BlueSands for WordPress is finally ready for release. It’s a 3-column, widget-ready theme with a fluid width main content area and is built on the famous “Sandbox”:http://plaintxt.org/themes/sandbox theme. As a result, BlueSands has much of the powerful markup that Sandbox has become known for, including special classes for preformatted text, code, and definition lists.
BlueSands also provides support for the Ultimate Tag Warrior plugin. Once WordPress 2.3 with the UTW tag importer is released, I’ll update this theme to replace the UTW sections with the native WordPress tagging system.
BlueSands represents about 20-25 hours worth of work, about two-thirds of that simply troubleshooting a couple of unfamiliar Sandbox elements. I’m very pleased with the final result, which receives a fair bit of inspiration from the “Navigation”:http://www.gpsgazette.com/navigation-wp-theme/ theme, which I’ve always loved. BlueSands uses the colors from the WordPress dashboard to create a clean, crisp look with a minimal design.
Since I also use and love “bbPress”:http://bbpress.org, I’ll be making a version of BlueSands for bbPress soon, as well. Once it’s ready, it will be available for download from the BlueSands page, along with the WordPress version, both individually and bundled together.
You can check out the “full demo”:http://demos.shamuswrites.com/bluesands or download the theme from its “home page”:http://shamuswrites.com/downloads/bluesands-wordpress-theme/. Bug reports, problems, or questions about BlueSands should be directed to my “support forum”:http://forum.shamuswrites.com/forum/support.
BlueSands is released under a “GNU General Public License”:http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/gpl.html.
I’ve been working pretty steadily over the last several days to complete the theme that now adorns this blog. At this point, I’d say it’s about 90% complete. The 10% that remains involves a whole lot of tweaking and validating code before it’s ready for public release. I’m pretty excited about it. This is only my second WordPress theme, and it’s a far cry better than my first, if I do say so myself. I’ve been wanting to build a custom theme for awhile now, but I hadn’t really had the time until I started having all this back trouble – and even then it’s only been since two weeks after my surgery that I’ve even felt up spending this much time working on the code. As soon as I finish tweaking everything, I slap this sucker down on its own download page and post a formal release announcement.
I’m also planning to redo my bbPress theme to match, thus giving the two primary parts of my site a more cohesive look and feel. I suspect that one will also be a fair bit of work, though it will probably be much less work than creating my first bbPress theme, since I build this WordPress theme using the same colors with the end goal of creating the bbPress theme. Once I’m done with that, I’ll update the download page so that folks can have their option to download the WordPress theme, the bbPress theme, or both themes bundled together.
Also, with WordPress 2.3 coming out at some point later this year, I’ll update this theme to accommodate for tags being native and Ultimate Tag Warrior going the way of the dodo. That, however, should be a very easy tweak.
Tags are coming to WordPress soon as part of the core. This, to me, is both a good thing and a potential complication. It’s good because suddenly WP users won’t have to rely on plugins to tag their entries. The potential complication that could make things a bit more… sticky is whether or not the native WP tagging system will accommodate an import of tags from other plugins. For instance, I’ve been using Ultimate Tag Warrior to tag my entries and make a pseudo-site index from the resultant tag cloud. I spent a number of hours cataloguing my entire blog with UTW and the _last_ thing I want to do is have to repeat the process with the native tag system in WP. And believe me, I’ll likely prefer the WP tag system exactly _because_ it’s native. My philosophy has always been that the more you can do natively, the better, easier, and more efficient things will be because there will be less likelihood of coding conflicts to break functionality. I’m really, truly hoping that WP will allow for some sort of tagging import for the most popular tag plugins because otherwise things are likely to become a bit of a headache again for a while as I transfer things over and manually go through and tag every single entry again. We’ll just have to wait and see how the WP developers handle this new feature. I’m always excited by new toys being added to the core WP files, but there’s always a bit of trepidation to go along with it, since there’s always the risk that many of my favorite plugins will break. I’ve already lost one with the upgrade to 2.1.3; I hate to lose too many more.
I’ve a feature request for all you php ninjas out there, particularly those of you who develop plugins that do strange and wonderful things with tagging:
How about making the ability to tag posts in WordPress a little bit more powerful? For instance, I use “Ultimate Tag Warrior”:http://www.neato.co.nz/ultimate-tag-warrior/ to create a site index here, and it’s nice to be able to click on a particular tag and see all of the entries that fall under it.
Here’s the thing, though – I’d like to see it be possible to filter down still further into those entries. Instead of, for instance, being able to see the entries that fall under speculative fiction only, I’d like to be able to add more tag filters and see all the entries that have been tagged as _both_ speculative fiction and tv shows, or to be able to add still more filters so that I could see all entries that fall under speculative fiction, tv, shows, and heroes, if I wanted to get that specific. It would also be cool to be able to filter by an ‘OR’ command, so that I could sift through all my entries and see all posts that have been tagged as _either_ science fiction _or_ fantasy, for a larger list. I believe that this could easily be done using AJAX to add and remove tags at will. “bbPress”:http://bbpress.org already has something like this in place for individual posts, so I don’t think it would require much effort to modify that script slightly to make it do more and go further.
Ok, in theory, my entire site should now be indexed with tags using the Ultimate Tag Warrior. I’m sure I probably missed a post or two, plus I don’t think any of my asides or linklog entries came through the archives (which is actually fine, since those are technically already categorized in and of themselves). The “site index”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/site-index/ is looking rather full and intimidating, but it _is_ interesting to me which terms are most prominent. I tried to tag each entry using what I felt were the most important key terms. It’s makes for a highly diverse spread of search terms, but it should make it really easy for readers to simply click on a term of interest and read down through every single entry on my site that pertains to that term. It’s kind of cool, really, and I’m glad I did this.
I may play a little with the way the index page outputs tags, so if anyone has a preference for the look of tag clouds that makes them easy to read through, let me know. After all, the site index is there for _you_, not me.
I’m willing to recant a “previous statement”:http://lorelle.wordpress.com/2007/01/21/ultimate-tag-warrior-latest-update/#comment-164977 and admit when I’m wrong. I’ve been avoiding using any kind of tagging plugin for this blog because I’ve always felt that tags were somewhat pointless and created a lot of unnecessary clutter. Most of the tagging I’d seen were links to Technorati, and I couldn’t justify leaving a bunch of those lying around with no good reason. I know that doing so would likely have generated some more traffic to my site, but for me that wasn’t good enough reason to use something that like.
Lorelle was kind enough, though, to “put tagging into perspective”:http://lorelle.wordpress.com/2007/01/21/ultimate-tag-warrior-latest-update/#comment-165326 for me – she views categories as your site’s table of contents and tagging as your site’s index. That notion has stuck in my mind for the last couple of weeks, and I’ve had to admit that that approach has a certain kind of appeal to it. So, I’ve decided to give Ultimate Tag Warrior a chance, setting it up on my test blog yesterday and figuring out how to install, configure, and integrate it into my current template. The only downside is that I now have 3.5 years of entries (numbering 720 total) that now need to be indexed – a daunting task, but one that should make things around here a little easier to find. I’m also now using Technorati tags, but you won’t know it since I’m keeping them invisible (and already I’ve seen a little extra traffic coming my way from Technorati).
I’ve also used the Category Converter plugin to merge some of my categories into more general topics, leaving the tags to make things more specific.
And if anyone uses the Navigation 1.0 theme for WordPress and would like the modified files to integrate UTW into their own site, let me know so I can bundle them up and make them available. It took me a few minutes to rework the files and shuffle some code around to make everything look right.
I’ll do a more comprehensive writeup soon and detail what I like about this plugin – and all the others I use – and what I don’t like.