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Frequently Asked Questions v2


Browse: How-To Tutorials

0. Alerts/Mailman Integration
1. How to show integers but not show 0?
2. How to display archive (expired items)?
3. How do I create a Reader Mamagement logout function?
4. How do I set up Htaccess permissions sync with Reader Management?
5. two level menu view
6. How to create a simple email alert module
7. MultiLingual eXtension for ActionApps / How to setup ActionApps for multilingual web sites
8. How do I automatically feed only select items to other slices?
9. How do I update my APC-AA installation to the latest version?
10. How can I manipulate images (e.g. create thumbnails)

From Mitra (mitra[at]earth.path.net):

I am using alerts/mailman integration, - its one of the most painful AA admin procedures, basically you have to create an alert that goes to a mailman group. Here are the steps (note that I've SIMPLIFIED it, removing sub-steps).

This presumes you have:

  1. In the slice you want to send mail from:
  2. Create Alerts Slice and change settings as follows
  3. Go to mailman, create a mailing list - set yourself (a human) as the owner, set to moderate new subscribers
  4. Go to your Reader Management slice (see note)
  5. Now try and add an item to your slice,

Note that in practice you can only have ONE functioning reader management slice in an entire AA installation since it has email unique - apparently there are historical reasons for this, but it is unclear if there are current reasons.

This is essentially an admin nightmare, do anything even slightly wrong and the mail won't go through, and its very hard to debug.

I believe this could and should be dramatically simplified, we don't have the development resources to build our own mailing list manager in competition to all mailman's functions, better would be to allow an Alerts View to send mail direct to a mailing address - typically the email address of the mailman list.

In this example, we are trying to only show alias for page numbers (_#NM_PAGES) when it is greater than zero.

The field input has Validate: Number, so it generates a zero when left blank. To not show the alias and label when zero, use:

{switch({_#NM_PAGES})^0:: _#NM_PAGES pages }

This switch will show nothing when the number starts with 0, otherwise it will show e.g. "15 pages". Since number validation removes preceeding zeros e.g. 0020, this should always work.

Expired items are normaly not visible on the public website. However is it usefull to sometimes show expired items such as for archives.

There are two easy steps to show expired items in a view:

  1. Make sure display of expired items is permitted by setting ALLOW_DISPLAY_EXPIRED_ITEMS constant to true in config.php3
  2. Define a condition where 'expiry_date.....' is specified. You can use a condition fields in a view design or a search condition or a condition in an URL or SSi using cmd[]-c or cmd[]-d see parameters to view.php3

Example of condition fields in a view design:

set Condition 1 'expirary date' < 9999999999999
(this is a unix date in far far far future - you'll be dead :^)

Example of view.php3 parameter:

If you realy think you need a logout, you have to create a special directory
  and Logout page under the restricted area of your website. I've set up a little
example here http://marek.greennet.org.uk/protect/http://marek.greennet.org.uk/protect/">http://marek.greennet.org.uk/protect/>

type jason:jason and you get in. Than you can click on logout ant it will
  take you to the logout page. The trick is that the page is under the same realm,
  so in fact you relogin as user &quot;logout&quot; with password &quot;logout&quot;


The .htaccess file for the /protect/logout area looks like this


AuthType Basic

  AuthName &quot;Authenticate yourself&quot;

    AuthUserFile /home/httpd/htdocs/marek.gn.apc.org/protect/logout/.htpw

    Require user logout

The /home/httpd/htdocs/marek.gn.apc.org/protect/logout/.htpw contains only
  user logout (the file was created using htpasswd), and only this user is allowed

Htaccess is updated by AuthMySQL module on the Apache server. The access is granted directly from AA (from auth_group and auth_user tables)

You need to:

1) Install mod_auth_mysql (http://modauthmysql.sourceforge.net/)

(This module is standard part of RedHat Linux distribution (rpm mod_auth_mysql). Be carefull, because there are at least two different modules with the same name but with different httpd.conf options and features. We need the described one and not the one described by Ram: http://actionapps.org/faq/detail.shtml?x=1673 !!!)

2) Then you need set auth_group...... field in Reader managment slice as described here: http://actionapps.org/apc-aa/doc/reader.html#d0e236

3) Set the apache to accept MySQL authentication - something like modifying httpd.conf file:

<Directory /data/www/htdocs/actionapps.org>

AllowOverride AuthConfig FileInfo Options Limit

# Authentication

AuthMySQLHost localhost

AuthMySQLUser aa_db_user

AuthMySQLPassword aa_db_password

AuthMySQLDB aa_db

AuthMySQLUserTable auth_user

AuthMySQLGroupTable auth_group

AuthMySQLNameField username

AuthMySQLPasswordField passwd

AuthMySQLGroupField groups

AuthMySQLNoPasswd off

AuthMySQLCryptedPasswords On



4) Protect the directory by .htaccess file or by similar lines in httpd.conf file:

AuthType Basic

AuthName "ActionApps Ariel Members Area"

<Limit GET>

require group ariel_members



AuthType Basic

AuthName "ActionApps Ariel Parnters Area"

<Limit GET>

require group ariel_partners


5) Done.


This example uses 1 view, 3 categories, and 2 levels of constants. The catgories are not important but maybe you like to use them so I left them in there.

The view below manages a two level side bar menu. It highlights the branch you are in and the (sub)item you have selected. Example can be seen here http://pi.gn.apc.org

The constants are used as the menu entries. You have to use hierarchical constants and define the constants like this:

Level 0: Name      Value 
         Terrorism Terrorism 
         Policy    Policy ... 

Level 1: Name                        Value
         Politics of Terrorism       Terrorism::Politics of Terrorism Defining 
         Terrorism and Emergencies   Terrorism::Terrorism and Emergencies 
         IGOs and Laundering Policy  Policy::IGOs and Laundering Policy

Now create a new constants view Paste the text below into Odd Rows.  Set the Group by to "Value Select" the hierarchical constant group created above View 342 is the listing view I use to display items from my slice.

The slice has 3 categories. This menu only manages the selection of the first category (category........) which is set to use the constant group created above. Further it's first confition is set to LIKE (name of category........). You will have to replace 342 in the text below with your listing view. You can leave away most of the {country}-stuff. To work this just needs {theme} and {_parent_}.

TODO: use better names for the aliases. 'theme' and 'country' might be substrings in the constants. That would cause havoc! All left to do now is to create your style sheet. Have fun!

----------SNIP SNIP----------

    <div class="constView_ContentThemes_ListEntry">
    <div class="constView_ContentThemes_ListEntry_Hl">
    :<div class="constView_ContentThemes_ListEntry{switch({_parent_}){_#NAME###_}.*:_Hl}">
  <a href="/index.shtml?cmd[342][]=c-1-{_#NAME###_}&als[theme]={_#NAME###_}&conds[1][category........]={_#NAME###_}{switch({_#VALUE##_}){theme}.*:&als[_parent_]={theme}}{switch({country}).*country.*::&cmd[342][]=c-3-{country}&als[country]={country}&conds[3][category.......2]={country}}" class="constView_ContentThemes_ListEntry_link">_#NAME###_</a>
      {switch({_#VALUE##_}){theme}.*:<div class="constView_ContentThemes_SubListEntry{switch({theme}){_#NAME###_}.*:_Hl}"><a href="/index.shtml?cmd[342][]=c-1-{_#NAME###_}&als[theme]={_#NAME###_}&conds[1][category........]={_#NAME###_}&als[_parent_]={theme}{switch({country}).*country.*::&cmd[342][]=c-3-{country}&als[country]={country}&conds[3][category.......2]={country}}" class="constView_ContentThemes_SubListEntry_link">{_#NAME###_}</a></div>}
    {switch({_#VALUE##_}){_parent_}.*:<div class="constView_ContentThemes_SubListEntry{switch({theme}){_#NAME###_}.*:_Hl}"><a href="/index.shtml?cmd[342][]=c-1-{_#NAME###_}&als[theme]={_#NAME###_}&conds[1][category........]={_#NAME###_}&als[_parent_]={_parent_}{switch({country}).*country.*::&cmd[342][]=c-3-{country}&als[country]={country}&conds[3][category.......2]={country}}" class="constView_ContentThemes_SubListEntry_link">{_#NAME###_}</a></div>}

----------SNIP SNIP----------


This a tutorial for creating a simple alert module and subscription form, similar to the Sandbox subscription demo at http://actionapps.org/reader_mngmt/sandbox_subscribe.shtml. The alert is for all new items in a slice and the subscription require s only email address and sending frequency inputs, no password or selection of slices in this version. Subscribers can update their alert settings (e.g. change email address, modify frequency, and unsubscribe) by clicking on a unique link at the bottom of each alert they recieve.

The tutorial assumes you are already comfrotable creating and administrating slices and designing views in ActionApps.

Step 1: Create a Reader Management Slice

First you must have a Reader Management slice to store subscriber information. If you already hace a Reader slice, then you can skip this step, but keep in mind the Reader slice used in this example is called "My Readers".

  1. AA > New Slice: Create a new slice from the “Reader Management Minimal” template with the name “My Readers”
  2. Set “Allow anonymous posting” to “Active”
  3. Set “Allow anonymous editing” to “Authorized by a password field”

You now have a Readers slice called "My Readers" that will store each alert subscriber as one item. It also possible to add more fields to store additional data about your subscribers, but that's another tutorial (coming soon).

Next we need to select what items subscribers can be alerted to.

Step 2: Create a Selection of Items to be “Alerted”

An alert modules requires selections from slices. A selection is a condition on an alerts view of a slice. It's a bit confusing but will make more sense once we go through the complete alert module production process.

In this case, we have selected to alert users about new items from the important slice called “My Slice”.

In My Slice, create a new view, type “Alerts Selection Set”. Set field vaules as:

    Alerts Selection Set: “My Slice alert views”

    Group by selections (ignore for now)

    Alerts Selection 1 Description: “All My Slice Items”

    conds[] (ignore for now)

    Alerts Selection 2 Description and conds[] (ignore for now)

    Fulltext URL: (URL of fulltext view use for _#HDLN_URL)

    Fill the rest of the fields as a simple listing view, probably similar to your index view.

    Click Update

You now have an alerts selection called “All My Slice Items”. Once you are more comfortable with alerts, you can add more selections that use conds[] to allow users to filter in only certain types of items, but that's another tutorial (coming soon).

Step 3: Create an Alerts Module

Next step is to create an alerts module that will send your newly created alert selection.

  1. AA > Create New > Alert, settings:
  2. Selections > Insert “All My Slice Items” from the menu (notice there are also shortcut links at the bottom for quick access to the slices with alerts and editing the alert views).
  3. Click on Reader management, Synchronization with Reader Management Slice, change to “My Readers“ (the page will refresh)
  4. Click on 'Add or refresh fields' at the bottom. A message “2 field(s) added” appears.

Your alert module now contains alert selection "All My Slice Items" and My Readers slice contains two new input fields: “How Often” and “Selections”. You can goto the My Readers fields admin page to see these new fields. If they don't show up, go back to alert module > Reader Management and click on ‘Add or refresh fields’.

More selections can be added later. Everytime you add a section you will need to go back to your alert module > Reader management and click on ‘Add or refresh fields’.

You can now test your alert module by subcribing yourself using: My Readers > Add New Item: input your email address, check "email confirmed", set "How Often" to "instant" and check "Selections: All My Slice Items"

Then go to My Slice and add a new item. You should shortly there after receive an emal from the alert module announcing the new addition. You will notice the alert module messages use ECN related text by default. You can customize your welcome and alert messages at any time (see Step 5). But first let's set-up some public subscription forms...

Step 4: Create a Subscribe Form (and Related Pages)

To allow users to subscribe to your alerts, you will need to create a form using ‘Anonymous Form Wizard’. You should also have an OK page that tells users to check their inbox for an email confirmation and a another page with an anonymous form for updating subscription settings. Thus you will need to create three files, e.g.:

http://mysite.com/myalerts/subscribe.shtml - Invitation to subscribe using anonymous form.

http://mysite.com/myalerts/subscribe_ok.shtml - A notice telling users to "Check your inbox for an email confirmation".

http://mysite.com/myalerts/update.shtml - A subscrition settings update page using anonymous form, accessed only from a link within alert messages generated using _#COLLFORM alias (set in Alerts Admin - Settings: form URL.

To create the required anonymous form for the subscribe.shtml and update.shtml pages...

  1. Within My Readers > Slice Admin > fields: check Required for 'Email' and uncheck Required and Show for 'Password'.
  2. Slice Admin > Anonymous Form Wizard
  3. Copy the form HTML and paste into the file subscribe.shtml. Add some preable text and upload to the URL you specified.
  4. Upload subscribe_ok.shtml to specified URL.
  5. Paste the same form HTML in to update.shtml. In the <form> change the value of the two hidden fileds "err_url" and "ok_url" to the update.shtml URL. Upload.

You should now have a page for users to subscribe to the alert (e.g. origianl sandbox alert subscribe form) that when submitted correctly leads to the OK page saying "Check your inbox for an email confirmation". In the confirmation/welcome email there should be link with unique ID pointing to the the update.shtml URL. When visited, this page will confirm the email address and allow thye user to modify their subscription settings, inluding change their setting to "not subscribed".

You should test this subscritpion process, including updating subscription settings. Add some new items to My Slice and check that subscribers receive them as expeceted.

Make Forms Pretty

You may also want to simplify the anonymous form by hiding the selection check box and possibly the "how often" select box. To hide the selection checkbox, just change the input type from "checkbox" to "hidden", and remove the surrounding text. To hide the "how often" select box you need to create a hidden input with the name and one value pulled from the "how often" select box. The final cleaned up form could look like the sandbox alert subscribe form.

You may also want to similarily modify the update, see sandbox alert update form.

Step 5: Customize Your Alert Messages

If you haven't already, you will want to customize the alert welcome message (sent once upon subscription for email confirmation) and the alert message template.

Alert Welcome Message

Like any important text, you should probably use a word processor to write and check spelling of the message to sent. You can use HTML or plain text. You will want to include:

To update the test, go to you Alert Module > Settings and click edit icon beside welcome email select box. Both the subject and body processes aliases and {} commands.

Alert Message Template

The alert message template is edited the same as Welcome Message, except that _#FILTERS_ will be replace by the views of the new selections. You will want to include:

The views of selections can accessed through My Alerts Module > Selections > click on selection name. It is probably best to put the introduction to each slice's items within the top HTML for each slices Alerts Selection Set view. This is more important when there are multiple selection options within an alert module.


Filtering readers who are not yet confirmed

Change the design of the Item Manager in Slice Admin to show the alias _#MAILCONF. This alias shows “yes” or “no”. But it is created by the f_c function and the values in the database are 0 or 1. Thus give “0” and not “no” into the Search box.
Filtering readers receiving a selection: Add the Alerts Selections to Item Manager. Create an alias using the function f_h with the parameter , (comma). You will see the selection IDs prefixed by f. Now you understand why you should enter something like “f45” into the Search box.

Customize Result Messages

To customize result messages, (i.e.. confirmation, error or update messages at the top right of anonymous forms) use show_results.php3: Copy the script from doc/script/show_result.php3 to the same location where you created myalerts.shtml.
When creating anon form: Fill the URL of yours show_result.php3 and check the box “Use a PHP script ...”

see http://mimo.gn.apc.org/mlx for instructions

Through Value field on the Mapping page you can specify not only a new value, but also any AA expression, which is unaliased - example:

<a href="{source_href.....}">{source..........}</a>

In the Value field you can specify, which items should be fed and which not. It is done by modifying the value of the ‘Status Code’ of the receiving slice, according to field in the feeding slice.
Status codes are: 1=active, 2=Holding, 3=Trash, 4=Do not fed)

An example set-up:

1) Set Feeding, as usual ('Slice Admin' -> 'Inner Node Feeds') (see feeding FAQ)

2) Go to 'Slice Admin' -> 'Mapping' and select the your source slice

3) fill something like: {switch({category.......1})Enviro:1:4} for 'Status Code' and set FROM to '-- Value --'

After this all items from the source slice with category 'Enviro' will be fed into Active ('Status Code' value=1). Other will not be fed ('Status Code' value=4).

This FAQ assumes you did the original installation from CVS (see Installation of ActionApps Doc )

First, check that you really want to update. There is usually a stable release and a developer release. The instructions below will update to the latest release from CVS - which is what most of the people discussing things on the apc-aa-general mailing list are using. This might not be as stable as a release you may be running.

Back-up Your Files and DB

The CVS will write over your current config file, usually located in /apc-aa/includes/config.php3. The key values you will need to re-enter after updating and may not be able to remember are: AA_ID, DB_HOST, DB_NAME, DB_USER, DB_PASSWORD. Without these correct values, AA will not work.

You should also back-up all your apc-aa files, encase the update fails and you need revert back.

Once you have done your back-ups, login to shell on you account and cd to the apc-aa directory and run

cvs -n update

This will display the changes and potential conflict - look for lines starting "C" these are conflicts that need a developer to figure out. You'll have to ask this list if you get one of these.

NOTE: It is common to get 'timed out' type errors from the CVS, which is hosted at SourceForge.net. Just keep trying every few minutes

If it all looks good, run

CVS update -dPAC

This will:
-d Build directories, like checkout does. (if there is new directory in the repository, then it is created)
-P Prune empty directories.
-A Reset any sticky tags/date/kopts. (allways load HEAD branch of the CVS)
-C Overwrite locally modified files with clean repository copies.
(For more options try "cvs --help update")

You should then compare the version number at the top of /apc-aa/includes/config.php3 to see if it is newer then your backed up config.php3 file. If not, you can simplly upload your backed-up version over the new one. If the new config file is different, you will need to manually write in your settings, based on the backed-up version.

Access http://yourhost/apc-aa/sql_update.php3, this will update the database to the latest version. The script always refreshes the database structure to the newest version - no matter if you allready have the newest structure.

The script makes a backup of the tables, but there is not yet a documented way to restore the old version, and note that re-running the script overwrites the last copy of the backup.

In Slice admin interface form for configuring fields there is an input box for parameters of insert function. For field with insert function "File = uploaded file", you can set these parameters:

        type of file : maximum image width : maximum image height : secondary image fields delimited with ## separator


if you insert parameters:
function will do these actions after submitting the item/article:

Limits of the function:


This FAQ interface was developed by Jason at Commons.ca

APC: Internet and ICTs for social justice and development APC ActionApps is a free software content management system initiated by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC)
APC - Internet and ICTs for social justice and development