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PostPosted: Sat Feb 16, 2008 1:53 am 
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1. Introduction
1.1 Scope
The scope of this document is a first draft of a change to the section/category system to normalize the database structure and simplify the usage for the users.
1.2 Objective of the document
The objective is to give a basis for a discussion about the described changes to the section/category system in Joomla! 1.6.
1.3 General remarks
1.4 Definitions
1.5 License
GNU GPL
2. What is the current issue?
The system of Section and Categories is not flexible enough and as long as we don't move to a node based scheme, we have to cope with the current idea behind this.
For new users the system of a number of sections and categories in a flat structure is fairly complicated to grasp. The system for handling both these concepts is also unnecessary complicated by providing two components to administrate them and by a lacking graphical representation of the structure.
The other problem is the description of the sections and categories. The system provides the possibility to add descriptions to the head of the overview pages, but these descriptions neither save who wrote them, nor when they were written and they are not parsed by the content plugins.
3. What are the proposed improvements?
The improvements are three fold:
3.1 Interface improvements
The interface to configure the sections and categories should be merged and more represent the tree like structure that is behind it. To improve the overview, the categories should be hidden like the tree structure in the Windows explorer.
When creating new sections or categories, the screen allows to select either to create a section or to select the section the new category should belong to. The description should be removed from that screen, too. Instead of that there should be an optional button to add a description.
3.2 Normalization of the database scheme
Instead of saving the description in the section or categories table, the tables should just be linked to the content table, which allows to use com_content and normal articles as description. This allows for a smaller interface in com_section and com_categories, and editing descriptions and articles would happen in the same place, as well as the handling of the description could be done the same way as articles in com_content. In com_categories and com_section, a button would be added "Add description", removing the editor field below.
3.3 Parameters for categories
The database table has a field for parameters for categories, too, which should be used. Currently the functionality for parameters for categories and sections is not implemented.
4. Technical realisation
4.1 Interface changes
Besides the obvious changes, it should be possible to access the category manager the same way the configuration manager for third party extensions is used.
For the graphical changes, see this example using mootools: http://madhatted.com/2008/1/11/the-joy-of-a-minimal-complete-javascript-table-sort
Also, maybe with the use of ajax and a small interface, the whole editing/new screen could be saved.
4.2 Normalization of the database scheme
For the normalization of the database scheme, we reuse the description field in #__categories and #__sections to hold the ID of the article in #__content. In #__content a row is marked as being a description text by adding a 1 to the field parentid for a section and a 2 for a category.
4.3 Parameters for categories
The category manager reads an XML file in the extensions directory. To define different kinds of XML parameter files, a new URL parameter is added. The rendering of the parameters is done via the normal functions of JParameter.
5. Intention
The interface for categories and sections should become simpler and more flexible.
6. Effects on...
6.1 Users
The negative effect on the users will be, that they will have to learn a new interface. However, the overall usage should be simpler through this.
6.2 Effects on 3P extensions
Third party extensions will have more flexibility with the new set of parameters available for them. It should be payed attention to backwards compatibility here.
6.3 Effects on Performance
There should be no negative effects on performance.

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 16, 2008 10:18 pm 
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I see this request as an urgently needed and extremely important area for improvement.

To date, this is the most appealing and logical approach to this problem that I have encountered. I believe the end result would be a more intuitive and flexible system for managing and presenting content.

General Comments:

The Current Issues listed in this draft are a modest representation of the scope and severity of problems and frustrations that arise, as is evident by countless forum threads on this topic. The current Section/Category managent system imposes either perceived or actual limitations on site structures and hierarchy. This often results in (mis)using Joomla's powerful menu system in ways that are awkward and difficult to maintain in order to preserve the content structure and/or presentation that is desired.

Another positive side effect then, of implementing the changes in this draft,is that it would likely encourage more meaningful and efficient use of Joomla's menu system.

Specific Feedback:

Would it not be more intuitive and flexible to define a Section as "Any Category that contains one or more Categories"? In this manner, it would be possible to have an unlimited number, or configurations of, Sections and Categories.



Excellent proposal, Hackwar.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 17, 2008 12:45 am 
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The idea behind this proposal is not to change the underlying Section/category system, since this is a big task and I personally would postpone that to 1.7. However, I'd like to see the interface a bit more simple and in that area, we could already make big steps toward the system that I would implement in 1.7. Again, this is making the interface easier, maybe more intuitive.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 17, 2008 1:14 am 
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I understand. Yes, it certainly would be a great stride in the right direction, at any rate.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 21, 2008 9:23 am 
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A great idea indeed. Let me though add some considerations as how I see the priorities.

The unlimited hierarchy of categories Thornband is talking about would be definitely the goal to reach in my opinion.
Furthermore I would allow to associate several categories to a single item like in Drupal.

I understand that this might be too big a change to include in 1.6, but I'm scared it might be postponed then to 1.8, 1.9, ...
I think functionality is more important than grafics and therefore I wonder if there is not (part?) of the functional improvement that could be done before changing the grafical display, which of course is still important.

Maybe following approaches could be promissing (not too big)?
1) See viewtopic.php?t=47415
2) allow to associate several categories to one content item


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 21, 2008 11:51 pm 
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I also would like to vote for this idea of a node based category structure!

Some additional thoughts: it would be nice if the extentions API was organized in such a way that extentions could all use the common "content item" type easily and only have to attach some custom additional fields to the ID of this general content item. Then all content could be organized in the same category structure. You could attach a "content type" field to a category. Joomla rendering could use this content type of the category a content item is residing in, to call the right content handler (= extention) to render or edit the content. Next step would be to have one content handler "unregister" a piece of content (remove related data) and another content handler to "register" it and ask the user for missing fields. With this principle we can move or copy content across extentions!

Integration is really what we need, because I have a hard time explaining my users why all extentions have a different structure and things can't be moved when posted in the "wrong" component. And why, when the basic content is allways pretty mutch the same! A general content-category structure would also improve ACL (see my other post) and general subscription possibilities.

Example of content items with different types:
type | tables needed
news | content item (teaser) + content item (more) + comments
event | content item + additional timestamp + contact info + subscriptions
messageboard | content item + relation to content item + vote counter
marketplace | content item + price + bids
tutorial | basically a linked list of content items
...


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 22, 2008 12:00 am 
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We are planning on moving to such a node based structure. I personally don't see this in Joomla 1.6. Maybe in 1.7, but even then, it would be a huge task. Again: I made this proposal to make the interface simpler, for a start. The node based scheme can follow shortly after. :)

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 22, 2008 12:07 am 
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Hackwar wrote:
The idea behind this proposal is not to change the underlying Section/category system, since this is a big task and I personally would postpone that to 1.7. However, I'd like to see the interface a bit more simple and in that area, we could already make big steps toward the system that I would implement in 1.7. Again, this is making the interface easier, maybe more intuitive.


I think one the main reasons why joomla is so succesfull, is that is simple to use und good looking. So every effort in this direction is very welcome.
I would like to suggest, if you are trying to simplify the interface, why not move the administration/ representation of sections und categories in the article manager.
This would allow a user to see the whole content structure of his site and the content.

regards
guenter

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 22, 2008 12:36 am 
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That is actually a good idea, and I will definitely think about this and how this could be acomplished.

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 23, 2008 8:41 pm 
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Hackwar wrote:
The system of Section and Categories is not flexible enough and as long as we don't move to a node based scheme, we have to cope with the current idea behind this.
For new users the system of a number of sections and categories in a flat structure is fairly complicated to grasp. The system for handling both these concepts is also unnecessary complicated by providing two components to administrate them and by a lacking graphical representation of the structure.


Well, i thought about that, why not merge Sections and Categories and simply offer categories which you can structure in two layers (formerly Sections/ Categories). If the roadmap is amiming for a node based scheme at same point in time, i guess there wont be a distinction between Sections and Categories anymore.

What else is there to consider?
Well, for one the concept of Sections/ Categories is directly linked to the menu layout (Section Layout, Section Blog Layout, Category Blog Layout, Category List Layout). If we are going to merge Sections and Categories there is a chance to make this easier too.
We would only need one Category Layout with mutiple parameters like the following:
Choose Category: (DropDown with all Categories)
Choose Layout: Blog, List, List of Child-Categories
this would cover all the Layouts we have now.

To summarize:
We merge the two concepts of sections and categories but do not change the underlying structure (there still will be only two layers).
We simplify the creation of menu items.


guenter

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 15, 2008 4:21 pm 
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guenter 1234 wrote:
To summarize:
We merge the two concepts of sections and categories but do not change the underlying structure (there still will be only two layers).
We simplify the creation of menu items.


interesting this idea, it isn't The Solution but it might be a simple solution in waiting for a better solution as I think the real problem is not how to categorize the content, the problem is when you choose a system, well, how much and how long that work is? For a very good system I've read (I don't remember in which forum I saw that) that it can be achieved only in a future 2.0 joomla version...

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 03, 2008 11:25 pm 
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A nice visualisation about this topic was posted here: http://forum.joomla.org/viewtopic.php?f=500&t=278723

Credits go to Mario for this one ....

Image

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 04, 2008 7:43 am 
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wow! by image all is more actractive... 8) good idea!

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 09, 2009 10:54 pm 
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I think folks are misunderstanding this whitepaper.

This is the FIRST step in moving away from the Section/Category system towards a Node based system. This Whitepaper seeks to start representing Section/Category in a tree structure. It will still be limited to exactly 2 levels of depth for all content. Creating sections/categories would have a unified tree interface. Selecting which section/category that an article belongs to would get a new tree menu structure.

This gets everyone used to the idea of classifying articles and content in a tree structure.

Then Joomla 1.7 would fully switch to a Node based system, allowing content to be 0, 1, 2, 3 or more levels deep. This is a lot harder because Joomla is riddled with sectionid and categoryid parameters. It would be a delicate thing to maintain SEO with these changes.

I think this is a great way to do the transition and will allow us to stop dealing with 2 separate interfaces for Sections vs. Categories.


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PostPosted: Fri May 22, 2009 8:15 am 
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guenter 1234 wrote:
Hackwar wrote:
The idea behind this proposal is not to change the underlying Section/category system, since this is a big task and I personally would postpone that to 1.7. However, I'd like to see the interface a bit more simple and in that area, we could already make big steps toward the system that I would implement in 1.7. Again, this is making the interface easier, maybe more intuitive.


I think one the main reasons why joomla is so succesfull, is that is simple to use und good looking. So every effort in this direction is very welcome.

I would like to suggest, if you are trying to simplify the interface, why not move the administration/ representation of sections und categories in the article manager.
This would allow a user to see the whole content structure of his site and the content.

regards
guenter


Exactly what I have been talking about too. ;) There is some progress making a module of browsing from Orware where you also have a Joomla subcategory patch http://www.orware.net/ Joomla usability discussions http://forum.joomla.org/viewtopic.php?f=304&t=377189

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PostPosted: Fri May 22, 2009 8:19 am 
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guenter 1234 wrote:
A nice visualisation about this topic was posted here: http://forum.joomla.org/viewtopic.php?f=500&t=278723

Credits go to Mario for this one ....

Image


Problem before I know with Orwares solution is that you couldnt really see the menu hierarchies levels correctly and thats a problem if you have subcategories with the same name.

I will test his new version for J 1.5.10 coming out very soon with ArtCats module.

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PostPosted: Fri May 22, 2009 10:20 am 
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The new category system and the removal of sections has been implemented in 1.6 already.

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PostPosted: Fri May 22, 2009 4:14 pm 
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Hackwar wrote:
The new category system and the removal of sections has been implemented in 1.6 already.


pls where can I download an alpha one for testing it ? I cannot see any source code in http://developer.joomla.org/code.html and in tracker items http://joomlacode.org/gf/project/joomla ... er_id=6405 there is no possible link for doing it... :-[

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PostPosted: Fri May 22, 2009 4:23 pm 
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There is no alpha yet. You have to make a checkout from SVN.

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PostPosted: Fri May 22, 2009 5:04 pm 
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Well great to see the progress and its many thing I can imagine that is changing under the hood.

You can use Tortoise SVN and paste http://joomlacode.org/svn/joomla/development/trunk to dl it.

See that section search plugin is still there and for me I get error not working in manger of categories yet.

I dl latest commits and play around a bit but I it would be nice if it also could use Omar Ramos sub category patch with ArtCats module. I have an error and could not test how well it work for creating categories and unlimited subcategories unfortunately.

Maybe I missed something that will be better for J 1.6 than his patch for J 1.5.10?

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