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InstantForum 2015 Release Notes

This article details the additions & updates included within our InstantForum 2015 release.

What's New

- New Homepage

You can now quickly switch between your forums, latest topics & popular topics from the InstantForum homepage.  You no longer need to visit a separate latest posts or popular posts page. 

We've added a new "Featured Posts" panel on the homepage. This replaces the "Popular Posts" panel. The featured posts panel will show all pinned posts from your community in descending date order. This is great to draw users attention to specific announcements or posts of interest. 

We've replaced the filter menu shown in the "Featured Posts" and "Latest Posts" panel on the right of the homepage. The new filter menu allows you to easily show topics of a specific type within your community. 

- New Quick Post Option

We've added a "Post New Topic" button to the top right of the homepage. This allows you to quickly start a new topic within any forum you have permission to view.  This includes a new dialog to help you select the forum you wish to post to. 

- New Topic Types

Topic types offer an additional way to help you identify & organize your conversations within your community. You can create any number of color coded topic types to help you organize your conversations. Users can filter by any topic type via your homepage.

When creating a topic type within InstantForum you can associate a behavior with your topic type. The available behaviors are:- General, Announcement, Question, Idea, Problem or Praise.

 Based on the behavior defined for the topic type (Question, Problem, Idea, Announcement etc) alternative options will be shown to users when viewing a topic with a specific topic type.

For example if a topic is associated with a topic type that has the behavior of "Problem" the traditional like button for that topic will be replaced with a "Me Too" button allowing users to indicate they are also effected by the problem. 

If a topic is associated with a topic type that has a behavior of "Idea" he like button will be replaced with a "Vote" button allowing users to bump up ideas within your community. If a topic is associated with a topic type that has a behavior of Question he like button will be replaced with a "Helpful" button allowing users to indicate the topic addressed the question.  

If a topic is not associated with any specific topic type or the topic type behavior is set to General the normal like button will be displayed when viewing the topic. 

You can of course create & manage topic types via the administrator control panel or completely disable this functionality via permission sets if it's not helpful for your community.

- New Paid Forum Subscriptions (via PayPal.com)

The new forum subscription plans feature allows you to charge a subscription fee for access to specific forums within your community. You can create any number of paid subscription plans via the Admin CP and associate these subscription plans with specific forums and / or users. 

If a user attempts to access a forum that requires a paid subscription plan and they've not already purchased a subscription the user will be presented with the choice to purchase one of the subscription plans associated with the forum. Currently payments are managed via PayPal.com, you will need a PayPal.com account to accept payments. We'll consider further payment gateways for future releases. 

After the user completes the purchase the purchased subscription plan is automatically associated with the user allowing the user to now access the forum and topics within the forum. 

In addition when editing a user’s profile via the Admin CP you can see purchased subscription plans for each user and manually associate specific plans with users if needed... 

- New User Profiles

We've re-vamped the user profile page to make it even easier for users to build a great, personalized profile within InstantForum.  There are no separate “View Profile” & “Edit Profile” pages. You can now edit your profile inline from your profile page as shown below...

We've also introduced several new profile fields (SnapChat, WhatsApp) and added the ability for you to hide your age and year of birth from within your profile. 

- New User Profile Banner Image

We've introduced a new user profile banner image which is shown at the top of each users profile page and within each user card within InstantForum.  This new banner image will allow users to add a more personalized touch to there profile. 

- New Profile Photo & Banner Upload & Editing

We've introduced a new way to upload your profile photo or profile banner image. The new upload dialog now supports drag & drop as well as a real-time progress indicator for image uploads. In addition we've also added the ability to crop your profile photo or profile banner image to the correct size after the upload avoiding stretched images and ensuring a beautiful looking profile.

We've also improved the Gallery when shows when changing your profile photo or banner image. The  Gallery allows you to select from one of the existing available images within InstantForum. These preset default photos and banner images by be customized by simply editing the files wthni the "Images/MemberBanners" and "Image/MemberPhotos" folder. 

- New Messages Menu & Notifications

We've added an option for you to easily review new & existing direct messages. A small envelope icon will now always be shown alongside your username within the main navigation.  When you click the envelope a menu will display showing your latest received message. If you have unread private messages a small red indicator will be shown over the envelope with a count of how many unread messages you have.

New Super Fast Login 

When you click login within the main navigation you’ll now be presented with a login dialog rather than being taken away to the login page. This is a quality of life change designed to help you quickly login from any page within InstantForum. 

- New MultiQuote Ability

You can now quote multiple messages when replying to a topic within InstantForum. A new MultiQuote button is shown below each post. When you click the MultiQuote button below posts this will reveal a small panel that slides up from the bottom right showing the number of messages you are quoting. Once ready you can click the "Post Quoted Reply" option in the MultiQuote panel or if you change your mind simply hit the close button within the MultiQuote panel to clear all selected messages. 

- New Show IP & Abuse Dialog (for moderators & admins)

We've added a new “Show IP & Abuse” option to the "Edit User" menu shown to all forum moderators and administrators alongside usernames within your community. 

The new Show IP & Abuse dialog shows the users location (determined by the IP address) and several links  to 3rd party look-up services allowing you to further research the users IP address. 

If you have the StopForumSpam.com integration enabled within InstantForum we will also show you the results for the user from the StopForumSpam database within the Show IP & Abuse dialog. This can be helpful if you experience a false positive and want to check a user against the StopForumSpam database.

- New "Add Member" page within the Admin CP

We've added the ability for administrators to create new users within InstantForum via the Admin CP. On the Manage Members page you'll see a new Add Member link. It was difficult previously in 2014 to create users and required you logout and created new users via the standard registration page.

Notable Improvements

- New Responsive Design

As the desktop skin is now the default skin for tablet and phones we've  significantly improved the responsive design for the desktop skin throughout InstantForum 2015. Every page within InstantForum 2015 is now fully responsive and will work great on all screen sizes down to 320 pixels wide. We've also improved the navigation on smaller devices moving to using the bootstrap asides style navigation for smaller screens. 

- Editor & Image / Video Uploads on Mobile Devices
We've improved the editor used for posting within InstantForum on mobile devices. We've rewritten the image & video upload functionality with a view to making this more reliable on slower 3G connections. We've also added an option to bottom right of the editor which will allow you to quickly clear your message within the editor if you accidentally quote to many messages. It can be tricky to select a manipulate text on smaller devices so we wanted to make it easy with a single button.
- Improved Message Quoting

When quoting messages on a desktop you'll now see the actual quote inline within the editor rather than the IFCode representation. We've also added options now when you hover over a quote within the editor that will allow you to delete the quote or place your cursor below the quote. 

This also allows us to ensure you can no longer edit the author or date of the message you are quoting ensuring more consistent context. We have left the ability for you to edit the body of the quote so you can strip out irrelevant content.

- Collapsible & Expandable Message Quotes

We now collapse all quotes by default within topics. A quote is essentially a duplication of the original message you are responding to and we didn't want duplicate content and large quote blocks appearing throughout your posts. It's not a great user experience when you are just trying to find answers and your having to scroll passed multiple duplicate content.  

Quotes are now collapsed onto a single line and you can choose to expand the quote if you want to get more content into what the user is responding to. 

- Improved Theme Roller

We've overhauled the theme roller to support our new CSS naming and to resolve many of the issues that plagued the 2014 theme roller due to the use of global CSS classes. You should now see a much more consistent experience when using the theme roller. 

We've also restructured the various sections within the theme roller and redesigned the navigation to make it easier to find the right section and to switch between sections as you theme your community. 

We've introduced a number of new sections and options into the theme roller to support the new visual elements within InstantForum 2015 and to address customer feedback. For example you can now adjust the border radius used for user photos via the theme roller so if you do't like the round circle user photos you can easily change these to a square by adjusting the border radius via the theme roller. 

- Improved StopForumSpam.com Integration

We've improved the StopForumSpam.com integration and now allow you to set separate thresholds for the users username, email address or IP address. This offers greater control over how you determine a message to be SPAM and should help reduce false positives with common usernames.

- Improved User Cards

We've re-designed the user cards that appear when you hover over any user photo within InstantForum. This new design now incorporates the users personalized profile banner image and offers a cleaner layout. 

- Improved AJAX paging

We've streamlined all paging throughout InstantForum. When you page between pages now the list you are paging will now longer clear and show the loading image. Instead an overlay will be shown on the current list until the new page loads. This is only a small change but provide a much smoother experience when paging between pages.  

Breaking Changes

- CSS classes naming convention changes

We've renamed many core CSS classes within this release to move towards a consistent naming convention for the various CSS classes used throughout InstantForum. If you have any dependency on our core.css files you will need to update your code to reference the new CSS classes after updating to InstantForum 2015. 

- Deprecated Dedicated jQuery Mobile Skin

Based on customer feedback and our own internal discussions we've decided for now to deprecate the dedicated jQuery mobile skin provided with InstantForum 2014. The jQuery mobile skin lacked many of the moderation features needed to help manage your community and never integrated into our theme roller meaning your users would see a very different experience on mobile devices. 

The desktop skin will now always be the default skin even on tablets and phones. Because of this change we've spent a significant amount of time ensuring the desktop skin is fully responsive and works great on iOS and Android. 

As the desktop skin is used by default now you can  take advantage of the theme roller to customize the look and feel of your community which will appear consistent now between desktop and mobile.  

General Improvements

- Date Formats

We've added additional options on the General Settings apge within the Admin CP  to allow you to toggle if friendly dates should be displayed. We've also added several new date formats you can choose to use to present dates if you don't wish to use the friendly dates. 

- Users Settings & Privacy Pages

We've improved the user settings & privacy pages. We've moved to our mobile friendly slider control to allow you to easily adjust options. We've also restructured several areas on these pages and updated wording to 

- Pop Up Dialogs

We've rewritten the pop-up control used throughout InstantForum to ensure this works correctly on smaller screen sizes and to ensure we use a fixed position removing the dependency on the scroll event having to re-position the pop-up. This ensures a really smooth scroll experience on lesser powerful devices. 

- Other

- Improved topic moderation (persists current page on topics list + fixed some refresh issues)
- Improved bulk editing on Edit Attachments & Clear Message Folder pages
- Fixed some general issues when you disable direct / private messages
- New way to post new topics & replies to existing topics. The quick post is now the default method to create new topics & post new replies. No need to navigate to Post.aspx when creating new messages. We've also improved the design of the quick post panel to feature your profile photo & user card. 
- Added most helpful members panel to members page (this is based on the number of accepted answers and post likes a user has received in the last 90 days by default) 
- The various sort options shown at the bottom of topic lists are now hidden by default. A new button is provided to toggle these options.
- Several tweaks to grammar, descriptions & wording within language pack + cleaning of old deprecated strings

General Performance Improvements

- Client Side

- Moved embedded .NET composite / resource scripts (.axd) into a single minified and bundled static external JavaScript file.
- We now use relative paths for external resources such as CSS & JavaScript. We no longer use absolute URLs to avoid the DNS look up meaning pages should load a little quicker on the very first request. This works with and without the search engine friendly URLs enabled. This was not possible in InstantForum 2014 due to the way the URL rewriting worked.
- GZIP compression has been enabled by default on the JSON responses from the various web services used throughout InstantForum.
- Added cache expiration header to static client resources (JS, CSS) to ensure browsers cache these files and only requests the new files if modified on the server.
- We've refactored many areas of the client side JavaScript to better reuse code and reduce the size of the client side JavaScript files.

- Server Side

- We've resolved several boxing issues within various "for" iterators and moved to "foreach".
- Improved the overall performance of the global InstantASP.Common.Utils.Date.FormatDate method used to format dates throughout InstantForum. 

General Notes

We've made hundreds of  other smaller quality of life changes that may not be immediately obvious within this release. We've cleaned many areas of our C# code removing fully qualified namespaces
and generally making the code more manageable. We've also resolved some compile time warnings within Visual Studio. These warning didn't prevent the build but have now been addressed. 

Our .NET API has not changed and if you have any dependency on our assemblies from your solution you should be able to reference the 2015 assemblies with no changes providing the 2015 assemblies target a InstantForum 2015 database.