Forum OpenACS Development: who can help newbies using templating system

Hi folks,

I tried to make sense of the ideas behind templates in ACS. I
understand the basic concept, but, how do I go about applying it to
my own needs. I am sure many newbies will have the same question.
Would it be possible to organize an on-line bootcamp on this subject?
(how to build your template from scratch).

In my vision it would mean "students" would present their "user case"
(I will publish mine tomorrow) in plain English and the folks that
are familiar with the templatting system would help us to make sense
out of the theory currently in the docs. These cases could help the
next generation of ACS users.( I notice increasing registrations on
the site by the way) to find there way through the system, and I am
convinced it will help market OpenACS. <p>

It may be the start of an OpenACS userguide in 10 steps.

Ben, sounds like a great idea.
Posted by Ben Koot on
This is the current intro to the templating system: The template system is designed to be used by two classes of users: programmers and designers. In bulding a web site, programmers are generally responsible for defining and implementing the application logic of the site, while designers are more responsible for the presentation. Generally speaking, the application logic generates data for the presentation to display to the user. The template system must provide mechanisms that supports both of these tasks and allows the designer and programmer to work seperately, but for their work to be combined at runtime into something that the user sees as a single page.

My suggestion would be to add a third party, the folks that will be using it in the end, and that are looking for relatively easy sollutions for everyday problems. Afterall those are the folks that will contact designers. A kind of reverse communication maybe, but if OpenACS gains momentum, not ilogical. I am getting this kind of questions from corporate secretaries for example, neither developer, nor designer, but faced with a question form a "pointed headed boss", hey Jane, just get this solved.... If the secretary would be able to play around, and than walk into the designers office to ask for a professional update, that would be great.

Posted by Jeff Davis on
Use cases would be great.  I just went through and rationalized a
most of the packages templating and now need to write up what was done (and in the
process hopefully establish a "best practices" guide based on actual
One thing I have been thinking about is trying to pull out the current
hard coded font and other physical markup and add a reasonable
style sheet to the default master.  It would be useful to know what
designers have had to do to get things looking the way they want
and how much of that we can streamline by being a little bit
thoughtful with the basic templated pages we provide on a vanilla install.
Posted by Ben Koot on
what would be usefull is the change fonts function as used here...
Posted by Dave Bauer on

I am curious about your desire to have end users programming templates. I think what you are really looking for is an end user application built with OpenACS. This really requires a programmer. OpenACS is a web application development toolkit. Most of the resources of the community go to making it a better developer's toolkit. What we don't want to do is make one user interface for end users. Well, it would be nice to have a good default UI, but the focus of OpenACS is to make a tool that a programmer can build an application with.

Please feel free to ask any questions, I don't want to discourage you at all, I have been learning quite a bit about the templating system, and I will help in any way I can. I just wanted to let you know that you need a programmer who knows Tcl to customize OpenACS.

Posted by Ben Koot on
A good start could be :

How to Customize Your Site
If you want to customize the look of your website, the easiest way to start is to edit the template that gets wrapped around every page. The master template is the file /web/openacs-4/www/default-master.adp. An ADP file is almost like HTML, except with a few extra bells and whistles (learn more).

Why not add a few sample layouts, instead of dragging people deeper into a crash course on how the templatting systems works? Th e fiirst 2 questions newbies will have are :

1. How do I get rid of this default.
2. How do I add the modules I want to use.

Why not have a drop-downbox with available modules, and a section redirecting to automatic upload. That would also eliminate to much detailed discussion about the datamodel. All an end user is interested in is a choice of functionality. I feel this is something that's missing at he moment. I.e, if I need a Bbord, I sellect bboard, and it's available to my usergroup. In a simple setting a usergroup would translate back into a (corporate) website, so irespective of the design, a site manager could add fuctinality by adding a URL

Posted by Jeff Davis on
Ben, I think there is still a lot of work to do before we can use style sheets to comprehensively change the look of the site but I agree it would be a great thing to have. Another place to read about this is at

Another good thing to get to would be to have a media=print stylesheet rather than having to have custom "printable" versions of pages. (cf )

Ben, I think you are looking for the Site and Content Administrators Guide --Unfortunately, it's not written yet =(

The data model is described in context with the templates, because the templates are being described in the Developer documentation, where data modelling is important.

I am collecting notes from the discussions (and existing documentation) for creating new documents geared to End-users and Site/Content Administrators. Here is the status (based on my failing memory from when I worked on it last week):

  1. Document writers' style guide is in draft (basically, a summary of existing documentation and implicit practices)
  2. OpenACS End-Users guide: Draft Requirements and topics are done. Next: Create outline and write.
  3. OpenACS Site and Administrators guide: Collecting, organizing, and simplifying the requirements and topics. (This thread is added in here now).

Once the new boards are formed, I'll post what I've done, so everyone can directly contribute to it. Until then, know that the board discussions that relate to these topics are being "harvested" for notes, final copy etc.

Once those two documents have stabilized, I'll help with the Beginning Developers Guide that has been started at:

Posted by Ben Koot on
Hi folks,

for the start of the administrators and enduser guide, part of Incase you have access / permission problems, let me know. I haven't looked at the settings yet.

Posted by Ben Koot on
Oops,. you may want this link