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Non-WebDAV external template/style editing

Discussion in 'XenForo Pre-Sales Questions' started by bdami, Aug 12, 2012.

  1. bdami

    bdami New Member

    I'm sure this topic has probably been beaten to death, but I am very interested in Xenforo and am seriously considering it, I really like almost everything about it, except for one major thing, the template/style editing options.

    If I go with XenForo, it will be for a project that requires a heavily customized skin, and for this I just don't think the admin panel editing tools or the webdav option really cut it. In my experience using WebDAV is overly clunky, slow, and just downright a pain to use (even when doing local development). I do my development on a Mac and own both Transmit and Coda 2, which are often cited as being the preferred way of interacting with webdav on mac, but even with these, the workflow is far from optimal.

    Is there any chance of just plain old local file editing for styles (even if its just in a debug/dev mode option) being added in the near future? If so, that would definitely seal the deal for me. :)
    DeltaHF likes this.
  2. Chris D

    Chris D XenForo Developer Staff Member

    It's very unlikely unfortunately.

    It certainly isn't anything that's been requested all that often so unlikely to be on the radar. What specifically do you think could be improved?

    I feel identically about WebDAV therefore I do all my template edits in the Admin CP.

    I do, however, use the Template Syntax add on which implements CodeMirror - an excellent code editor that includes line numbers, syntax highlighting and code completion.

    This makes things easier.

    XenForo also provides quite detailed messages when errors are made, such as syntax errors, etc.
    -Ice- likes this.
  3. bdami

    bdami New Member

    I'm kinda surprised its not something thats requested more often. Something that IP.Board has which is quite nice is that it lets you export a skin's template and css files as actual files, and if the forum is in dev mode, it will load the exported files for the skin instead of whats in the database. In that way you can edit the skin files however you wish and then once your done developing, you just import the skin back into the database.

    Seeing how bad the performance of WebDAV is, you would think that most halfway decent forum software out there would have something like this, especially a high quality product such as xenforo. Because no matter how good the AdminCP template editor is, no self-respecting developer would ever choose to code in a web browser, it is just lacking in so many respects. For instance, when I tried it out, I did not see any global find function, so when I wanted to alter a simple CSS rule I had to go looking through every .css file in the style because since xenforo dynamically concatenates all css files together before serving them, I could not use my browser's css inspector to see what file a particular rule was defined in.
  4. Chris D

    Chris D XenForo Developer Staff Member

    Then we must be an entire forum full of non self-respecting developers :p

    .css files are treated in the Admin CP as templates.

    There is a Search Templates function (Admin CP > Appearance > Search Templates).

    This lets you search the entire template system, including CSS files, for either a title or contents.

    So if I use my browser's CSS inspector to look at the avatar/information container and find it has a class of messageUserInfo. I can search all templates for instances of that class. Instantly I see the message_user_info template and the message_user_info.css file.

    So, if we forget the original suggestion/request for now, perhaps if you highlight your other concerns there may actually be solutions to these too.
  5. bdami

    bdami New Member

    I just meant it would kinda be a no brainer if you had the choice between the Admin CP, or a regular desktop editor and actual local files. :)

    That is nice that there is a global search function though, I must have missed that. I could probably list off alot of other editor functionality but really I guess its just comes down to the comfort level and productivity gains one gets when able to use their preferred code editor.

    So while the AdminCP editor interface is probably good enough to handle the job, I would still love to see this flexibility added, whether it be a system similar to what I described in my previous post, or a completely different implementation entirely. I wouldn't even care if it was done in an extremely bare-bones way and without any fancy export/import options, maybe just a simple toggle in the forum options which would cause the system to fetch the style's .html and .css from files stored in some predefined directory instead of retrieving them from the database. Then when finished developing, you could just copy/paste each file's contents into their equivalent template via the Admin CP.
  6. Adam Howard

    Adam Howard Well-Known Member

    You could technically export the style into an XML file and indeed edit it manually.
  7. bdami

    bdami New Member

    I'm assuming though that in order to see my changes I would have to continually re-import this xml file back into the database? And if that one file contains every css/html template I'd imagine it would be very big and unwieldy.
  8. Luke F

    Luke F Well-Known Member

    One solution might be a template editing mode where the templates are temporarily exported to files, and on each load the modification dates checked and any newer (or new) files imported and compiled before the page loads. Any errors in the compilation would then be displayed at the top of the loaded page. Then when the mode is turned off, the files are deleted. Probably not far off what IP Board does.

    The obvious flaw being that it would only work in a single user environment, or if the user who turned on the mode were tracked and it would only apply to them.
  9. Robbo

    Robbo Well-Known Member

    I have dev tools which will be released some time soon that will give you this template editing ability.

    Edit: and to give a little more information, it supports creating, renaming, deleting, editing and addon changes. Acts like the templates actually are on the file system and run much much faster than webdav.
  10. Chris D

    Chris D XenForo Developer Staff Member

    I think everyone in this thread has just fallen in love with you :love:

    Give me a shout if you need a tester - been doing a hell of a lot of creating, renaming, deleting, editing and addon changes recently.
  11. Robbo

    Robbo Well-Known Member

    So do I every day for the last year... hence finally making time to make these tools before making my Media Gallery.
    Chris D likes this.
  12. bdami

    bdami New Member

    That would definitely be awesome. Look forward to seeing what you've come up with.

    Edit: Also if you wouldn't mind posting here once you release the tools, I'd greatly appreciate it. :)
  13. Robbo

    Robbo Well-Known Member

  14. bdami

    bdami New Member

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