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!

Oct 272009

Suffusion Version 2.5.0 was released today and it can be downloaded from WordPress. The most prominent features of this release are:

  1. Featured Posts!!
    I have pulled together a “Featured Posts” capability using the jQuery-based s3Slider. I had to make some non-trivial changes to add a frame index at the bottom of the slider, but it was worth the effort. Your feedback is, as always, welcom.
  2. More Languages
    Thanks to the following contributors Suffusion now has additional language support:

    1. German by Manfred Usselmann
    2. Danish by Team Blogos
    3. Swedish by Iréne Svensson Räisänen
Oct 212009

7 days after processing my previous update, WP finally approved my latest update, version 2.4.7 on 20th October. I had made submissions of 2.4.5, 2.4.6 and finally 2.4.7 before the last update was processed. The last three releases have brought forth some major changes:

  1. Nicer Excerpts – You can now do a lot more with your excerpts. Your excerpt will display a thumbnail corresponding to the post. This thumbnail can be custom defined for a post, or else the first image in the gallery for the post will be picked up and if that is missing, the first image included in the body of the post will be picked up. I am yet to add the functionality for a default image, but I will do that soon.
  2. My first full-fledged Widget – Yup, I created a widget for Twitter. Nothing fancy, but hopefully you will like it. One of the key advantages of the widget is the set of customization options – you can pick from 10 different Twitter icons and set it up with different options, like enabling / disabling the display of Tweets etc.
  3. Translations – Finally we have an official translation in this release – French. Over the last couple of days I have been modifying the translation files for Catalan, Spanish and Portuguese, too, so they are available to people using 2.4.7. The French translation is the only one with the Twitter stuff translated – the other languages have it missing. I am, however, happy to include the Twitter widget translation into the translation files for the others, if you can tell me what the translation texts should be. You are welcome to download the translation files from here for the additional languages.

Translation Files
European Portuguesept_PT.po,

To make the translations work, do the following:

  1. Download the files for the language that you want (French is included with the theme)
  2. Place the files in the folder called “translation” under your theme’s folder
  3. In the installation folder for WordPress you will see a file called wp-config.php. Look for a line there that says “define ('WPLANG' ...“. Replace it with “define ('WPLANG', 'es_ES');” for the Spanish translation etc. You are set

If you want to translate the theme to another language or you believe that some of the translation is incorrect, please let me know. You can track translations on the Support Forum.

Oct 202009

The Comments section in WordPress has served its utility as the forum for support issues. Effective today I am moving the support for Suffusion to a new phpBB-based forum. The forum is set up with the default theme and I intend to customize it over the next few months and have Suffusion for phpBB.

Starting today you will not be able to add comments on my “Contact” page or on the theme page. You will have to use the forum. This will ensure better search capabilities and logged issues can be tracked better.

I am disabling comments on the said pages.

Oct 192009

Over the past few days I have received a lot of support from willing volunteers who translated Suffusion into different languages. I would like to thank each of you who did this:

  1. French – Wolforg. Given my familiarity with the basics of French, this is the first language to be officially included with the theme. Version 2.4.7 of the theme, which is currently awaiting approval from WP, has this included
  2. Spanish – Memoria De Una Desmemoriada and Erik. Version 2.4.8 will have this included.
  3. Catalan – Erik again. Version 2.4.8 will have this included.
  4. Portuguese – Luis Santos. Version 2.4.8 will have this included.

The delay in getting the translations out is mainly due to the fact that the translations are for a prior version, so the line numbers are different. The reconciliation process is lengthy, so it takes me some time.

Anyone with a German or a Russian translation?

Oct 182009

Recently an issue was brought to light by one of Suffusion’s users (Colin), where the NextGEN gallery widget wrecked the layout of the rest of the theme. I took a look at the issue and found a few things.

As you are probably aware, I use Docking Boxes for some snazzy effects on the sidebar, mainly “Drag and Drop” and “Expand / collapse”. For these features, particularly the expansion and collapsing I had to separate the header (handle) from the content. For those technically inclined, to tackle this I had to define <div> tags in before_widget, before_title, after_title and after_widget elements in the widget definitions. This works well, almost. The first problem that came to light was for text widgets, where WordPress’s default implementation decides to skip the before_title and after_title if there is no title. While this generally works, if you are starting a <div> in after_title and closing it in after_widget, you have a mess. Since after_title has not been invoked you end up having an extra </div>, which results in messing up further aspects of the layout.

To fix this I overwrote the text widget with my own class, which slightly tweaks the output. However, there are other widgets out there which are not in my control. And the very popular NextGEN Gallery widgets fall in that bucket. Firstly NextGEN provides its own tags for the widget title. That is still okay, since it causes a minor inconsistency in the look and feel. The next, however is a little more tricky – if you have Web-Slices enabled for the NextGEN widget, it does some more large-scale layout changes for the widget, again destroying the layout.

The Fix

As of now the simplest fix is to disable web-slices for the NextGEN widget. The only loss of functionality you suffer is that a person who is viewing your website in IE8 cannot pick your gallery as a “slice”, but has to subscribe to your blog as a whole.

I have put in something on the support forum, but there have been no responses. Mind you, any website that uses docking boxes will suffer from this problem, and I am sure there are a few of them.

Of course, it would be best if WordPress provided something like “before_content” and “after_content”, in which case things would be much more easy.

Oct 062009

Over the past couple of months I have spent a lot of time adding new features and supporting users of Suffusion. I started with a single template and now the theme has morphed to something with a good set of options. Of course, it is not as comprehensive as Atahualpa (and I don’t want to provide the ability to customize everything – that will become a support nightmare), but I believe I have got a lot covered. At this point the theme is close to completion and I have a few tasks remaining:

  1. Support for more levels in the drop-down menu: Currently 3 levels are supported in the drop-down navigation bar. I am working on extending this to multiple levels, because I have received a few requests to have this capability
  2. Separation of comments from trackbacks / pingbacks: Now that I have more or less run out of tasks to do, this has come close to the top of the list
  3. Widget Areas, Widgets and Templates: The theme currently has 5 widget areas. I intend to add 3 more, though this is low on priority; 5 areas work well for most users. I also intend to build a couple of widgets, one for Twitter and one for RSS subscriptions. And lastly, templates. I made a submission to WP yesterday with a template page for “No Sidebars”. I hope to add a few more templates so that users don’t have to scramble to put something together to meet their needs.

That is the total list of activities remaining. More suggestions are most definitely welcome! I will slow down the development a notch to avoid wearing myself down, but nonetheless all of these should be available by early next month. Along the way I will make minor releases with code optimizations.

And yes, though I will cease adding new features, support will remain! The big thing about open source is that the users are proud of their work and like more people to use it, and hence feel the need to support it better.

What’s Next?

Suffusion was meant to be a stepping stone for me. I wanted to test-drive theme development before my next big plunge. A few things I will be doing as I gradually stop adding more features are:

  1. Port the Suffusion theme to phpBB: I have been supporting users through the comments on WordPress. Though this has worked, it is not really the right way to do things, and it is difficult to keep track of individual issues. I am working on building a forum to support this and phpBB is my platform of choice. While I work on making it look like I want it to, I am going to continue accepting support requests through the comments page
  2. Tutorials: I wrote a few tutorials to support Suffusion users and WordPress developers. I will continue to enhance those.
  3. My Next Theme: Yes, I believe now is the time to actually use the work I have done on Suffusion and extend it to my next project. Hope it is fun!

In the meanwhile keep the feedback coming!

Sep 292009

I made Suffusion translation-ready about a couple of weeks back and I have, since then, received a request for translation capability. As far as I know, getting translations costs money and unfortunately, since I provide both, this theme and its support for free, I don’t really have that essential ingredient. So I was wondering if anyone will be willing to help with translations. If some of you have already attempted translating the theme can you please send that to me so that I can include it in future releases?