[pmwiki-users] Feature request: Action lists in skins

Joachim Durchholz jo at durchholz.org
Fri Apr 8 04:36:44 CDT 2005

Bronwyn Boltwood wrote:

> On Apr 7, 2005 11:12 AM, Joachim Durchholz <jo at durchholz.org> wrote:
>> It's the wrong target audience. Skin designers don't (well,
>> shouldn't) care what goes into the action lists. All they need to
>> know is that they have to place that "ActionList" thing somewhere
>> (just as they should place the SideBar somewhere, which 90% no
>> doubt do by copying the code from pmwiki.tmpl - I did so myself
>> when I did my first experiments with skins).
>> Skin designers don't care (and don't need to care) how the various 
>> action URLs are encoded. (That's also something that I don't like
>> about having the action links in the skins. If I'm a skin designer,
>> I have to learn about all the ?action= conventions. I'm also
>> constantly worried that I may have put too many or too few links
>> into the action list.)
> I beg to differ.  One of the reasons that I started developing PmWiki
> skins was specifically to change the actions and action list!  I 
> wanted to improve the behaviour of the interface as well as its look,
> and that means my work is in the place where function and form meet.
> I'm not satisfied to just paint on pretty colours.

I can understand that :-)

However, if PmWiki had a way to specify action lists independently of 
skins, you could have done the action modifications first and the skins 
later (or the other way round).

More on "making form and function meet" in response to your other post.

>>> And as a group wiki admins are far less comfortable with PHP than
>>>with HTML/CSS.  By moving the action list out of the skin and
>>>into a structured PHP array, we're moving farther away from the world
>>>that most wiki admins live in (HTML), and we're removing control of the
>>>output from the audience that needs and demands it most.
>>Do they indeed need that control?
>>When settin up my wikis, the one thing that I wanted was the standard
>>set of actions, plus any actions included via recipes.
> That I can understand.  It would be nice for admins to have a simple
> way to say they want to see actions x, y, and z, but not a or b. 
> OTOH, that could pose some difficult problems when designing skins.

What kind of problems?

One that I can think off-hand is that the action list might become too 
large to look good. I.e. if the skin is designed for a horizontal row of 
actions, and the action texts simply don't fit. (That's a reason why 
wiki admins should have control over the action texts: so that they can 
choose shorter ones.)

>>I specifically did *not* want to delve into the intricacies of the
>>action lists in the skins. I didn't even want to bother with the skins
>>at all. Yet I was forced to deal with them.
> From the next few paragraphs, I would assume that you installed some
> recipes with extra actions, and wanted an interface beyond typing in
> an URL?  You make it sound as if somebody held a knife at your throat,
> until, shaking with fear, sweating from deciphering raw HTML, you
> fulfilled the villain's demand that to create an action link in a
> PmWiki skin or die a horrible death!
> Somehow I doubt that it happened quite like that.


It was somewhat different. Easy things first, more difficult things later.

What made things a bit more "itchy" for me was that I wasn't going to be 
the user of the wiki. I installed it for a (not very web-savvy) friend.

So I first installed a few skins. Found that some of them had actions in 
them that weren't installed at that point. Cursed - I'd have to remove 
the action to avoid confusing my friend, then re-install them as soon as 
I'd get around to installing those recipes that implemented the action.

Then I found that I had chosen skins for appearance instead of for 
technical merits. (Some of the skins look very nice but aren't flexible. 
Some use markup that's not interpreted consistently across browsers.) 
Now I had the prospect of doing that action list redesign stuff for each 
skin that I'd try out. And trying out them I wanted, and I don't want to 
bother with actions when I'm trying to evaluate flexibility towards my 
friend's wishes! Curse, curse, curse...

>>action links - I had to experiment. The recipe author didn't tell me -
>>he just provided the ?action link and handed me the obligation to decide
>>what to do with it.
> That would be because the recipe creator can't be completely certain
> what you want to do with it.  No matter what he chooses, somebody will
> dislike it.

Well, there's *one* thing that he can be sure about: the admin will want 
the functionality; otherwise he wouldn't have installed the recipe in 
the first place.

It's not as clear whether the admin wants to actually see the new action 
in the action list. He may prefer to type the ?action=... string on the 
URL bar manually. (The only reason I can imagine is that it's something 
that end users aren't supposed to see. If that's the only reason (are 
there others?), that can be handled using a permission-based approach: 
show exactly those actions that are available under the current 

 > As for the skin authors, well, they have no way of
> knowing what recipes you have installed and want a UI for.

Which is why I'd like to relieve skin authors from decisions about 
action lists.


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