Thursday, October 3, 2013

Add a comment engine to your gallery in less than a minute

The new UI Templates feature in Gallery Server Pro 3 lets you modify the look and behavior of a gallery using only HTML and JavaScript skills. This opens up a wide variety of opportunities to customize the gallery to your requirements. One example is the e-commerce demo site, which was created by changing a few settings and playing with the UI templates.

A frequent request is to allow comments on media objects. We may someday add this as native functionality, but there is an excellent alternative today that may be even better depending on your scenario. Facebook provides a comment widget that provides full commenting ability, even if you don’t have a Facebook account. When enabled, every media object has its own comment thread. Here is what it looks like (live demo here):


Enterprise Edition makes it easy

The Enterprise Edition of Gallery Server Pro includes two Facebook templates – one for the comment engine and one for ‘liking’ media objects. If you are using the GPL Free or GPL Pro editions you can still add commenting – skip to that section below.

  1. Be sure you have the Enterprise Edition by checking the Site Settings – General page as a site administrator:


  2. Go to the UI Templates page. Select MediaObject from the gallery item dropdown and ‘Default with Facebook Comments Widget’ from the name dropdown.


  3. This template is identical to the default template except it contains some extra HTML and JavaScript for the comment engine. You don’t have to do anything with it – it’s already good to go. All you need to do is enable this template and disable the default one. Do this by clicking the Target Albums tab and selecting the albums you want the comment engine on. Then click Save.


  4. Now select the Default template, uncheck the albums, and save.


That’s it! Browse to a media object and notice the Facebook comment widget is activated. If you have a persistent Facebook cookie in your browser, it will automatically recognize you:


Notice the checkbox for posting to Facebook. When selected, the comment will appear on your wall. To prevent this, uncheck it.

If you are not logged in to Facebook, you are given an opportunity to log in to Facebook or several other websites:


One caveat is that your gallery must be publicly accessible to Facebook. If Facebook can’t see the URL, you’ll see a message like this:


Facebook must be able to see the URL so it can properly associate the comments to correct media objects.

Add Facebook comment engine to GPL Free and GPL Pro editions

The Facebook-enabled UI template is not included in the GPL Free and GPL Pro editions, but those versions fully support changes to the UI templates, so if you do a little digging you can add the HTML and JavaScript yourself. I suggest starting at the facebook developers page, where you can get the necessary snippets of code to add to the UI template.

There is one hint I will give that will be immensely helpful. After you add the embed code from Facebook to your template, you may notice the commenting works on the first media object but when you click next or previous, it fails to work on the remaining objects in the album. That’s because those objects are loaded via JavaScript and the Facebook parser only runs on page load. To force the Facebook API to recognize new media objects as you browse them, add this to the end of the JavaScript in your UI template:

$('#{{:Settings.MediaClientId}}').on('next.{{:Settings.ClientId}} previous.{{:Settings.ClientId}}', function() {
if (typeof (FB) != 'undefined') FB.XFBML.parse();


And there you have it. Adding a robust commenting engine to your gallery takes just a few clicks and no .NET or C# skills, nor do you have to recompile or deploy any code.

The Enterprise Edition also includes templates for ‘liking’ media objects as well as PayPal shopping cart functionality. I’ll dig into the PayPal templates in a future post.


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