Duplicate Our Demo in 5 Minutes!

To save our Simple Intranet paid members time setting up an intranet, we now offer a preloaded demo site to import using the Duplicator WordPress plugin.

Simple Files Download Tracking

Version 2.13 of Simple Files now provides front end download tracking of file downloads.  If you visit the Options area on the front-end where you have the [file] shortcode, you can enable tracking for various time periods.  You can also assign the ‘sf_download_column’ user capability to any user to enable them to see the tracking information on the front end.  Assigning this new capability can be done via the Dashboard under Simple Files / User-Roles tab, or under Users / Groups via Simple Intranet plugin.

Simple Files Download Tracking

Simple Files Download Tracking Options Page

Simple Tiles Photo Directory

Now available in our Members area is a new plugin called Simple Tiles. It provides a linked grid of employee or user photos that uses a Masonry Tile format.  You can adjust the avatar size, grid and cell widths via parameters in the shortcode as below.  We’ve also added a simple search box that searches all usermeta fields. See our Documentation area for more.

Simple Tiles Plugin

  • Provides a photo only view of the user/employee directory which links to detailed profiles if enabled in Simple Intranet / Directory Options
  • Shortcode: [simple_tile avatar_size=”100″ grid_width=”600″ cell_width=”150″ cell_padding=”5″ search_form_width=”400″ search_box_width=”100″]

tile_search

 

10 New Years Resolutions For Your WordPress Intranet

Now that it’s 2016, I wanted to summarize some of our key learnings over the past year. Listening to feedback from over 2,000 intranet clients running our WordPress intranet plugins has helped us steadily improve our intranet plugin suite. Hopefully these resolutions will help guide and simplify your own intranet development in the New Year.

1. Solve Real Issues, Don’t List Requirements

I can’t tell you how many times I get a list of several dozen detailed requirements sent to me by a client or agency. They’ve done a wonderful job listing every possible feature request they can imagine coming from their client or employees. What you really need to think about is actual use case scenarios that solve issues.  Our business started with the core need for employees to find each other to get their jobs done.  That was when we created our Simple Intranet Employee Directory.  We’ve since expanded that simple use case to include user photos, editable profiles, a search function and more.

2. Think Less Is More With Intranets

The world record I’ve witnessed for the most plugins installed in a single WordPress install was 64.  SIXTY FOUR!  That client intranet site was running at such a slow pace, that pages often simply timed out before they loaded.  It took a team of half a dozen administrators to sift through all the settings screens and backend widgets, feeds, form databases and more.  You really should not need more than a dozen plugins to get the job done. A simple caching plugin such as W3 Total Cache may help with reducing server load but don’t get too carried away.  Reducing your site’s total plugin count will minimize memory overhead, admin maintenance, simplify plugin updates, and reduce the chance of conflicts. Your admins will  thank you.

3. Your Theme Shall Not Contain Code!

I see this one all the time.  A client comes to us with the latest theme that has a drag and drop customizer design interface, runs AJAX/Javascript code to run built in sliders or galleries.  As per WordPress core standards, themes are meant to run styles/CSS and plugins are meant to run code, period! The free WordPress.org repository won’t accept any theme that is packed with Javascript code.  By adding a theme that includes code to your WordPress install, you are increasing the chance of a conflict, slowing down your site and also compromising responsiveness with phones and tablets.

4. Let Your Users Create Content

The more opportunities you give your users to create content, the more they will use your intranet.  Functions such as editable/searchable user directory profiles with photos (our #1 feature), online forms (our #2 feature), activity feeds, event calendars, wikis are keys to driving member engagement with your intranet.

5. Avoid Multisite WordPress Installation

I strongly recommend thinking carefully about whether you want to activate the WordPress multisite feature for an intranet.  Adding multisite adds overhead and greatly increases the complexity for managing admins, and superadmins.  It also hugely complicates troubleshooting when issues arise with plugins and themes that are out of date, have conflicts or crash etc (and they will). Your database overhead also increases reducing optimization and load times.

6. Consider Going Local

If you want to control your own server settings, configuration and ensure total bulletproof security  (e.g. if you are a financial institution), consider installing a local WordPress intranet vs a hosted one (see WordPress.org for directions). Local WordPress is supported by all the major server types (WAMP, XAMPP, Ubuntu etc) and it’s not too difficult to load up for most server admins.

If you want ease of access to users via the intranet and want to act also as an extranet, consider hosting your WordPress installation with an experienced WordPress expert ISP host such as Dreamhost. We have many non-profits and retail businesses who successfully host secure intranets with them.  They have a one-click installation of WordPress, and very low cost host on shared or private servers.  There are many security precautions you can take also using SSL and htaccess files that will make your installs highly secure.

7. Separate Your Intranet From Your Public Site

We strongly recommend separating your public facing website from your intranet.  The main reasons are for security, optimization and risk of downtime.  If your intranet goes down, gets compromized or has high peak time traffic, it can take down your main site.  We suggest setting up a separate subdomain or folder and create a separate installation of WordPress for your intranet.

8. Use Single Sign On

Most clients using Microsoft Active Directory or Google Apps want to avoid having to manage a separate set of login credentials for WordPress as well.  Yes, this is possible and we recommend specific third-party plugins from WordPress.org (e.g. Active Directory Integration) that are well supported with such 3rd party applications. Do keep in mind that any totally free (vs paid) plugins often give you only limited or sporadic support and don’t keep up with WordPress regular updates and bug testing. Our set of 24 plugins may not meet all your needs, but we do use core WordPress code and standard tables (e.g. user, usermeta etc) and keep them updated to the latest versions of WordPress. Integrating our plugins with other free or paid versions from WordPress.org is always possible.

9. Think About Workflows

Many WordPress intranet plugins can help you not only with basic features, but will also assist in managing workflows.  Our Simple Leave (formerly Simple Vacations) plugin for example allows users to submit vacations on the front end via a form, and then route the leave approval request to the right person via email.  Once approved, the requester will be notified and the vacation/leave will show up in a visually formatted calendar. Vacation days will also be tracked and are available for that user to login and view at any time, rather than having to bother an HR person. This is the beauty of an efficient intranet, it saves your HR or admins time and provides user generated documentation and status updates when they login.

10. Resist Customizations

As much as you may like a highly customized theme and set of plugins that use your own branding, look and corporate wording, please resist.  You can get 95% of the way there by choosing a theme that is close to what you want and a good set of plugins out of the box.  Our Simple Intranet plugins allow you to do basic login and Dashboard logo branding for example. But once you start to customize (or fork) a plugin or theme, you will lose the ability to get automatic updates that keep up with the latest core versions of WordPress, not to mention add features or bug fixes.

Now Add or Vote on New Features

In an effort to continue to prioritize customer requests most efficiently, we’ve created a page to allow you to add feature requests.  You may also vote on existing feature requests so that we can focus on the most popular items first to deliver them as soon as possible to our clients.

Click Here To Add Or Vote On New Features

Simple Leave and Many Updates

Over the past few months we have been steadily refining and updating our plugins based on client feedback.  Forum comments and issues are our priority for making bug fixes and adding features.  We have introduced our Simple Leave plugin which is an improved version of our Simple Vacation plugin.  We are working on adding partial days to that this month, and so expect it to be out of beta in the next few weeks.

We have also many many small updates to our core Simple Intranet plugin to add features like URLs and style classes to up to three custom fields.  We have added custom date formatting for our directories (grid and list view) and continued to do bug fixes for  our anniversary and birthday widgets as they are reported.  Please remember, that if we can replicate it, we will fix it assuming we are given version details of plugins/WordPress/browser/theme as well as detailed step by step instructions.

Here is a detailed summary of our change log from the past three months;

Nov 30, 2015 – Simple Intranet 2.93-5
Updated some issues with custom fields, and added ability to insert a URL and class for 3 custom field values. Fixed some issues with Anniversary and Birthday widget formatting. Fixed some date formatting and timezone issues.

Nov 17, 2015 – Simple Intranet 2.92
Version 2.92 fixes some email notification issues with the Import from CSV function and also fixes a bug in selected Widgets with wrong photos appearing.

Nov 11, 2015 – Simple Files 2.12
Version 2.12 added option to delete files from the Media Library and fix some navigation issues.

Nov 10, 2015 – Simple Intranet 2.85-90
Updates search box placement vs drop down menu and adds improved search results. Removes unwanted admin notices. Version 2.86 adds new Biography slug and URL fields in Simple Intranet / Directory Options menu.

Oct 26, 2015 – Simple Intranet 2.84
Version 2.84 adds custom date formats and search box length in Directory Options and a custom directory template tag %manager%.

Oct 20, 2015 – Simple Intranet 2.83
Version 2.83 updates some WordPress 4.3.1 fixes and removes [event_form] shortcode, so please use Community Events Add-on plugin now for front end event forms.

Oct 6, 2015 – Simple Intranet 2.82
Version 2.82 updates the event calendar, fixes the avatar import from csv issues and makes some WordPress 4.3.1 fixes. Note, Events Calendar Pro and Community Events optional plugin add-ons will need to be updated to version 3.12, now available via download in the Members area.

Sept 29, 2015 – Simple Intranet 2.79-81
Version 2.79-81 adds French phone format, fixes out of office expiry widget date, anniversary widget profile link and resolves some WP 4.3.1 issues.

Sept 19, 2015 – Simple Intranet 2.77-8 and Simple Grid View 1.99
Version 2.77-8 resolves some WP 4.3.1 issues, fixes white text in editor and fixes the import from CSV avatar image function.

Sept 15, 2015 – Simple Intranet 2.75-6
Fixed custom field search criteria and allowed for foreign first and last user names.

Custom Phone Formats for Directory

We have introduced custom phone formatting to the latest version 2.84 of Simple Intranet.  It is found in the Dashboard / Simple Intranet / Directory Options area. This is an alternative to the existing country code format options available.  This option will allow you to customize spacing, and characters such as “+” and brackets for your country’s typical phone formatting.

image (3)

How it works

The first option area uses the PHP preg_match function. You need forward slashes at the beginning and the end. In the example above of /([0-9]{2})([0-9]{4})([0-9]{4})/ the [0-9] looks for digits 0 through 9.  The curly brackets such as {2} means that there will be a grouping of 2 digits, then {4} is a grouping of another 4, then another {4}.

The next field input defines the spacing and special characters you want in your output.  So the $1 is the first grouping of 2 digits, is has a + in front of it, and is wrapped in brackets.  The $2 is the second grouping of 4 digits and the $3 is the last grouping of 4 digits.  You can see the output of the above example inputs below.

 

phone-format-example

 

Simple Files Security Update

Screenshot (34)We have added more options for securing uploaded documents in Simple Files in the latest release which is version 2.10.  There are now three choices in the Options area (gear cog in top right of the front end) under “File Privacy Options”. They are as follows;

simple-files-privacy11. Visible

The first is “Visible” which is the default, which means that if a user who is or is not logged in to your intranet knows the exact URL of an uploaded file, then they can download it. Depending on your server or configuration, they may or may not also be able to view files inside folders within your WordPress “wp-content/uploads” directory (though this is unusual).

2. Hidden

In this mode, folders within the main WordPress default “/uploads” folder will not be searchable or available for download to any users (logged in or logged out). However, if a user is logged out, and they know the exact URL of a file within a folder, they still could download it.  Note, some servers/installations already hide the /uploads folders automatically, so in some cases this feature may be redundant.

3. Blocked

When options are set to “Blocked”, only logged in users can find, view or download your files or your folders within the “/uploads” area on your site.  How we do this is to create a custom .htaccess file in the “/uploads” folder of your WordPress installation.  Note, this is not in the root of your install, only the “wp-content/uploads” folder and so won’t jeopardize your site. We have also created an option to restore or remove this security option.

Here is a more general overview below of Simple Files;

Smart Content and Vacations Beta

Members can login to their account to find a new Smart Content plugin that we have created based on client feedback. It’s a very simple summary via shortcode for pages on your site, showing the most visited first (based on users) as well as total user data.  Please do provide any feedback on it via the forum.

We’ve also released a new beta for testing purposes of our Simple Vacations plugin.  Please again see the Members area for this, as the latest version won’t update via Plugins area yet until stable.  We’ve added client feedback features into the Settings area and improved options for calculating leave days, vacation allowances, changes in vacation days and more.

Appointments and Chat Plugins Updated

We’ve updated two of our popular plugins with client requested feedback included.  The Simple Appointment plugin now prevents duplicate custom room time bookings from occurring and includes more settings for customization.  The Simple Chat plugin also is optimized for the latest 4.2.2 WordPress versions. Note that both require manual downloading from the Members area. We are also continuing work on a revamped Simple Vacations plugin to include more options for managing vacation days.