Last November saw the release of TYPO3 version 6.0 and as we’ve upgraded some of our clients we’ve been playing around with some of the new features. Here are 6 things that should make life much easier for coders and content editors using TYPO3.
Developers will notice a much improved file management system in the FAL, a cleaner Extension Manager and configuration file and also the use of PHP namespaces. Content editors get an overhauled interface that makes it much easier to manage page elements along with some in-depth documentation to help news users of the CMS.
1. Welcome the FAL
The biggest talking point about version 6 is the creation of the FAL, otherwise known as the File Abstraction Layer, for managing media files. Now an image or document only has to be uploaded to the web server once and is available to use multiple times throughout the site. This single instance of a media file can also have extensive meta data added to it; a description, keywords, permissions, even copyright information. So every time that file is used, it’s data goes along with it, making it much simpler for editors to keep track of images and update them from a single location.
Another bonus is that the FAL supports files stored in the cloud and editors can create references to images stored on Amazon S3 or Dropbox. Everything’s geared towards preventing a site’s server becoming bogged down with thousands of media files that no-one’s sure whether they’re being used or not.
2. New config file
The TYPO3 global configuration settings are now stored in LocalConfiguration.php. Not wildly exciting, but for us web geeks it means everything’s stored in a nice, simply array with extensions in a readable list rather than one long blob of text - much easier for reordering or deleting extensions. Any configuration overrides are also now stored in a separate file keeping LocalConfiguration as clean as possible.
3. PHP namespaces
Developers will also be glad to hear that TYPO3 6.0 introduces PHP 5.3 namespaces making for much more structured classes, with core classes divided into core, frontend and backend scopes. Extension developers will find it much easier to integrate their products with TYPO3 installations.
Note that 6.0 supports old style calls to core classes but these will redirect to the new class format and will no longer be supported in 6.2 - make sure your extensions are up-to-date!
4. Extension Manager overhauled
The Extension Manager is used to add, set-up or remove various add-ons in a TYPO3 installation and version 6.0 has seen this area completely redesigned and rebuilt, making it much easier to use. Previously, it was a long table of installed and available extensions within the TYPO3 installation, grouped arbitrarily with several confusing drop-downs to carry out different tasks. Now the list can be ordered by whatever column you wish and extensions can be installed or deleted with a single click.
Searching for an extension is also a lot less painful with the keyword search box responding to client-side input and updating the results on the fly. TYPO3 has never had the slickest user interface so it’s encouraging to see the attention to detail and some whizzy instant feedback finally being used in the CMS.
5. Improved content editing
In older versions of TYPO3 the stone cold grey of the page view offered very little clues about content structure but with version 6.0 there’s a move to space things out and make complicated pages much more editor friendly.
One cool touch is in the page view. Now, rolling over content elements highlights that particular element. Sounds like a small thing but it makes navigating page content much, much easier, especially if you’ve got boxes within boxes within boxes and you want to see which box wraps what content.
6. Better documentation
One of the main advantages of working with a more widely used CMS like Wordpress or Joomla is the amount of support available online. If you need to know how something works or want to build an extension to achieve something specific, changes are a quick Google search will lead you to a forum or tutorial of how to do it. TYPO3 is, shall we say, much more ‘niche’ and unless your German’s up to scratch then you’re unlikely to find much help.
Thankfully, with the release of version 6.0 there’s been a big effort to offer much more in-depth documentation on a wide range of TYPO3 subjects. The online TYPO3 documentation resource has been significantly improved with more accessible manuals and tutorials aimed at editors instead of only offering technical detail for developers.
Here are a few useful highlights...
Editor’s Guide - A simple introduction to the TYPO3 backend with screenshots on how pages are structured and the different content elements available.
Security Guide - Many clients are naturally concerned with security when considering using TYPO3 as their CMS. This detailed resource looks at the security risks that threaten any CMS and offers guidelines on prevention and back-up strategies.
FAL Reference - A look at TYPO3’s new File Abstraction Layer architecture and API.