“Suffusion” WordPress Theme Released!

I am happy to announce that my first serious foray into themes has gotten somewhere. The theme used by my blog currently is something that I developed (as mentioned in my last post). I submitted this on the official WordPress site on Friday and it got accepted as the 917th theme on the site after some really minor mods (I wasn’t aware that I had to explicitly GPL it). So there you have it. The theme is available at http://wordpress.org/extend/themes/suffusion. The official page for this theme is on my Aquoid Themes announcements.

Feel free to shoot across bug reports, feature requests and general comments. Bouquets and brickbats will be accepted with equal grace!

Zen and Theme Releases

After my dalliance with Gallery2 and not being really satisfied with it, I was on the lookout for a better photo management software for my website. Don’t get me wrong – Gallery2 is good, but it felt too heavy for my use, and the Smarty templates were not helping either.

After some hunting, and having considered options like Coppermine and PixelPost, I went with one of my old candidates – Zenphoto. My initial gripe about ZP was that I couldn’t customize it. However, I realized that I was being asinine about it. All I needed to do was rather than run the Dreamhost “One-Click Install”, I needed to manually unzip the files and configure the software by hand. Small fry. I had the software up and running in a matter of minutes.

I found it pretty easy to customize ZP, given that the structure is fairly intuitive. Take a look. I have almost managed to get it to work to my expectations, with a few minor UI tweaks remaining. Additionally I want to investigate using Cooliris’ PicLens for the slideshows because they are hyper-cool. I know I need to use a Media RSS file, but somehow the ones on the web that already have been developed don’t work for my version of ZP. So for the moment I am using the standard JQuery based slideshow, while I will continue to work on an appropriate Media RSS generator and a somewhat better slideshow capability.

This brings me to my next topic – my current WordPress theme. I call it Green Light and I have been using it for a couple of weeks now and I like the way it has shaped up. I am planning to release this on the official WordPress themes site. Before I do so I would like to solicit your feedback regarding things that you believe I should improve here. Comments regarding color schemes, icons, aesthetics, layouts etc are most welcome. Note that this theme doesn’t have options enabled.


Update on 30th July 2009:
I submitted the WordPress theme. Let’s see if it gets accepted. I had to rename the theme, though, because someone already had taken “Green Light”, so my theme is now called “Suffusion”.

Static Pages in a Dynamic Blog

If you are old school (which is the school I like to think I belong to) you are bound to have an old fashioned home page that predates your blog. You probably have a site map / link structure and a good enough page rank, which gives you incentive to continue to maintain your home page in addition to your blog. A problem that I faced was regarding linking of my static old pages through my blog. WordPress provides two ways to define and access such static content:

  1. Links: Links could be external or internal. They don’t have any content associated with them within WordPress. The problem with using links is that people normally use them for a “Blogroll”, to show what other blogs they are in the habit of following. Associating pages in your domain (but not in your blog) to your Blogroll seems counterintuitive.
  2. Pages: Pages are within the realm of your blog. You could define your page anyway that you please. At a first glance this option seems to solve the conundrum, but it really doesn’t. Read on.

There seem to be two options to take care of the linking between the static website and the dynamic blog:

  1. Hard-code the existing links into the header / footer / sidebar of your WordPress theme. The downside to this is that if you happen to change your WordPress theme, you have to apply the same kind of hard-coding again.
  2. You could define Pages in WordPress with the contents of your home page. This is potentially a tedious task. Additionally you stand to lose your existing links and you might have to work your way up through search engine results

I then came across a plug-in called Redirection. This plug-in is very feature-rich and the very simplest thing it lets you do is to define a source URL and a target URL to redirect to. Using this feature you can very easily set up all the links in your blog and ensure portability. Here is what you do:

  1. Install the Redirection plug-in.
  2. For every page in your existing site define an empty WordPress page. This is simple enough to do. Depending on which version of WordPress you are using your steps might differ slightly, but with my installation (2.8.1), here is what I do:
    1. Click on Pages –> Add New
      add new page
    2. Fill in the details for the page 
      add new page
      The title of the page will be the name associated with the old page, the Permalink is the new link for the page, the Parent is used if you have a nested link structure and the Order is used to specify the position in the sequence of pages.
    3. Hit Publish
  3. Now go to the Redirection page under Tools
  4. Add a new Redirection
     add redirection
    The “Source URL” will have the Permalink that you created earlier. Do remember the “/” at the end of the Source URL. The “Target URL” will have the URL of your original page. Leave the “Match” and “Action” fields as they are.

That’s it – you are done. The next time someone tries to get to http://mynethome.net/blog/old-page/, the link will be forwarded to http://mynethome.net/original-page.php. If your theme, like most half-decent themes, displays Pages in the header, “Old Page” will show up there and you will be able to click on it to go outside your blog. If your theme doesn’t display pages in the header you could always use a widget on the sidebar.

Ad and Lib

I have always grappled with ways to maintain a library or reading list on my blog. I recently discovered Rob Miller’s rather excellent “Now Reading” plugin for WordPress to meet this exact requirement. The plugin lets you add books that you are currently reading, or plan to read or have already read. In addition you can add ratings and reviews. As a bonus you can also hook up your Amazon Associates ID to every book in your library, so that if somebody reaches Amazon through the book’s listing on your site and purchases the book, you get paid.

Of course, you will need to pretty it up to suit your blog template, but the results outweigh the effort. Rob provides a pretty straightforward way to handle templates, so you don’t risk running into code conflicts.

I have so far put some books in my library. The list is far from complete, but I am glad I have a starting point.