bigger) gems that may be easier to miss and may not have been covered in much detail by others yet. I think I'll cover those here.

New Tag: Comment

This was already added in 2.1.5, but in its simplicity yet powerful application it's worth a mention here plus it's such an easy thing to miss!

Let's take an example of when this comes in handy. When working on a template you need to make some changes in the way your snippet works - but as you'll need to be able of reverting quickly (and you don't run VersionX) - it's not uncommon to copy/paste the old call and just put some random gibberish in front of the name (or was that just me?) like this, to prevent it from outputting.

This trick works because it can't find the "zzzWayfinder" snippet, so it has nothing to output. All good right?

Well, almost. MODX Tags are processed inside out which means that even if it can't find the "zzzWayfinder" snippet, it will still have processed our UltimateParent snippet call, even before it even checks if this "zzzWayfinder" thing exists. That's unneccesary processing time, slowing down your site for no reason! It wont be a devastating performance hit in this example, but every bit helps. The worst part is that, when the new snippet tag works, it's too easy to just leave the old snippet in there in case the client comes back with the request to revert it back next week... just in case that happens, the snippet is not bothering anyone there right?

The new comment tags in 2.1.5 take away that problem. Whenever you use the dash (-) as token on a tag, MODX will see it as a comment and will not execute the tag or any tags contained in it, but it simply discards it. So taking our example, this would be perfect to maximize performance but keep record of the tag (and it's just as easy!):

Move your TVs below the Resource Content

This is something we've been doing in Evolution for a while, and Revolution 2.2 now also gives you the opportunity to move your TVs to below the resource content. It's easier for clients (the tab is easy to miss and makes TVs sound like an afterthought, and what on earth is a "template variable", right?) and, well, with the all new shiny UI it doesn't look too shabby either!!

Moving down the TV panel is easily achieved by setting the "tvs_below_content" system setting to "Yes", resulting in a more familiar look for those still used to Evo. If you fancy, you can also get rid of the title of the all new verticle tabs with the "show_tv_categories_header" system setting, though I personally like to keep it there. 

More OOP than ever

For the hardcore developers among us, this new 2.2 release marks an even more Object Oriented codebase then we've ever seen. Pretty much all the processors (you know, those great things you can call with $modx->runProcessor() that execute requests made to the connectors?) have been refactored to now be class-based. For example, here's what the chunk/create processor (in core/model/modx/processors/elements/chunk/create.class.php) looks like in 2.2:

<?php
require_once (dirname(dirname(__FILE__)).'/create.class.php');
class modChunkCreateProcessor extends modElementCreateProcessor {
    public $classKey = 'modChunk';
    public $languageTopics = array('chunk');
    public $permission = 'new_chunk';
    public $elementType = 'chunk';
    public $objectType = 'chunk';
    public $beforeSaveEvent = 'OnBeforeChunkFormSave';
    public $afterSaveEvent = 'OnChunkFormSave';
}
return 'modChunkCreateProcessor';

You can see the chunk/create processor in 2.1 for comparison on Github, I think it's too big to include here ;)

As you can probably imagine, there's some benefits there to implement that in your own Addon processors, and the three-page long Developing an Extra tutorial in the MODX docshas been updated to match.

Other big, new, fancyness in MODX 2.2

  • Shiny new Manager UI, login screen and setup
  • Command line setup/upgrade (anyone tried this?)
  • Media Sources for better control over file access and base url/path settings
  • Custom Resource Classes of which Articles is the first and I think a pretty impressive example.
  • Static (file based) Elements
  • Automatic minification and compression of assets in the Manager using Google Minify (thanks for the reminder ZAP!)

What's your 2.2 favorite?



I'm blacking out my MODX site this January 18th to protest against the SOPA and PIPA. While I'm not in the US, and my server isn't either, I may not have a direct threath in these two - but I'm with the techies here that think it will have major impact on everyone if this thing passes.. So I developed a little plugin to black out my site (yet give people who need access to my site the ability to do so).

The plugin, SOPA Blackout, is available from the MODX Extras repo for MODX Revolution and is quite simple.

  1. On January 18th 2012, between 8am and 8pm (taken from your server time), the plugin will hijack all first requests made to your site (excluding manager access) and show a message explaining real briefly what's going to happen and give them a link for further information.
  2. In the background the plugin sets a session variable indicating the user has seen the notice. This session variable stores a timestamp which is checked and considered "valid" for three hours, meaning your visitor will only see the blackout once until their session is cleared (browser close) or its been three hours since they saw it.
  3. The user can either refresh the page (the plugin doesn't change the link) or click a link at the bottom of the page to go forward to what they were looking for.

The notice people will get looks like this (heavily borrowed from this wordpress plugin, licensed as GPL):

Easy enough, users will be alerted and can go on their way. It's a little way to show your support to the anti-SOPA and PIPA movements out there.

The notice serves a 503 service unavailable error, so your search engine results wont be affected, though it's unlikely search engines will be able to index content during the time the plugin is active. The plugin also serves a retry-after header which is calculated based on the "until" time set in the plugin configuration (by default January 18th 8pm) - that should let the crawlers know when it's "safe" to return.

My site will serve this message coming January 18th as I refuse to give up free internet without doing, well, something. I hope you will do too. Download the plugin. The source is also on Github.

Oh, by the way, if you want to use different times - just go to the Plugin configuration and change the start/until dates there. Just make sure it's a valid date/time syntax and it should adapt easily.

Is the blog too long? Here's the summary.

All too often, people complain about the MODX documentation not being up to par, but far too little is being done about it. Even something as simple as reporting an error or missing information is vital – and something everyone can do. I'm going to challenge you to file 200 documentation bugs/request, and when we hit that milestone I will myself dedicate two full working days to fixing as many as I can.

What's wrong with the docs, and why does it matter?

Different people have different learning styles, and some need more handholding then others. There's also a ton of different aspects to MODX between the ins and outs of templating, the extensive API and on using the manager. Many of these are learned through trial and error, but not everyone has the time, resources or patience to learn then all. Documentation helps there. But in the past, developers have been far too busy to document it all – 2.2 marks a new era where most of new functionality was documented pre-launch – thanks guys!

That does leave a lot of older docs waiting for the same treatment though, and that's where you come in.

Found something wrong? Here's what you can do in 2 minutes.

  1. Go to bugs.modx.com/projects/docs/ and click the "New Issue" link in the left hand side or go straight to the new issue page. Note: you need to be logged in to the see the link in the left-hand side menu. If you don't see it, login with your MODX.com account (button in the top right).
  2. Fill in the form you see. Give it a descriptive title, and make it actionable. For example, "Login snippet does not mention placeholders for tpls" is much more useful then "Login docs flawed omg".
    The actionable part means it has to be specific enough that it can be executed in a reasonable time frame. While the system settings aren't all in the docs, making an issue titled "System Settings docs incomplete" (I think that's actually in the tracker right now) really doesn't make it high in (my) priority list. It lacks the part in me where I can see what the user was looking for, and I really can't just add all settings there.. that'd take me two entire days at least.
  3. Hit "submit" and go back to doing what you were doing.

If you file a problem with the docs that is actionable, it may take you a few minutes to write it up - but the odds are pretty big someone else will spend more time to address the issue. The result of that may save others hours of time searching for the right information in the future. Your two minutes can have a huge impact.

I would like to challenge the MODX Community.

The challenge is really simple.

We've got 14 open issues (40 total) in the docs bug tracker right now. Let's make that at last 200.

And then what? What do I get out of it?

When we hit the 200, that's a nice to-do list and I will personally dedicate two full working days to fix as many of them as possible. I may not be able to get them all done in that time, but I hope others will join this initiative and pledge to spend a portion of their time contributing to the docs. This effort will hopefully have a significant impact on the quality and completeness of the documentation, and will benefit a lot of people and of course the MODX Project.

What's the catch?

Nothing. While I've got a pretty broad knowledge of every area in MODX, a lot of people don't share in that knowledge and I don't see the flaws in the docs that newcomers do anymore, but I am able to explain it if asked. I believe that we as a community can make the docs better, and I'm backing it up with two entire days of work myself. In case you like to put a price tag on stuff, you could consider that a donation worth € 1 142,40 (or $USD 1,464.27) in labour (including taxes) to the community.

So, are you in?

What do you say? Are we going to make this work? Will you, from now on, file every issue (small or big) in the documentation, in order to reach that 200 issue threshold? Or are you going to pledge alongside myself to spend a certain amount of time on the docs when we do? Let me & the community in the comments, and share this challenge with people who work with MODX to get the ball rolling..

Today I was shocked by a (re)tweet linking to an infographic on the anatomy of templates in wordpress (you can find it here), so I decided to spin my own version for templates in MODX. Without further ado, but with great thanks to Jay Gilmore for providing very valuable feedback and preventing me from infringing MODX copyright and trademarks, here it is:

MODX is a robust and flexible content management framework, but it's important to remember the basic anatomy of a template to make the most out of it. Let's have a look!

(You can click it to view the original sized one. Which is the same size if you're looking at this site from a proper computer, but may be easier to zoom in on from a mobile device of sorts).

That really sums it up, though I promise I'll do a proper tutorial on template best practices in the future :)

While I m not much of a reader, one of the lesser reasons I dropped out of uni, I recently ordered and read Ethan Marcotte s "Responsive Web Design", and I m glad I did.

For those that are unaware, the book is published by A Book Apart. They publish "brief books for people that make websites" – and that definitely describes this book as well. In only a few hours I 've went from cover to cover, which is a pretty impressive if you barely read those paper things anymore! ;-)

Just a note on the Title

While the title of the book specifically talks about Design, there s no actual designing involved in the book. You shouldn' t expect best practice UX studies on certain screen sizes.

What you should be ready for is a wealth of hands-on examples of using CSS for developing your responsive websites, many of Ethan s experiences and a shift of perspective from fixed width to fluid or hybrid development.

The Author: Ethan Marcotte

I didn' t know the author before reading the book (that's probably my own fault), but apparently he had given a presentation or two about this thing based on web standards and an ever evolving internet with more and more devices every single day. He coined it Responsive Web Design and wrapped it all up, after 2 years of study and application, in a book with no more than 140 pages.

His experience shines through in every example, explanation and anecdote, while not losing the relaxed yet witty type of writing.

Contents of the book

The book basically revolves around the design of a website to distinguish robots from real humans. This design contains many of the pitfalls that you are likely to encounter in your own responsive projects, from images flowing out of its container to what features are needed for mobile users, and it also talks you through a progressively enhanced image slider without the overhead when not supported.

It s chockful with CSS and markup examples, topped up with strategy and anecdotes and experiences. After reading this book thoroughly you are definitely ready to get started to changing your focus to responsive.

Summary

Definitely recommend getting the book, and reading through the next generation of web design practices.

There are times you will want to accept donations or payments on your MODX-powered sites. In my case I wanted to offer the possibility for users to donate towards one of my open source projects. So I whipped up a snippet to help me do that.

My requirements were simple.

  1. Customizable form to match layout
  2. Simple 2 (3) step procedure: type in amount, make donation, thank you.
  3. Ability to display a configurable "thank you" message
  4. Some kind of "posthooks" allowing you to (programmatically) do other stuff based on a donation. For example when people donate for HandyMan, I want to be able of creating a user account for them so they can access the HandyMan member only area (in the somewhat near future, that is). I don't need that for others, so it needs to configurable :)

After spending some time figuring out the PayPal API calls to use for these requirements it was finished pretty quickly, and the open source landing pages on this site now have one of those forms each.

How it's done (slightly technical)

The package (which I called mhPayPal as I needed a name to get started and didn't try to come up with something more fancy, open to suggestions in the comments!) consists of 2 snippets. One snippet, makeDonate, is used to display the form. It basically wraps a chunk which contains a FormIt call and the html for the form.

The second snippet, makeDonateHook, is registered as a posthook on FormIt which is triggered when the form is submitted. It takes some properties (via the FormIt call) and of course the amount and currency. It then uses a slightly modified version of this PHP PayPal class by Drew Johnston (which is the same one I used for SubscribeMe) to send a SetExpressCheckout API call (which prepares the token for the checkout) with the filled in and calculated data.

After redirecting to PayPal, and returning to the same page you were on when filling in the form, the makeDonate snippet will intercept the request and once again use the phpPayPal class to confirm the payment (DoExpressCheckoutPayment API), and to show the success message. Under the hood, there is data stored in the MODX cache to be able of matching data against the right token.

Does it work? Can I use it too?

Yes, and not yet!

You can see it in action on one of my open source pages (be aware that the forms are live though - I appreciate your donation :P). As I'm not entirely done with the package (need to implement requirement 4 still) I haven't yet wrapped it up for the general public, however it will probably pop up on my Github in the near future is available from Github and possibly in the MODX Extras Repository in the near future.

It's insanely easy to use (simply call the [[!makeDonate]] snippet in your template or content and, if you configured your PayPal credentials, you're done) and I think will be an extra value to those people and institutions that rely on donations and need a real easy solution for both visitors and developer.

Let me know in the comments if you have a project coming up this could be useful for. Perhaps you can also come up with a better name for the package while you're at it? :)