I’ve just uploaded a new release of xTalk to OpenNTF. This new version is a complete overhaul of the original version of xTalk and now uses the OpenNTF XPages Extension Library to create a much easier interface for the forum owner for creating and managing the system.
When IBM Lotus Notes/Domino 8.5.1 was released
on Monday I also released a new open source project on OpenNTF called xTalk.
I’ve talked about it here a few times already but now I want to describe
a few of the features that have been added in the latest build that you
can download from OpenNTF.
The latest build on OpenNTF, xTalk V0.7,
is in my own opinion, a feature complete build for the first version of
the application. There are a couple of minor bugs that I’m working out
but that should not stop anybody from using the application in a test environment.
So what’s been added since I last spoke about the project.
As the application is 100% XPages on
both the web browser and in the Lotus Notes 8.5.1 client I had to make
the application easy to configure. When you first load the application
in your browser you’ll see the following screen
If you then log in it will check the
ACL to see if you have the ForumOwner role and if you do the home page
will change to assist you in creating your first ‘Forum Category’
Once you have created the forum category
the screen will then assist you with creating new forums within the forum
So within a few minutes of download
and deploying the application you can be up and running with your forums
In my initial test builds of xTalk I
had used the XPages Richtext Editor component but I also wanted to support
the BBCode system that is used in all of the web forums that I based the
design of xTalk on. Not wanting to mix both Richtext and BBCode I decided
to move to BBCode only which meant changing the richtext control into a
simple text area.
Above the text area I then added buttons
to give the user who may be unfamiliar with BBCode the ability to style
There are options to Bold the text,
add links, images, email addresses, change the color and size of the font
and even include quote blocks and code blocks.
Edit Your Message.
One feature that somebody asked for
early on in the development cycle was to provide the ability for a user
to edit their own messages. In xTalk I decided to implement a timed approch
to this request and only give the user a limited window in which they can
edit their own posts.
The the lower right corner of each post
the ‘Edit’ button will appear if the viewer is the original author of the
post and it is within 10 minutes of the posts creations date/time.
Quoting A Message.
In the screen snippit above you’ll also
see a ‘quote’ icon. Clicking this icon will take the text of the message
and append it to anyting in the reply area and surround it with the special
BBCode that is required to mark it as a quote.
If you have the ForumOwner role in the
ACL or if you have been designated as a category owner or individual forum
owner then you will see lots of moderator and configuration buttons that
normal users won’t be able to see. Bringing the buttons into the UI means
that here is no need for a separate administration interface. Here’s what
some of the buttons look like.
I’ve tried to select icons that will
be self explanatory. the green + icon will add stuff, like forum categories
or forum areas depending on which level you click the button in. The pencil
icon will edit a forum category or forum area, the lock icon will lock
a forum area or topic, the pushpin will mark topics as sticky.
The red – icon is only visible if you
have the ForumOwner role in the ACL and it will delete items. If you delete
a topic then all the replies are deleted also, if you delete a forum then
all the topic and replies in that forum are deleted and if you delete a
category all the forums and topics and replies within all the forums in
that category are deleted. You will have a chance to back out of doing
the deletion and the warning screen will tell you how many threads and
posts would be deleted.
So there you have it, all the featured
discussed above are available in the xTalk 0.7 build that is currently
on OpenNTF. If you have no yet checked out xTalk then please feel free
to download it and if your going to use it in a live environment for any
reason then I’d love to hear about it.
A while back I announced a project that
I had been working on called xTalk. It is an XPages Discussion Forum application
similar to the many forums you may find on community websites. The initial
version of the code and basically the core functionality was written in
about three to four days but since then I have been polishing it up, putting
in additional features and generally getting it ready for release when
IBM Lotus Domino 8.5.1 is also released, but I just wanted to give everybody
an update on how things are looking in the app.
The first important aspect of xTalk
is that there is no Notes Client interface. It is designed to be 100% xPages
driven. It has been announced that xPages in the Notes Client will be coming
in 8.5.1 and this is the reason I wanted to do everything in xPages. When
you are logged in as the application owner you will see lots of extra buttons
appear in different places. For example on the homepage you will see the
options for configuring the application and for creating new forums categories.
Clicking the configure button allows
the application owner to set all the options that they want to enable/disable.
When you do create new forum categories
and/or forum areas you can set the security for the area which will allow
you to create hidden forums that are only visible to certain people or
groups. To do this I have a nice name picker component and I’m making use
of Reader Fields to provide the security. The name picker still needs a
little css work but as you can see it consists of two lists and a ‘move’
button. Select the name on the left, click the button and it moves to the
list on the right. You can also double click names in the list, kinda like
the name picker in the notes client.
If you have been setup as the ‘Category
Owner’ you will have full rights to all the forums in that category, even
if you are not set as the owner of the forum area. These top down rights
will ensure that you can manage the forums areas under your control but
no other ones. As the Category Owner you can also Create, Edit and Delete
forum areas in your category. Another nice feature I have added is the
ability to re-order the forums as they appear in the category using the
up and down arrows you can see in the following screenshot. As mentioned
each forum area may have it’s own set of security controls and readers.
This will allow you to create hidden forum areas within a category. The
‘lock’ icon you see will also allow a owner to lock down the forum area
so no new topics or replies can be made.
Inside a forum area the forum area owner
or the category owner has the ability to lock individual posts or even
make posts into ‘sticky threads’ that will always appear at the top of
the list of topics in that forum area. Again everything is done within
the xPages interface.
One more feature I’ll be adding before
xTalk is released will be to allow the forum area owner define a list of
people who are allowed create new topics and who is allowed reply to topics.
This would be useful if you have a forum area for announcements where you
want to control who can make the announcements and if people can reply
to the announcements or not.
Another feature I have just finished
adding to xTalk is the ability to use BBCode to format your replies. This
special code is normally found in many other discussion forums and is considered
by some as a better option then allowing HTML to be entered directly as
you can somewhat control what is allowed.
The above screen shot also hints at
another feature that is just about finished and that is the ability to
quote replies. In flat forums like xTalk this is an important feature.
The forum area owner will also have
the ability to remove and edit individual posts within a topic for
moderation purposes. Authors will have the ability to edit their own posts
for a certain amount of time before they become permanently locked down.
I hope this little update has whetted
your appetite for what xTalk will be able to do for you when it is finally
released. I think I have all the basics covered and everything should be
completed in time for the 8.5.1 launch. The code will be released as an
Apache Public License V2 product and if openNTF keep moving in the right
direction it may even show up there as a project.