Segue 2 – The home stretch begins.

Segue 2 logoWe’ve recently announced our migration plans to the campus: We’ll be rolling out Segue 2 in mid-August for production use in the fall semester.

I’ve now been working on Segue 2 directly or indirectly for 5 years, since June 2003. It has been a long road and it is wonderful to finally be cresting the last rise. That said, as the feature-request tracker indicates, we still have a lot to do over the next 12 weeks.

This past week I rebuilt the theming system for the 4th (and last before production) time. The challenge with the theming system is that we wanted to enable end-users to choose from a few straight-forward options for things like ‘overall color scheme’, ‘font size’, corner-treatment — not all of which mapped cleanly to CSS properties. As well, to enable more powerful themes, we needed to let theme developers wrap each content type with HTML tags in order to get some effects that are just not possible with plain CSS when the dimensions of the element are not known. Our first three theming implementations involved different PHP classes for each theme with method for setting various options. Each implementation had its own strengths and weaknesses, but they were all hideously complex and required theme developers to know PHP in order to do more than change the CSS. The new theme implementation scraps all of that complexity and defines themes as a set of CSS files and HTML templates, with associated images. An extension to this simple base adds an option listing (defined in XML) that enables placeholders in the CSS and HTML templates to be replaced with values from end-user-choose-able options.

With the new theming system in place in development Alex has set to work building the first three (Rounded Corners, Shadow Box, and Tabs) of the themes that will be distributed with Segue while I’ve been finishing up the user-interfaces for choosing theme options and enabling more advanced users to customize the theme CSS and HTML in their web-browser. So far Alex and I are pretty happy with the new theming system and its simplicity should give it much longer legs than our previous attempts.

While it won’t make it to production, I eventually plan to have a theme-gallery that users can choose to publish their designs to for use by the rest of the community.

Up Next
With theming out of the way the following are some of the next areas I’ll be working on in addition to fixing bugs and working out smaller kinks:

  • Templates – starting points for sites
  • Enabling embedded videos from trusted sites (i.e. YouTube, Vimeo, etc)
  • Visitor Registration
  • Copy/Move tools for Classic Mode
  • Display of RSS feeds

Still a lot to do, but with each addition Segue 2 gets much closer to being able to take over as the primary course website system.

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