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Add simple import/export option for sharing template modifications

Discussion in 'XenForo Suggestions' started by Zeras, Aug 19, 2013.

  1. Zeras

    Zeras Active Member

    I posted this in another thread, but felt it was worthy of its own thread.

    I highly recommend you consider adding a very simple import/export option to the template modification system so that developers and even non-developer site owners can import/export/share template modifications. I know you can do it with an addon, but that's extreme overkill when only a small modification is necessary.

    For example, one of the modifications I share on all of my sites is to make "Stay logged in" default to checked (on). While I understand the security reasoning for it being disabled by default, we were getting way too many "Your site keeps logging me out" complaints. It's a simple one line change obviously and I'm sure someone has made an addon for it, but it's a lot more hassle to go through uploading and importing addons for simple changes.

    I personally think that with the TMS, XF has something that could be hugely popular .. a template modification resource library. For the developer/creator of the modification, they just have to export it to a single XML file. Then anyone could import it directly into the TMS basically just as if they manually entered it. No server-side uploading and permission changes required. No separate "imported modifications" section would be required either .. just import it directly as if they manually created the modification.

    I understand the desire to feature addons and cater to developers, but the TMS feature is something that could explode in popularity for all XF owners, not just the developers.

    md_5, thedude, RoldanLT and 1 other person like this.
  2. Chris D

    Chris D XenForo Developer Staff Member

    For the general day-to-day XenForo admins, they should make any customisations to their style using template edits. They can use the TM system if they wish, some people prefer it, but overall, template edits are quick, easy, and will make upgrading even easier than using the TM system.

    In terms of sharing template modifications, sure. Like you've said, you can do this by creating an add-on... but I don't see why that is "extreme overkill".

    The very simple steps to share a template modification are:

    1) Be in Debug mode. It's good practice to have a development site or a local install for this.
    2) Create an add-on in the Admin CP. This simply involves giving your add-on an ID, title and version number.
    3) Create your template modification, or edit an existing template modification and allocate it to your add-on.
    4) Export your add-on from the add-on list.

    I fail to see how it could be any simpler.

    The only way it could be simpler is if you didn't have the steps of being in Debug mode or creating an add-on. But they're still steps that only take a couple of seconds to complete.
  3. Zeras

    Zeras Active Member

    Most non-developers don't have "development sites". As for my "extreme overkill" comment, that was directed at the entire create->export->import process, not just the import process.

    For example .. a normal non-developer makes a small tweak to his site with a template modification and someone asks for it or he wants to make the same change to his two other XF sites as well. He goes to the TMS page, clicks Export Modification. He emails or posts the modification XML file so the other person can get it. The other person gets it, goes to the TMS page, clicks Import Modification. That's it. Quick and easy for everyone, not just developers who have a development server.

    If you really wanted to make that even better, you could develop a way for users to click Import Modification straight from the XF Resource Manager page :) but that's probably a little ahead of its time.

    Personally, I don't care if they add this suggestion. It's a great opportunity for XF to create a new resource system that I could see becoming very popular with non-developers so I suggested it. Sticking with the old vb3-era plugin system is reliable, but there are times when new ideas and modernizations can improve things especially for non-developers.

    Adam Howard and psTubble27 like this.
  4. JulianD

    JulianD Well-Known Member

    I understand your suggestion but I think the current addon system is more than enough for this purpose. Addons doesn't need any additional file for them to work. If you want to share a TMS modification, create an addon, assign the modification to it, export the addon and share the XML file. It is more organized than exporting template modifications on its own. If you end up with 50 modifications, it's going to be a nightmare to maintain those in the future.

    Think about it, you can even share several template modifications as a single XML addon. No additional file needs to be uploaded to the server and you keep your modifications organized as addons.

    You can even implement a naming scheme to help everyone recognize an addon as a template modification. For example, you can title your template modifications like

    TMS - Extra Column

    There are certainly many ways to use the current addon system as a template modification import/export system. Don't be afraid to use it!
  5. Zeras

    Zeras Active Member

    I am aware of how the addon system works. I've created addons for my sites. It's too much of a headache to create 15-20 addons for 15-20 unrelated and separate TMS modifications and tweaks. I currently have two XF sites and about to launch a third with 1-2 more likely in the near future. None of the sites will share or use the same TMS mods, so making an addon is going to be impossible in that situation.

    Again, you're thinking in terms of developers, not regular site owners. You're thinking in terms of a package of TMS mods. Creating an addon for a single TMS mod is rather pointless unless it's something huge or very involved. A check/uncheck default change for example would be easier to post as text in a thread than to go through and make an addon for it especially for non-developers.

    I mean just because you can backup the entire hard drive on a server, doesn't mean you don't need a simple single file backup option.

    psTubble27 likes this.
  6. psTubble27

    psTubble27 Well-Known Member

    Precisely this!

    I don't think most heavy-duty devs (including possibly XF devs) realize how little programming most forum admins do, and how little setup they create in terms of a 'production deployment,' a 'dev deployment,' not to mention 'staging.'

    You can envision many such tiers in software development, and while heavy XF devs may engage in it, most XF admins don't. This means everything we're supposed to do on a dev site will effectively never be done.
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2013
    Zeras likes this.
  7. Adam Howard

    Adam Howard Well-Known Member

    I'll give you 1 good reason why this should be a feature.

    Add-ons use more resources.

    Seriously, make 1 template edit in XenForo's Template Modification System and save it. Notice zero impact.

    Use that same edit and have it as an add-on & import it into another site. The impact is small, almost null .... But it is there and so if I were to have X number of those individually... They add up.

    A TMS file would be a lot simpler for a noob, but also better on resources for heavy sites.
    thedude and Zeras like this.
  8. JackBauer

    JackBauer Member

    Sorry for the necro but I had a question about this. I just started using template modifications because I thought it would make the upgrade process easier than having to manually merge templates. Am I missing something?
  9. Jeremy P

    Jeremy P Well-Known Member

    As far as I'm concerned the TMS is meant for addons only. You want a way to export and import template modifications, you got it. It's called the style system.

    Create a base style with the common modifications and use it for all your forums, and then have child styles for each inherit from it.

    The merge resolving system in 1.2+ is robust enough to make updating templates a breeze. And if you used the TMS you'd have to update the search text if there were a merge conflict anyways.. so it's really not that much easier if you set it up right.
    Chris D likes this.
  10. Chris D

    Chris D XenForo Developer Staff Member

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