Only a month after 8.3 was released follows 8.4 with an exciting new feature… the Template Customizer. All the premium templates have long supported the ability to be tweaked by adding options to the [connections]. For a long time now I’ve known this is not the best way to handle this as it can be complex and very intimidating, especially to those not familiar with shortcodes and how they work. Even experienced users can have a hard time due to the shear number of options available in some templates. For example, the Circled template has over 70 shortcode options. I’ve looked at several ways to better handle this and for the longest time, the way I thought would be the right way has eluded me. But no more.
WordPress introduced the Theme Customizer in version 3.4, and in each version since, they have further enhanced its capabilities, adding more and more to what can be customized. It is very obvious that this is the way forward if you’re a theme developer. I recently took a look at the Theme Customizer and I was very impressed. It made me wonder if it would be possible that this could be utilized to provide the ability to easily customize the templates for Connections. So I rolled up my sleeves and the Template Customizer was born. To see what it is all about, take a few minutes to watch the video.
Finally, a simple to use, fully interactive, point and click interface for customizing the templates. No more trial and error. No more wondering exactly what a shortcode option does!
I know many of you have become accustomed to and depend on the template shortcode options… So what is going to happen to all the shortcode options for the templates? The good news is that they are not going away, just greatly deemphasized. Under the hood, the way it’ll work is that the Template Customizer will set the template shortcode option defaults. If you choose, you can then use the template shortcode options to override those defaults per shortcode instance.
What this means to a novice is that they get an interactive point and click interface which will make it extremely easy to tweak the million and one template options. For the advanced user, they can set their own template defaults using the Template Customizer, and when they use the shortcode, they will still have the option to use the template shortcode options to override the settings set by the Template Customizer. For example, you can set up Slim Plus to be close to what you need globally, and on individual pages where you might need specific tweaks, you can use the shortcode options to make those tweaks.
The other notable new feature in this version is that the Default Entry Card template was completely rewritten to take advantage of the Template Customizer. Many of the little changes and tweaks that I’m asked how to do in the support forums are now built as options in the template which can be easily used with Template Customizer. Because the default template is now very configurable several of the other free templates that came with Connections became redundant and have been removed. If you were using one of the removed templates the default template will now be used in its place. For pretty much everyone this change will be transparent but if you need one of the old templates for any reason a free extension, Legacy Templates, is available. After the Legacy Template extension is installed and activated the removed template will be restored and available for use again.
Checkout the full changelog to see all the changes in version 8.4.