I’ve been spending a lot of time the past few weeks working with alpha versions of our upcoming 4.6 release, and I’m excited to share some of the cool new features and improvements. This release includes contributions of vision and code from a wide variety of end-users and implementers. The fact that our entire community reaps the benefits reminds me once again of the awesome power of open source collaboration.
I know how easy it is to miss some new feature in a release that you or your client could really benefit from - so I’ll try to dig down a bit and cover some of the smaller improvements. But first, a shout out to the continuing momentum in improvements to the overall user experience through the addition of short-cuts, more inline editing capabilities, more usable widgets, increased consistency, and overall responsiveness. As both an end-user and an active tester, I’m really enjoying these improvements and I hope you are too. Kudos to Coleman Watts for leading the charge!
So what’s new and cool in 4.6?
CiviMail UI overhaul - The need to streamline and simplify the bulk mailing user interface has been on the radar for a few years. Thanks to excellent work by Siddhant Rajagopalan - one of our Google Summer of Code (GSOC) participants - a prototype for a new more flexible UI. Following on this work, Tim Otten took things to another level - with a design that will allow different organizations to select a workflow that best meets their needs for balancing efficiency and control. Thumbs up to Google, Progressive Technology Project, Palentetech, Center for Constitutional Rights, and the New York State Senate for funding this major project.
CiviMail A/B testing - The ability to compare success rates for multiple versions of an email campaign was a ‘missing feature’ in CiviMail for a while (which led to some organizations using 3rd party bulk mailing tools). This project got a kickstart from another GSOC student - Aditya Nambiar - and then was ‘driven home’ by Tim. I’m excited to hear feedback from folks using this tool over the coming months.
Recurring Events and Activities - Do you want to use CiviEvent to handle courses that re-occur every month? Do you want to record a weekly or monthly staff or volunteer meeting as an activity without re-entering it every time? These and many similar requirements can now be handled easily. In addition, a ‘recursion engine’ which will make it possible to have other types of recurrence is now part of the core codebase. Thanks to Lindsey Mansfield (passionate evangelist), Zing (generous funder), Deepak Srivastava (implementor at Veda Consulting), and smart group of ‘code sprinters’ who all collaborated to make this a reality.
Sales Tax (VAT) and Invoices - Starting with this release, organizations can set tax rates for any items being ‘sold’ - including memberships, event fees and related products. CiviCRM can display tax amounts in a variety of formats and will track taxes for output to accounting systems. In addition, staff can create invoices with tax details (learn more ...). Thanks to CompuCorp, JMA Consulting and Web Access for getting this done.
Wordpress integration improvements - Thanks to a ton of hard work by Christian Wach, the CiviCRM - WordPress integration is taking a big leap forward in 4.6. The changes affect both site administrators - who can now include CiviCRM pages and forms via shortcodes more flexibly, as well as developers - who now have greatly expanded abilities to create plugins which extend CiviCRM for WordPress.
Personal Campaign Page Owner Notifications - Previously folks who created personal campaign pages had to keep checking their page to track progress toward their goals and see who was contributing. Now, they can opt to get automatic notifications when folks support their campaign. This is a ‘late-breaking’ make it happen thanks to sponsorship by the Vestibular Disorders Association and pro-bono work by Web Access.
But wait, there’s even more …
… phew - I’m running out ink, but for the detail freaks out there you can see the complete list here.
… and behind the scenes there’s a raft of developer-oriented improvements which make writing code for core AND creating new extensions easier (and easier to understand). But we’ll save that for a separate post.
Hopefully there’s several things in this list that you can’t wait to get your hands on, and that inspire you to spend some time trying out the release on the public sandbox AND (even better) by doing a test upgrade on your site(s). Please give feedback here. Huge thanks to all of you who’ve contributed to designing, implementing, testing and documenting the release - it’s amazing what we can accomplish together.