Wednesday, 10 October 2012 12:30

Simple version control with real time preview in Joomla CMS

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How do simple draft versions work in real preview for Joomla?

To our mind a true version control system is something that is incredibly complex with built in workflows that has its home in large organisations with specific publishing processes. That was not our aim with real preview for Joomla. We wanted versions so that we could have real time previews. Existing joomla version control components have focussed on comparing versions of articles down to a text level and looking for differences. They also did this by popping up the results in a Joomla modal window. This has its place but its not what we were after. We're interested in version control so we can see draft changes to our Joomla articles before they go live - not so we can highlight the text differences. This has a place but it is not our focus right now. Very expensive¬∑enterprise¬∑CMS's will have staging areas where a whole site can be previewed before being pushed to live. Joomla is nowhere near this level of sophistication yet. But it was missing simple draft versions and real time previews- until now

Shock horror - we change the Joomla article editing interface

When thinking about this preview version business it became apparent that we would need to adjust the editing interface in Joomla. Once you have draft versions to preview it makes no sense to have publishing as an option in the edit window. The more we kept staring at the buttons on the top right the more we couldn't understand why 'Publish' wasn't up there. So we moved it so in Real Preview for Joomla it looks like this:


These buttons represent the action zone in Joomla - they all perform actions on the article. It made perfect sense to us that 'Publish' is an action too. It seemed a logical extension to swap the publish action into a button and replace it with version information. Then we just have to find a way to display version in the interface where they can be loaded for editing, saving and publishing.

The new editing interface from real preview (Joomla 1.5)

realpreview-paramsWait a minute have we hacked the core? No. You can uninstall Real Preview for Joomla and go back to normal Joomla admin editing. All we are doing once real preview is installed is presenting a new editing interface for joomla core articles with additions like the toolbar changes above. The next important change is to make the draft versions available for preview - you need to access to the drafts in order to edit and preview them. We do this by adding another pane to the parameters on the right like opposite.

Here you can see what drafts exist, what is published and who edited it last. You can preview from the parameter box any draft. The default behaviour is to preview in a large modal window. However if this is not to your liking then you can preview in a new window by changing the config from modal to new window.

The final 1.5 editing screen

Putting it all together with parameter screen changes and toolbar changes results in the familiar 1.5 editing interface so similar that you will not really notice the difference. We have tried to be as unobtrusive as possible in implementing this and sticking to the core Joomla API for functionality for a smooth experience that brings the extra power of real time previews and draft versions together in one extension.

thumb realpreview-editing

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