Issue Tracker 1.6.11 released.

issues-48We are pleased to announce the availability of Issue Tracker release 1.6.11 for Joomla

This update is mainly intended to correct the mailing of notifications and reports caused as a result of the change to the Joomla JMail API in the 3.5.1 update.

This release has not been tested against Joomla 2.5 which is unsupported.  It may run upon Joomla 2.5 but we regret that support for against such an old version of Joomla is unlikely to be available.

See the changelog for details of all of the changes.

 The update is available in the download area.

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Issue Tracker: Handling received emailed issue updates

issues-48Our Issue Tracker component for Joomla has long had the ability (when configured) to handle ‘issues’ sent to a predetermined email address upon a mail server, and to automatically create issues. What is not quite so well known is its ability to handle updates to existing issues via received emails as well.

Certain criteria have to be established to ensure that the ‘update email’ relates to an existing reported issue.  There are several steps to this.

a) When an issue creation notification is send out the sent email contains a couple of ‘special’ mail header tags.  When an update email is received the presence (or absence) of these mail header tags are checked, and provide one level of confirmation that the ‘email update’ is for an existing issue.

b) The email title is also checked for the existence of a special format string.  The format of this string is usually [Issue: xxxxxxxxxx] or just [xxxxxxxxxx], where xxxxxxxxxx is the issue number. It is possible to have different formats for the issue number which may be a ‘random’ ten character string, or a nine digit number preceded by zeros and a leading character (again ten characters in total), or a numeric string consisting of up to 10 digits.

[Release 1.6.8 of Issue Tracker enables a slightly more relaxed format string in that any character string may precede the issue number. The square braces are required in all cases.]

We can assist in the issue number detection by specifying one of the above issue format strings in the outgoing message notification. This is a component configuration and the format of message header and message body contents is possible for all outgoing message types.

c) The email senders address is also checked to see whether it matches the email address of the person who first raised the issue report.

If the criteria is not met then the email update is rejected.  If however the email is identified as being an update for an existing issue, then the handling of the email body has to be looked at.  A number of email clients (all?) such as Outlook, Thunderbird etc. (to name just a couple) permit ‘reply’ emails to incorporate the received email text in the outgoing message either preceding or following the ‘new’ message text. This is potentially annoying in that if the body text was taken as it is received, the message would contain unrequired information, which is already present in the issue ‘record’. We therefore seek to eliminate the ‘former unrequired included text’ from the message before saving the data in the issue record.

The easiest way to be specify a special ‘text string’ which is searched for in the message body and any text seen after this ‘string’ is silently ignored.  This works well in practise but only if the ‘string’ is present in the message.  If it is not present one is left with a decision as to whether to accept the whole message, ‘included former messages text’ or just reject the message entirely.  This is obviously a decision that a configuration option permits a site to make.

It is not possible to know whether the client browser, is going to include the ‘former message text’ either before or after the ‘new’ message content,and there is no standard way for a client to indicate the present of this ‘former’ text in the message.  Fortunately the most common default is for the ‘former message’ to be included after the ‘new message text’. In this situation we can try and eliminate most of this text automatically.  To do this we need to ensure that the outgoing message contains our ‘'special reply text string”. We can accomplish this by the use of a ‘hidden’ HTML tag at the start of the outgoing message as follows:

#-#- Text following text is ignored –#-#

 [The ‘#-#-‘ string (and its derived inverse) is a component setting and can be any desired unique string that is unlikely to be provided by the user in the usual course of business.]

We add this to the email template body and it has the advantage that it will not be displayed in the message due to the span style which hides the text. If the user replies and includes the received message contents in their reply it would be picked up by the message body checking code and can then be eliminated from the message stored in the component issue.

This will not of course eliminate all unnecessary text from the ‘email update message’ but it can go a long way towards reducing it. 

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Test email in foreign languages

We have been working with the emailing of problem reports to our Issue Tracker component recently in particular with the specific problem of languages using ISO-8859-2 character sets.

Having made some code changes to handle this, we were thinking of how it might be possible to test out other languages, with other character sets such as Chinese, Korean etc.

The little grey cells starting thinking about the various translation sites upon the web, and whether there might be any that could not only perform a translation of some specific text but also complete the task by emailing the translation to a specific address.

After some searching it seems that this is not an unusual requirement and we found several that could possibly do what we required. A lot only handled the translation part of the requirement, but the sending of the email was not that common. It was important that the email was sent from the third party since if we used a local email client the details in the message header and body did not accurately reflect the correct character set in use, and this was the one thing we wanted to test.

A number of sites imposed limitations such as the number of characters in the message, the number of messages that could be sent etc., which is generally reasonable since they are endeavouring to make a living from providing a service and would prefer to charge.  However these limitations were not of a major concern to us, especially as the text content could be anything at all, as long as the character sets were represented.

We obviously will not list all of the sites we investigated but the one which we found suitable for our needs was WorldLingo and though it insisted in creating accounts for both our sender and receiver of the generated emails, this was something we could easily live with. There is a vast range of possible languages to choose from, certainly more than we will ever use or test I suspect, and the machine translations were more than adequate for our purposes.

Our requirements were not all that unusual at all, and I suspect others might have the same sort of need, in which case hopefully this may act as a pointer.

Update: One interesting side effect we noticed was that, when we sent the email (via WorldLingo) it was 'processed' by our component and automatically send a reply acknowleging receipt. Since the emails from WorldLingo are all sent out with individual identifers in the email address the reply was sent to the named worldlingo address which then forwarded it to use (the sender). The interesting aspect was that the text was 'translated' on the reply and didn't quite match what was the 'original' text in English. One of the interesting aspects of translating in this case from English->Japanese->English. Not a concern to use but just goes to show how things can get confusing in translation.

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Issue Tracker Template Overrides

b2ap3 icon joomlaWe have recently been ‘playing’ with a new ‘Bootstrap v3’ template for the front end of our site.  This involved use creating a set of template overrides for our Issue Tracker component and we decided to share the details with our users.

Joomla has long had the ability to create Template Overrides, which are modifications to the Joomla components or modules. This permits changes to be made upon a ‘local site’ basis without the need to change or hack the supplied code.

We are primarily concerned with the Issue Tracker component and we have tried hard to produce front end displays of Individual Issues and of the Issue Entry form that would be usable in the majority of installations. However the differences between the various template used on sites are many and vast, and it is almost inevitable that they will not be suitable for everyone. This was indeed the situation we discovered ourselves when using a BootStrap template for the site.

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Mail ISO-8859-2 character sets

We recently received a report that the email fetching feature within our Joomla Issue Tracker component wasn’t handling the subject header and email body correctly for the ISO-8859-2 character set. This character set is used by a number of Eastern European countries, so we were interested in resolving the problem if we possibly could.

We tend to use the standard PHP imap routines and it was immediately obvious how we should handle the subject, but implementing a call to the imap_mime_header_decode method. This worked well and was a very quick fix.

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Design Criteria for processing emailed issues

We have been busy with a forthcoming feature for our Issue Tracker, which is the ability to receive emails with details of new issues or emails containing updates to previously raised issues.

After much thought and consideration the following design criteria are  deemed necessary in the email issues functionality. They are included in no specific order of
priority.

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Emailing €˜items€™ with relative image URLs from Joomla.

issues-48We have been looking at a small ‘opportunity’ which we discovered when we were emailing material such as an ‘article’ or Issue Tracker ‘issue’ from our Joomla system.

The problem is quite simple to explain since it can be caused by the content editor that is forced to use relative URLs.

This can be resolved by creating a new profile in the editor (such as JCE) which is configured to use absolute urls and then assign the profile to the particular component where absolute URLs are needed.

There is a small note on it for JCE which explains how to do this in more detail.

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CSS: Text wrapping in a table cell. Part 2

CSS logoWe previously made an entry about long text strings overlapping table cells.  It was time to relook at the problem again after we saw a few more instances on our site.

The problem is quite common and has been mentioned in various articles upon the web for many years.  Solutions have ranged from the use of code to add extra spaces into the text fields, sometimes using ‘hidden’ characters, to various suggested CSS additions, many of which have browser dependencies.

This article on Stackoverflow summaries the suggestions quite adequately, but unfortunately didn’t provide a suitable solution.

Finally I discovered an article which describes the problem perfectly with examples. It is quite old (2007) but still holds true even today, with many revisions of browsers later.

In our case the final table cell was overlapping the right hand side menu and module displays, with the modules on top obscuring the table cell contents. We resolved it by using the suggestion in the article by changing to a fixed width table. Now the word-break could work.  It does mean that some of the other columns are slightly larger but it does produce a more professional output on the site.

This change will be implemented in latter releases of the Issue Tracker component.

Template Override

Whilst investigating this problem we had forgotten that we had implemented a CSS table override for the component so it is perhaps worth mentioning that here as well.  The CSS override is created by creating a file in the templates directory under template_name/media/com_issuetracker/css/ named issuetracker.css.  A copy of the distributed CSS file would serve as a starting point.  When changes are made to this file they take effect and override those in the media/com_issuetracker/css/issuetracker.css file.  This means that any changes you make would still apply even when/if the component is upgraded.  It is a convenient place to test out small CSS changes.

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Joomla -€“ Creating a component '€˜Smart Search'€™ Language file

b2ap3 icon joomlaHaving created a custom Finder (Smart search) plugin for our Issue Tracker component, there was one small problem left which was that the supplied language translations were not being picked up by the ‘Smart Search module’.

Having spent time ensuring that the format of the language files were correct and that they were being placed in the correct directory on installation and were named as the documentation suggested. 

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Nested tables, MySQL and Joomla Smart Search.

b2ap3 icon joomlaWe have been looking at refining a finder plugin in Joomla which is accessing a nested MySQL table.  Nothing complex about that one would think.

However the desire was to expand out the different sub record titles into a single ‘title’ comprised of the individual sub record titles linked together offered a few ‘opportunities’ for want of a different word!

To explain further.  We have a classic nested table structure as follows:

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