The word on the internet is that DNN 7.0 is about to drop any day now. I’ve been following this one quite closely since the DNN World conference (a month ago now, how time flies!) and I’ve been doing extensive compatibility testing with my software.
In that space of time and testing, there are some things about DNN 7 that I think hit the ‘hey, that’s neat’ gong quite loudly. So that’s what this post is all about. Just a highlights package from my point of view, if you haven’t managed to see it yet.
Thing 1 : The new install and upgrade wizards
There was a time when everyone seemed to agree that installing DotNetNuke was a tough task fit only for the bravest of souls. I didn’t ever really think that way, because the whole idea of a self-installing and self-upgrading web application was the stuff of fantasy not that long ago. I mean, I can remember the day when you had to register COM components and restart IIS to get stuff to run. I hope you, the reader, have no idea what I just said because that means the industry has made vast gains. DotNetNuke itself was always an easy thing to get going, but now it is dead simple and informative.
How so? Well, the installer is a one-page set of questions, many of which are pre-answered. And then, you click ‘go’, and it whizzes through, installs all the various parts and then gives you a new screen with a couple of options – either explore more about the platform, or just let you dive straight in and get going. And, just like in DNN 6, when you’ve finished the install, you’re already logged in. Nice.
Above : The final page of the new installer.
The new installer looks, feels and is very slick.
But that’s not all. The Upgrade Wizard of DotNetNuke was always a poor cousin to the installer – the old upgrade page used to just run a set of code, and when finished, give you a link to visit the site. Functional but not particularly pleasant to look at. And then there was the problem of the wrong person unexpectedly tripping the upgrade.
All that is in the past. DotNetNuke 7.0 now has an upgrade wizard with the same look and feel as the install wizard. With the added feature of being required to log in as a super user account in order to start the wizard off. Having done multiple upgrades with software testing now, I like everything about the upgrade wizard.
Thing 2 : Auto Save
We’ve all done it : typed in a whole mess of content, fixed this, nudged that, and then – wham! – something like a browser crash, an accidental close – anything that loses your data. No more. With the Text/Html module, your content can be auto-saved as you type. No more lost content. Much fewer curse words being sent in the direction of DotNetNuke installs. A real positive step forwards.
Thing 3 : Default View Mode
Now here’s where things really start to get revolutionary. For as far back as I can recall, when you logged into a DotNetNuke site as an administrator or content editor, the site went into ‘Edit’ mode. I’m sure you’re familiar with edit mode. Lots of menus here, there and everywhere. On the majority of skins, a rather broken looking layout. Slow page load times because there is a million little bits of edit code being sent down to the browser while you drum your fingers on the table.
DotNetNuke 7.0 now defaults to ‘View Mode’ – which, despite the fancy name – just means the content, by default, looks as it will to the site visitors. And, because it defaults to ‘View Mode’, the old ‘View Mode’ wording/button/control – it’s gone now. It’s just the normal view, or edit or layout views. Simple.
Above : Accessing the page settings and editing the page using the ‘Edit Page’ menu
It might feel unintuitive to the seasoned DotNetNuke user at first, but to the newly-introduced, it works well. It really works well. When I go back to editing a DNN 6 site, the old way feels broken. That’s a sure sign of progress to me.
Thing 4 : Drag and Drop
Along with the way of editing a page having changed, something else has also radically changed. Since, well, forever, DotNetNuke has had the concept of adding a module to a page. You’ve always selected the module by name, and then clicked ‘add’. There’s been different variations of this – you could add directly to specific panes, copy modules from other pages, and so on.
But now there is something new. You select the thing you want to add (Text/Html module) then you drag a copy of that to the place on the page you want it. That’s it – couldn’t be simpler or more intuitive. To me it is very elegant in operation because not only are you putting things where you want, but the page expands dynamically to show where the insert will be.
Above : Dragging an instance of the Html module onto a pane on the page. The light-blue highlighted rectangle shows where the drop will take place and the content will be created.
Thing 5 : Control Panel
Our last thing is again UI related. And it’s another update of the Control Panel. I was pretty happy with the Ribbon bar in DNN 6, but things have been significantly moved on yet again. It’s not just the drag-and-drop modules, or the new Edit Page access, it’s the very way the Admin/Host modules are organised. I haven’t looked for a while, but back in the old DNN days there really wasn’t that many admin modules. But they grow over time and now there is a very long list of them. And it does get difficult to find the one you’re looking for in a maze of iconography.
So the new DNN 7 control panel uses the concept of common, less common and user-configurable areas. Or, in plain-speak, things you use all the time, things you don’t, and a place where you can make your own list.
Above : The Host Menu in the Control Panel. The three icons on the left are Common, Advanced and Bookmarked. So very common actions like installing extensions or using the File Manager are close at hand. Less frequent tasks like configuring Google Analytics are in the Advanced section. And the bookmarked section allows you to bookmark the things that you use more often.
Again, for the seasoned DotNetNuke professional there is a small learning bump because things have moved around. But once you’re over that, it’s more productive.
5 points of praise in a row might sound like a shallow review. But I’m not enamoured with every change. All the standard core icons have changed to a very flat, two-tone scheme in line with the Microsoft Metro direction. And I think the lack of color sours things. I like a bit of color. Anyone following me on twitter has probably seen me griping about the direction of Visual Studio 2012 in the same way. As someone who started on single-tone computer monitors, it’s difficult to convince me that dumping 30 years of color-monitor development is a serious step forwards. But I suppose someone might give it a good try.
One conclusion really : get DNN 7 as soon as you can.
Sure, it requires more modern IIS and ASP.NET runtimes, so you can’t run it on an old IIS6 machine. Think of it as a positive step forwards. A very good reason to investigate that new hosting deal or find a new server for your site. But get on the upgrade path as soon as you can. You’ll agree with me : DNN 7 is a very solid step forwards for the platform.
NOTE : iFinity Url Master customers will need to upgrade their Url Master version with the upcoming 2.7 version before upgrading their DotNetNuke site to 7.0. This information will be published very soon.
You can watch the cool launch video here:
DNN 7.0 : Simply Beautiful, Simply Powerful