The latest AOM upgrade, v5.3.0 is now available. As with past upgrades, this release introduces some new features and fixes some bugs. One of the more interesting additions has to do with an enhancement in filtering categories. There’s also a way to deal with missing thumbnail pictures for products in various areas around a site. Plus new rulesets, a way to view theme README files, and more. Let’s take a look at how these new options work, and some of the other changes that are involved.
The new Category Types feature allows for further refinement of how category results are filtered. You set a keyword for your category, then scroll down to Category Types and select the category (categories without keywords are greyed out, and cannot be selected). Finally, you select the relevant filter type.
So for example, if you’re using the Books category and you enter Shakespeare as your keyword, you will normally get a mix of books written by Shakespeare (plays and sonnets, actually), and books written about him. If you filter by Author, you should only get items that list Shakespeare as the author.
Basically it acts much like the Advanced Search option, but allows you to build categories based on the results. This can be very helpful in some situations where you would otherwise need to add a long list of negative keywords to remove unwanted items, such as ‘Shakespeare -Smith -Jones …’ and so on. And of course, you can only filter by terms relevant to that category. You can’t filter Apparel by Author, for example.
This option is currently only available for main categories. The possibility of filtering subcategories is being examined. If possible, it will be introduced in a later upgrade.
Another interesting addition to the feature list is the No Pic Thumbnail option, located under the Images tab. This allows you to force a generic ‘no picture available’ image to appear in thumbnails, etc.
The text in the generic thumbnail image is location-specific. So viewers will see the image text in whatever language your site is set to (English, German, Spanish, etc.). Because of the extra coding required to check for the presence of an image, and to display the generic image if none is found, use of this option will cause an increase in server load. For most servers, it should only be a slight difference. However if your site already operates with heavy CPU usage (mainly due to frenzied bot activity), you may want to be careful this feature doesn’t provide a tipping point that could drive your site over the edge.
Note that if you use this feature, the Image Filter option under the Filter tab of your control panel must be turned on.
Other new features include the ability to set an HTTP Proxy, and to configure the sending of reports with STMP mail instead of the previous PHP method. Generally these are advanced features that only a few users would want to implement. If you don’t already have some experience in setting these up, you are strongly advised to continue using the default settings. As such we won’t cover them here.
Also included is the ability to view README files that may be bundled with any template theme files. A README file can be found with the default AOM theme, and may also be part of any third-party themes, with information regarding the features of that particular theme. If these README files are available, they will be displayed under the Theme tab of the AOM control panel.
In addition to these new features, the mod_rewrite rulesets have been upgraded, so if you use the SEO feature for your site, it’s recommended that you grab a copy of the latest rules and install them in your .htaccess file. Remember that if you have modified your previous rules, such as changing shop.php to index.php or adding a backslash to shop.php (making it /shop.php), you will need to make the same changes to the new rulesets.
As always, various bugs have been fixed. We won’t detail them here, but you can run through the list of some of the more troublesome ones as outlined in the official release announcement (click to read).
Finally, one minor control panel change – the Debugger feature has been moved from the Site tab to the Errors tab.
So that’s an overview of some of the more important and/or interesting changes introduced in v5.3.0. The official release announcement (see link above) will include a few more tiny improvements and enhancements, but hopefully this discussion will have helped to explain the bigger items. As always, it’s recommended that all users of Associate-O-Matic upgrade to the newest version in order to take advantage of the new features and benefit from the bug fixes.