Dec 072009

Suffusion Version 3.0.5 was released on 7th December 2009.

Users upgrading from an older version, please go to "Upgrade" under the theme options and click on "Migrate". Otherwise your blog might not behave the way you expect it to. If you are installing the theme anew, you don’t have to do anything.

Version 3.0.5 had a lot of enhancements:

  1. Performance Improvement
    This has been the biggest feature of this release. The theme has never been slow or sluggish, but prior versions of the theme had a very high number of queries in certain scenarios. I have rewritten some of the query logic and brought down the numbers drastically. The major changes are to the navigation bar, the featured content and the magazine template.
  2. SEO Enhancements
    I made some tweaks to some of the tags to ensure better search engine optimization for your content. For folks not using any SEO plug-in this should be a big feature. I intend to allow customizations for SEO features in the near future.
  3. Bug Fixes
    There were three main bug fixes. The first deals with excerpts showing up in the Magazine layout, the second deals with the “Add Comments” link showing up for posts with comments disabled and the third deals with the JQuery-based layout fix that I provided in the previous version, where I went inadvertently aggressive and broke the general layout.
  4. Code Restructuring
    This is of no impact to the users, but it sure does make my work easier. I broke down the code to modular units in a few places to help develop new features better.

Have fun!

Dec 012009

After the approval process for version 3.0.0 took about a week (actually I am being uncharitable – the WordPress moderators too need their vacation!), I submitted version 3.0.2 on 30th November. Hopefully it will get approved in the next couple of days.

This release was heavy on bug fixes and backwards compatibility. Here is the list of modifications for 3.0.1:

  1. Bug Fixes
    1. RTL Language Support – Thanks to some really constructive feedback, I have hopefully ironed out more than 95% of the bugs in the RTL language layout.
    2. Dinosaur Revival – I went the extra mile and fixed a lot of minor layout niggles with IE6 and Suffusion. Primary among those deal with the navigation bar. There were also some issues with the post widths pushing the sidebars down etc.
    3. Sidebar layout breakdown – One of the most frequently asked questions about the theme has been, “Why do my sidebars look funny?” Thanks to a post from DigitalNature on the WP forum this is no longer an issue. Hopefully we have seen the last of the widget gimmicks. If you are facing widget layout issues, like nested widgets, or widgets moving from the sidebars to the footers etc, go to the option “Use JQuery to fix widget layout issues?” under “Sidebars and Widget Areas” and enable JQuery.
  2. Enhanced Sidebar Tabs
    You can now mimic the functionality of text / RSS widgets in the sidebar tabs. There are 10 blank custom tabs provided for your use.
Nov 252009

I am happy to announce that I submitted version 3.0.0 of Suffusion last night. This version took a lot of time thanks to the amount of testing that I had to do on it. The following are the main features here:

  1. Magazine Layout
    This is the biggest feature I have added in this release. Combined with the other big features that I recently added I decided that now was the time to brand this as version 3.x.
    You will be able to select a template called “Magazine” to make a page have this layout. The Magazine template lets you have:
    1. A “Featured Content” section
      This lets you use the “Featured Content” that you have set up for your blog and plugs it in directly into the top of the page.
    2. A “Headlines” section
      You can also define certain posts and categories as “headlines”. As a concept this is the same as “Featured Content”, but the presentation is different. In “Featured Content” your posts automatically slide through, but in the “headlines” you actually have to hover / click on them to see the content.
    3. An “Excerpts” section
      You can show certain items as “Excerpts”. Think of this feature as an “Other Main Stories” feature in a news portal.
    4. A “Categories” section
      If you are running a multi-focus blog you might have things like Recipes, Restaurant Reviews etc. You can show each of these categories on the magazine layout. Each category will show up with the latest few posts (you can control how many you want to show).
  2. Controls for featured post image size
    This was based on a request in a prior version. It essentially lets you set a custom size for the featured image that doesn’t inherit the dimensions of an excerpt thumbnail.
  3. An Arabic Translation
    Thanks to r-sn, we have our first RTL translation. The Arabic language files have been incorporated into the theme.
  4. Ability to turn off default widgets in first sidebar
    This is actually a pretty small thing, but useful. The first sidebar in the theme had a bunch of default widgets that you could override using the dynamic widgets capability of the theme. However, with the introduction of the tabbed sidebar you could have situations where you want to only display a tabbed sidebar and not the regular sidebars. This wasn’t possible without this feature.

Now for the upcoming changes:

  1. RTL fixes
    Some issues were pointed out by r-sn regarding the RTL layout. I will fix those.
  2. Extended magazine layout support
    Obviously when you have a layout, you need other pages to match the layout. Subsequent releases will have magazine layout options for different templates – default, archives, categories, authors, search results etc.
    Also, I am not very happy with the colors and look-and-feel of the magazine layout. I am open to hearing from you regarding how to improve on it.
  3. More consistent look and feel for IE6
    It is very depressing to learn that IE6 still has around 20% of the market share, depending on whose view you subscribe to. My take is that a very small percentage of people who are on IE6 would actually surf to your sites, but in any case, it is an audience that you have to cater to. So far I have managed to stay ahead of IE6 by ensuring that the layout doesn’t go haywire on it. However I intend to go a step further and ensure that you will get the same look across all browsers (minus the CSS 3 features that some browsers don’t support).
  4. Extension of Tabbed Sidebar features
    The tabbed sidebar is good, but it can become really good. I intend to have options to do a ton of customization on it.
  5. Docking boxes
    One of my most common laments on WordPress has been the lack of a “before_content” and “after_content” tag for widgets. It simply destroys the layout if some widgets are ill-constructed. Call it serendipity, but I managed to find a way to fix it. The fix involves JQuery and is hence not my favourite because I dislike having to add a 56KB file to a page to fix a bug. However, this is better than not having a fix at all.
  6. More navigation menus
    Having gotten past the barrier of real estate in the navigation bar, I intend to have support for other types of elements in the dropdown, like links, archives etc.

That’s about it. Once version 3.0.0 is out do let me know what improvements you would like in the look-and-feel of the magazine layout. I will try to accommodate those.

Nov 192009

After my post about release 2.6.4 yesterday and the CSS overlap issues that I was facing in certain scenarios, I did a lot of debugging and hunted down the cause for the problems I was facing. But before going there let me first explain the problem(s):

  1. Launch your blog with Suffusion as your theme in Firefox 3.0 or older. If you have 3rd level menus in your navigation bar (the ones that fly out to the right), you will see that the “>” indicator appears on a new line. This is very annoying to the user. Moreover it is upsetting to the developer, because this is Firefox, after all, and this behavior doesn’t occur in IE. Anyway, I found a way to fix this, so all is well. Mind you, the fix was extremely unintuitive and illogical.
  2. Now launch your blog on IE 6. Hover over a navigation bar item that has a drop-down. You will see all the levels beyond the first drop-down too appear on the page when you hover. This was an easy thing to fix, but needed research, nonetheless.
  3. Now, include a large number of tabs in the navigation bar of your blog. This should cause the navigation bar to “spill over” into a new line. Hover over something on the first line that creates a drop-down. Prior to version 2.6.4 this drop-down would have gone behind the second line in all browsers. I have seen other very well-known themes out there that exhibit the same broken behavior, BTW.
    I fixed this issue for the good-behavior browsers (Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera and IE8) in version 2.6.4. But older versions of IE still faced this problem. Given the share of IE worldwide, this was something that needed to be fixed, though the original intent was that you wouldn’t let the navigation bar spill over. After an elaborate hunt I came across Ruthsarian Layouts and that was of immense help in solving the problem. While the site itself didn’t explain how to tackle the problem, I went through their CSS, which is exceptionally well-detailed. The first fix I made helped resolve the issue for IE6, but IE7 still remained broken. Go figure. Eventually, from the same CSS on their site I figured out how to fix it for IE7. So the crisis has been averted!!

This cross-browser compatibility has pretty much been the fix for this version. Stay tuned for 2.6.5 – I don’t know when it will be approved.

Nov 182009

I submitted version 2.6.4 last night, but it hasn’t been approved yet. The key addition to this release was the ability to select “featured pages” for the featured content section. In addition I corrected a few bugs. I had somehow rolled back a change in the “All Categories” template, causing the template as a whole to disappear. That has been fixed. There happens to be another issue – if, for some reason your navigation bar spills over to a new line, the drop-downs displayed from the upper line get obscured by the lower line. I fixed this for most browsers. Unfortunately the browsers for which it has not been fixed are IE 7 and IE 6, which is the majority of the surfing population. I have been losing copious amounts of hair over this bug, so if any of you is able to resolve it or knows of a fix, please let me know.

Nov 172009

I submitted version 2.6.3 for approval last night. This release has one major feature and some bug fixes:

  1. RTL Language Support (Experimental)
    I bundled in “Right to Left” language support for the theme. However, this feature is experimental and probably has a few minor kinks that need to be ironed out. If any of you tests out the feature, do let me know of any problems that you encounter. This is a bit of a novelty for me, and given the size of my stylesheets, I am sure there will be some issues, so any input is greatly appreciated.
  2. Bug Fixes
    Turns out that I had broken some functionality in the admin page when I provided the category navigation menu. It was preventing the users from modifying their “featured categories” list. I have fixed this. There were a few other minor bugs that I fixed.

Now for what I could NOT do:

  1. I had hoped to provide a short-code for including Featured Posts on any page / post. But this was more difficult than I had anticipated, because the Featured Posts section has posts and there seems to be some difficulty with conflicting variables for multiple posts being displayed within a single post. This would have been a pretty cool feature, though, if I had managed to get it to work!

Coming soon:

  1. A translation for Brazilian Portuguese was submitted to me by Bosco Carvalho, but I haven’t had the time to incorporate it into the theme. I will do so shortly
  2. Some really useful short-codes, which will help you include different types of information on any post/page. E.g. A list of all categories, or pages, or archives.
  3. Better control over what you see on the tabbed sidebars
  4. More drop-down navigations (links, archives etc)
Nov 142009

Version 2.6.2 of Suffusion was approved today. The following are new in this release:

  1. Dropdown menus for Categories
    I finally bit the bullet on this one. I had a challenge positioning category navigation on the page, so eventually I decided to remodel the navigation bar. Up to the previous release I was allowing users to define what pages to show in the bar. In addition they can also show categories. Depending on how you have structured your blog, you might want to “roll up” categories or pages to one more level that you can name by yourself.
    This was a tough feature to develop and test, which is why this release took me time. Please let me know in case you encounter bugs.
  2. New template for “All Categories”
    In my drive towards providing a “magazine styled” theme I have provided a template for “All Categories”. I will provide more customization options for that.
  3. A bug fix for “Featured Posts”
    The “Featured Posts” section was earlier being restricted by the global option for the number of posts per page. I have gotten around this by offering an option to define the maximum number of posts to show.

Coming soon:

  1. RTL Support (Experimental)
    Unfortunately I have very little experience in this department. So though I will provide RTL support for Suffusion starting from the next release, the feature will be somewhat experimental. I need to work with users of Right-to-Left blogs to get the flaws resolved.
  2. Featured Posts Shortcode
    I am going to provide a shortcode for Featured Posts, which will let users insert featured posts into any document that they are creating.


Nov 102009

Suffusion Version 2.6.1 was released on 10th November 2009. The key features in this release are:

  1. Customizable Widths
    I had recently made a release (2.5.4) where the overall page width could be set. I received several requests to make the individual components’ widths configurable, like the main column or the sidebar. So I built this feature into release 2.6.1. Note that if you have defined custom widths in the “Custom Styles” option, you will have to unset those for the settings from here to take effect.
  2. Custom JavaScript files
    Suffusion has had the capability to add custom CSS files, styles, JavaScript code and RSS links. Rather obtusely, though, it was missing the capability to define custom JavaScript files to include. I have added this feature.
  3. Bug Fixes
    There are some important bug-fixes that I have implemented in this release:
    1. There was an issue with translations. Some strings were not getting translated. E.g. The “Page x of y” at the bottom of each page or comments. I have fixed this.
    2. For the WPML plugin there was an error showing up. This, technically was not a Suffusion bug – WPML tends to return a “null” list of pages from the “get_pages” function if there are no pages in the selected language. I have put in a check in Suffusion to prevent the error from coming up.
    3. Some web hosts do not allow the PHP call file_get_contents() to run. This was causing a Twitter Feed problem for the Twitter widget. I have fixed this and replaced the call with cURL.
    4. For some people there was a backslash deluge upon saving of settings. What would happen is that some characters would get “escaped” upon saving, then they would show up with the “” character, which itself would get “escaped” and add two new “” characters. I understood from the WordPress Codex that WP escapes characters while saving them, so I don’t have control over that functionality. However I did force a “stripslashes” call for displaying the fields with issues. This ensures that the perpetual backslash cycle is broken.

Thanks to all for continually providing feedback. In the order of priority I first tackle bugs, then I handle new features, and then feature requests. Do excuse me if your development request was not handled; I need to sleep too, sometimes! 🙂

Nov 092009

On 8th November 2009 I submitted a new version of Suffusion – 2.6.0. This version has two main updates:

  1. Tabbed Widgets
    You can now use Tabbed Widgets a.k.a. Tabbed Sidebar. This one was one of the more time-consuming features to implement – the amount of testing on different browsers was astronomical. In keeping with my tradition I have loaded this with options that let you pick and decide what you want to show in the tabs. However, this is the first release, so it is missing fine-grained control over the individual tabs. E.g. You will see only monthly archives in the “Archives” tab – I haven’t provided the option to select other viewing modes. Yet. Expect some more features in the coming weeks.
    The default WP widgets are supported within this (with the exception of the text widget and the RSS widget). Note that what I have implemented is not technically a widget / sidebar, but simply a graphical element that is put above your sidebars.
  2. A Bug Fix
    I was naive enough to think that the world had moved to PHP 5 and beyond. Turns out that some host providers are still on PHP 4. I had put in some chaining code in one of my function calls, which kept crashing in version 2.5.7 of the theme if you were on PHP 4. I have fixed this bug.

A word of caution to users who have customized their widths manually in prior releases in the “Custom Styles” section. If you are activating the tabbed widgets, be warned that your layout might go wonky. To fix it, add another custom style for “#sidebar-container” and set its width accordingly. If both your sidebars are on the same side, this element should be twice the width of the sidebars + 17px. If you have sidebars on both sides of your main content, set the width to that of a sidebar + 15px.

The next release will have customizable widths for the main column and the sidebars, to make life easier for all of you.

Nov 032009

Version 2.5.6 of Suffusion should be out in a day or so. I know that the next version was supposed to be 2.5.5, but I had a coding inefficiency that I had to correct, so 2.5.6 it is.

And now for a list of things I forgot:

  • I forgot to edit the description in the stylesheet, but we have a new translation! Wim Scholtes volunteered a Dutch translation that I have included with the theme.
  • The last release had a pretty big feature – custom width. Earlier the theme had a fixed width of 1000px and options to “adjust” the width if you had more than one sidebar. I have gotten rid of the “adjustment” feature, because it was too restrictive. Instead you can now have the width you want, within restrictions. The first restriction is that the width cannot be less than 600px. The second is that it still is a fixed width theme. In other words you cannot put in “100%” for the theme width and expect it to occupy the entire width of the window.
    While I agree that I could have supported flexible widths as well, the main difficulty is with one particular element on my screen – the date. The date is 48px wide, whatever be the case, so I cannot specify a percentage for the title next to it – it wouldn’t work. Till I figure out another way and another place to display the date, it will continue to be this way.
    Users who were using the “adjust” features can select the “1200px” width to meet their requirements.
    In the near future I will provide another mode, where you will be able to individually define the width of your post area and your sidebars, and that will compute the overall width for you.
  • Don’t know if you folks realized, but I had provided support for the WP-PageNavi plugin in a recent release. Additionally there are options that will let you show your pages and comments in a numbered list, even if you don’t have that plugin installed.

Now for what’s coming in 2.5.6

  • A category template and support for the Category Icons plugin – I was missing a category template in the theme, so I created one. In addition I included the category icons functionality from this plugin to help pull the icon associated with this category.
  • Some bug fixes – I had missed a very obvious bug that was preventing the correct comment count from appearing. I have fixed that and submitted it. I had also procrastinated about fixing another bug, which shows up when you view a single post on a blog where you have only one post. I thought that people would rarely find themselves in a situation where you will have only one post in your blog, so I kept postponing this fix, till someone explicitly asked me to fix it. There was a third bug where Pages (not posts) were showing up in an excerpt mode – I fixed it.

And now for what is in store for the next few weeks

  • More templates – I intend to build a “magazine” mode for the theme and then add a “photoblogging” mode. These are quite time-consuming, so features might be out of the gate rather slowly. Providing more templates is going to be an enabler for these special modes.
  • Support for more plugins – If there are a few specific plugins that you want me to support please let me know. Please note that I have NOT been able to get WordPress MU running, so I cannot try out BuddyPress related things unless you provide me with an installation.
  • Widgets – At the very least I intend to build an “RSS Subscription” widget that people can place anywhere to bundle their subscription links. I will also be enhancing some of the standard widgets, like Categories and Pages. I don’t have an ETA for this, though.
  • Enhancements to the “Featured Content” section – I have received one request for enhancing this section by allowing other effects to be shown. As I announced in my previous post, the main slider script is based on s3Slider, with some changes from my side. This script will have to be significantly modified to tackle this request. I want to do this in as risk-free a manner as possible to avoid total chaos. So this will take time, too.
  • Enhancements to the “Excerpts” – I believe that the control I offer for excerpts is awesome. But some users don’t believe so :-). Nonetheless I am going to support showing of embedded videos in an excerpt – I have one request for that. Again, this is somewhat low on my priority list, so it might not get done for the next 2-3 weeks.

I find it surprising that after repeatedly saying that development on Suffusion is winding down, I have gone ahead and added new features – my to-do list is quite big, if you noticed. Ah, the pressures of open-source!

That’s it for updates. I am glad to report that the support forum is alive and kicking!