Archive for September, 2006

Want to use the main menu module with images?

If you have ever wanted to use images as menu items without hacking the main menu module this is for you. You can do this all in the template. First turn on output buffering, then send the buffer to a callback function which will find the menu links and swap them out for your image links.

Here are the steps. Open the index.php file for the template you want to use and right before the HTML tag put in the php function ob_start(“callback”) – callback being the name of the function you will use – and at the very end of the file put in ob_end_flush(). Now just include the callback function somewhere before you start the buffer and you’re done.

Here’s what the function does: First it will load info on every menu item. Then for each menu item it will check the parameters to see if a menu image has been assigned – in the administrator, choose to edit the menu item and under parameters assign an image from the images/stories directory. Usually if an image is assigned to that parameter it will show up to either the left or right of the link. This changes that. If an image is assigned the function will create the text link to search for and the new image link then it executes the swap. After it runs through every menu item it just returns the buffer which prints out to the browser. Pretty basic and you’ll probably have to do some tweaking to get it just right for yourself but it’s a nice way to use images without hacking any core files. Oh, and if you’re just looking to use non web safe fonts then couple this method with a text-to-image conversion script and dynamically generate images from the menu item name. You could also use this with content headings or module headings or just about anything. Have fun.

Here’s the callback function, put it above ob_start(): Download


PICnet wins award for Womens Edge Web site!

WebAwardAs if working with a great organization wasn’t enough, today we found out that PICnet won an award for Non-Profit Standard of Excellence from the Web Marketing Association for our work on the Women’s Edge Coalition Web site. We couldn’t be more honored to share a wonderful award like this with our friends at WEC, and we’re excited to see it recognized among names like UNHCR and others.

Congratulations to PICnetters Pradeep Suthram and Ryan Belisle for all their hard work, and Anu Palan and Phoebe Lee from the Women’s Edge Coalition!


Democracy in Action offers 15% discount to all new PICnet or Soapbox clients

Democracy in ActionWho said Mondays were no good? Our good friends at Democracy in Action have just told us that all new or current PICnet or Non-Profit Soapbox clients who don’t currently use the DIA system can receive a 15% discount on setup fees when signing up with Democracy in Action. For those of you thinking about making the switch over from your old Access/Excel/pencil and paper databases, now might be a good time to hop on board the DIA system.

For more information about their pricing for organizations of all shapes and sizes, check out their pricing page here.


Firing the open source canons

We at PICnet are pretty strong open source supporters. Now, I wouldn’t call any of us open source evangelists, which would describe some open source proponents that believe in using open source technology for its own sake. Instead, we believe that there’s often tools needed for different jobs, and open source tools tend to be tools that can help both the individual organization as well as the larger community.

When it comes to business mentors, I wouldn’t put Robert Kiyosaki (aka Rich Dad’s son) at the top of my list. However, in cruising the iTunes store recently I came across his podcast and found an interesting segment from a focus group of his. In this clip, he brings forward the discussion of the information economy, and how it differs from the industrial economy. More specifically, he talks about the differences between castle builders and canon builders.

For instance, if we put Microsoft into the castle, who tries hard to build walls to protect their intellectual property rights, then the people firing the canons at the castle are the open source developers who are throwing away the old ideas of intellectual property rights. If people continue to fire canons at the castles, the castles are forced to spend more time protecting their investments (i.e. hiring lawyers, patent attorneys, etc), whereas smaller and more nible canon builders can focus on the cutting edge technology to keep feeding the market’s needs.

I’m not sure I’d put PICnet in either boat, but it’s an interesting clip to watch and think about. What does your organization or company do? Build castles or canons? Where’s the future?


Form and Function

As a the newest of the PICnetters, my blog postings are bound to be a little pedestrian, at least until I get up to speed. But one thing has struck me immediately about the Joomla system: its philosophy.

As an internet user — and, in a distant previous life, programmer — I always thought that a web site was a collection of web pages, and that those web pages, as a set, constituted the content. Think about pages, I figured, and the content would flow therefrom.

But Joomla! works better. Forget individual web pages. The internet is about delivering content to users — showing stuff to people — and focusing on the delivery vessel, the page, is wrongheaded. We all know that “form follows function” — or, as Frank Lloyd Wright claimed, “Form follows function — that has been misunderstood. Form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union.”

Within Joomla!, architecture is driven by content; pages exist because the content does; you decide on what the content should be, and the pages follow naturally. At the risk of sounding overblown, they are “one, joined in a spiritual union.”


Understanding Joomla templates functions

There comes a time when your designer decides its time to dive into learning Joomla templates. One of the things that will likely confuse any designer right away is understanding what options are available for loading content into the template. Below is a handy reference list of all the functions available to designers.

  • mosLoadComponent
  • mosCountModules
  • mosLoadModules
  • mosShowHead
  • mosMainBody

Now these functions are good to know, but what’s even more confusing is figuring out how the modules you embed in your template will be displayed. For this, look no further than the Joomla help manual. The different parameters for displaying module can be found in the help manual and below.

Take this: mosLoadModules( $position_name [, $style] )

…and add the following in place of $style:

  • 0 = (default display) Modules are displayed in a column.
  • 1 = Modules are displayed horizontally. Each module is output in the cell of a wrapper table.
  • -1 = Modules are displayed as raw output and without titles.
  • -2 = Modules are displayed in X-Joomla format.
  • -3 = Modules are displayed in a format that allows, for example, stretchable rounded corners.


Sisters of Mercy launches new site developed by PICnet

Sisters of MercyAfter a few months of hard labour, we are happy to announce the launch of our latest Web site for Sisters of Mercy. For this project, we collaborated with our friends at SirenDC, a stategic consulting firm in Washington, DC, that produced both the design and strategy for the new site.

We encourage you all to take a look at the new site and learn more about this wonderful organization. This site is fully loaded with Flash, multi-lingual components, a variety of user interaction points, and much more. We hope you enjoy viewing as much as we enjoyed building it.


Forcing mosCE to not show template background color in WYSIWYG editor

JCE EditorLet’s say you’ve got a beautiful template that you’ve created, and it has a bright orange background. Of course, the text area itself is white, but the body tag has a background color of orange associated with it. Well, if you want to use the mosCE editor for Joomla (our favorite editor by far, and its younger brother JCE), and you want your administrators to be able to use the custom styles in the dropdown menu provided in the mosCE toolbar, you need to tell mosCE configuration to not override your template’s CSS.

This is problematic though, because now mosCE is going to make your WYSIWYG background the same color of the body tag in your template: bright orange! Before your administrator goes crazy trying to type white text on an orange background, PICnetter Chris Garvis found an awesome solution: add the following to your template_css.css file:

/* Style of mosCE editor */ body.mceContentBody { background-color: #FFFFFF !important; background-image: none; }

Viola, your editor now has a nice white background to drop your text on.


Give that category some content if you want to see a description

After a few minutes of banging heads against walls trying to determine why a blogcategory was not showing a category’s beautiful description we’d created for it, we determined that in order to show category descriptions in Joomla, you need to have at least one item in the category.

Give your category some content articles, and it will give you a description.


A Good Comparison of Open Source CMSes for Non-Profits

IdealwareWhen Laura Quinn from Idealware approached me a while ago about an idea for a review of the top open source CMSes for non-profits, I thought to myself, “she’s really going to get herself into a mess.” Instead, Laura’s done a very admiral job of keeping Joomla, Drupal, and Plone in their corners, without too much blood on the mat.

Laura collaborated with Brett Bonfield to create Comparing Open Source CMSes: Joomla, Drupal, and Plone which was released this morning. This is a great read, an even keel and unbiased reporting of their views on the big three. I think we in Joomla can learn a lot from this report, and look forward to your comments and further review.

I think they hit the Joomla difference on the head when they wrote:

Joomla strives for power in simplicity. Its programmers believe that anyone with a bit of technical know-how should have no problem setting up and maintaining a website. They have created a tool that is friendly, comparatively easy to get started with, and prioritizes ease of use.