Friday, April 17, 2009

Preview of Gallery Server Pro 2.3

There are  number of exciting new features coming in GSP 2.3 that expand on the already robust enterprise-level capabilities in Gallery Server Pro. Your feedback has been the driving force in telling me what areas I need to focus on. Please continue using the forum to let me what can be done better, what isn't working, and - if you are so inclined - what you really like!

I am targeting a release date of May 31 for 2.3. Nearly all the features and bug fixes are complete. I am now in the testing phase and working on the Upgrade Wizard. There are a few database changes which require a  SQL script, and I will make sure the Upgrade Wizard handles it all for you. This takes time but I am committed to making the path to 2.3 as robust and painless as possible.

New features in 2.3:

  • Faster, lighter pages - Page size has been reduced up to 25% and the number of HTTP requests reduced up to 25%.
  • Album ownership.
  • Self-registration.
  • User albums - An album can be automatically created and assigned to each user. The user owns that album with customizable permissions for managing its contents. This is great for community sites!
  • Paging of thumbnail images in an album.
  • Download multiple media objects in a ZIP file.
  • Option to automatically delete the high resolution original image after upload, preserving only the thumbnail and compressed version.
  • Allow recursive deletion of the high resolution images from an album.
  • Clicking the download button for an image downloads the original image, not the compressed image.
  • Error logging.
  • Option to make an album private when it is created.
  • Support SSL encryption of e-mails.
  • Remove dependence on modifying global.asax when integrating into an existing ASP.NET application.
  • Rounded corners of thumbnails and other objects (unfortunately, IE does not support this).
  • Navigate back and forth using the left and right arrow keys instead of Enter and Shift-Enter.
  • Allow a gallery to be built from a read-only directory.
  • Support for .divx files.
  • Play .avi and .wvx videos in the browser instead of creating a hyperlink.
  • Show .pdf files in an inline frame.
  • Show a hyperlink to easily open MS Word files instead of displaying the message "Your browser cannot display this media object...".
  • Add support for .rtf files.
  • Allow deleting albums in addition to media objects on the Delete objects page.
  • Use of jQuery for advanced client effects.
  • Almost all settings in galleryservepro.config now exposed in the Admin Site Settings area.
  • Several other usability enhancements...

Many of these features are controlled by new switches that allow you to revert to the previous behavior if desired. So if you don't want to allow self-registration, just don't enable that feature.

In addition, there are several dozen bug fixes that improve reliability, performance, and the user experience.

I will give a brief overview of a few of the most significant changes.

Album ownership

Administrators can assign any user as the owner of an album. By default, owners can add, edit, and delete objects within the album. The permissions given to owners are defined in a template role named _Album Owner Template and can be easily changed using the Manage Roles page in the Site Admin area.

You can assign the owner on the Edit album info dialog window, as seen here:

Screenshot of edit album dialog

In previous version of GSP you could accomplish the same thing, but you first had to create a role with the desired permissions, attach it to the album, and then add the user. This required going into the Site Admin area and navigating between two different pages. The new technique is cleaner and simpler. Behind the scenes, GSP is still creating that role for you, but now you don't have to worry about the details.

Self registration and user albums

You can allow users to create their own accounts and optionally to automatically create an album that each user owns. When enabled, a create account link appears in the top right that takes the user to a registration wizard:

Screenshot of create user page


There are a number of configuration options, which are accessible on a new page in the Site Admin area called User Settings:

Screenshot of user settings


Rounded corners and downloading objects in ZIP

For 2.3, I broke one of my cardinal rules of web development: target the web standards, not particular browsers. This is generally good advice, but there is great support for adding rounded corners in almost all major browsers using proprietary CSS tags. Rounded corners are so simple to implement, and look so nice, that I just had to do it. Almost every HTML element that previously had square corners now gets a beautiful rounded treatment handled by the browser, not a bunch of image slices. Check it out:

Screenshot of rounded corner

Unfortunately, Internet Explorer, even IE8, does not support rounded corners. This omission in IE8 was a big disappointment, but those of you using other browsers (Firefox, Safari, Chrome) will see elegant shapes in your gallery.

In addition, there is a button for downloading the objects in an album in a ZIP file. Clicking the button takes you to a page where you can select one or more media objects or child albums in the current album. The objects you select are zipped up and sent to the user in a convenient ZIP file.


Album paging

When an album contains hundreds of objects, it can take a long time to load and become difficult to navigate. There is a new paging option so that only a small number of objects are loaded at a time. Here you can see what happens when the page size is set to eight:

Screenshot of paging

Clicking the next or previous button initiates a lightweight AJAX callback to load the next page. Once a page is loaded, it is stored in the local cache for lightning-quick response. You can change the page size to your preference, including whether you want the paging controls at the top, bottom, or top *and* bottom.


Error logging

A new table now stores any errors for later review by administrators. In addition, more information is collected and the e-mail has a more pleasant formatting.

Screenshot of error log


Improved PDF handling

PDF documents are now shown in an inline frame. How cool is that!

Screenshot of new PDF handling


These are just a few of the many improvements! As always, thank you for your donations - you are what keeps this project alive. Peace.


Dave Burke said...

Great update features, Roger. PDF viewing, paging and album ownership are HUGE! Wow.

I'm also happy you are looking at performance. I'm certainly not complaining about GSP's performance. I have always thought GSP's performance was very good, but I would agree that it can be improved even more.

The exception reports look great, too.

Two questions/observations for you.

1) Is RSS support is in your roadmap anywhere? I think that would be a great addition.

2) Any plans of expanding inline viewing to .TXT and .HTM files? The inability to view simple text files, for instance, seems like a shortcoming. A simple link to view certain file types in another tab would do the job. On that subject, the ability to view photos and other typically oversized media objects in their own tab/window would be very welcome from my perspective. Inline viewing is difficult to accommodate in most themes, IMO.

Thanks for the update and for all of your excellent work. It's a real pleasure working with Gallery Server Pro.

Best regards,

Roger Martin said...

RSS support won't be a part of 2.3, but it is near the top of the list for the next version.

I think it is fair to use the term "oversight" to describe the lack of inline rendering for .txt and .htm files. This should be pretty easy to do by adding an HTML template in galleryserverpro.config to render these files in an iframe tag, much like I am doing with the new PDF handling. I will look into sneaking this into 2.3.

Marc said...

The new release looks great - a must have for me! :) I am specially interested in the enhanced movie-integration.

During the next weeks I'll give the integration of lightbox 2 a try - didn't find time yet for doing this.


Roger Martin said...

BTW, I was able to sneak in support for TXT and HTML files in 2.3. Thanks for the nudge!

Dave Burke said...

Thanks for the TXT and HTML support. I'm really looking forward to upgrading! Good luck with landing contract stuff soon. btw, I have Micro-ISV sitting on my bookshelf. Thanks for the recommendation.