News


Documentation update

Hi all,

As part of the new Form Tools website rewrite I’ve been focusing on getting the documentation re-written in an online, editable format where anyone can contribute. You can see the work in progress here:
http://formtools.github.io/docs/

Each page contains an “EDIT” button at the bottom, allowing anyone to contribute fixes or additional documentation.

I have yet to add in searching and tagging – as well as port over all the existing documentation – but… progress!

Ben

Posted in Documentation, New Website 2014 | Leave a comment

Docs, forums, generatedata.com

Hi all,

Time for an update on what’s being going on around here.

Docs
For the new Form Tools site, I’ve been working on porting over the documentation into a self-editable form on github. I ended up settling on a popular tool called Jekyll which creates static content – kind of perfect for this particular situation. You can find the work here on github. It’s a bit early to contribute, however.

In case you missed it, my goal here is to allow the existing Form Tools documentation to be edited by anyone. Right now it’s closed off in a custom CMS, which is like so 2004. I’ve open sourced the documentation for all my other open source projects over the last couple of years and it’s kind of a no brainer for Form Tools.

Forums
Urgh… forums! We’re still battling the neverending tide of spam. A couple of days I decided to try a very different tack: I now manually approve all registrations. This is kind of a pain for you and me, since you have to wait for approval. But given the circumstances it may be the only option. Let’s see how it goes.

generatedata.com
This is another of my open source scripts and the source of the majority of my donations. That script pays for Form Tools hosting and incidental costs, so it has to be my priority at times. Yesterday it was on the front page of reddit programming (a popular dev site) causing it to come crashing down. Oops. In the short term I’m going to need to focus on scaling that script up to accommodate the extra traffic. But this is all useful stuff for Form Tools – I’ll use the same hosting/scaling logic for Form Tools when the new site’s ready.

Update over!

- Ben

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Site redux update

Hi all,

As you’ve probably noticed, the forums are back online. I did my best to sandbox it, change passwords etc. etc., but really, I won’t be happy until the site has been overhauled.

On that note, the new site is coming along well! There will be a few new changes, including most notably:

  • Documentation will now be stored on github (but available at docs.formtools.org like now). This will allow people to contribute tutorials, documentation, fix typos and update anything out of date.
  • I’m dropping the demo. The demo is a monster – overcomplicated, slow and doesn’t give users a good enough impression of the script. So the first version of the new site won’t include it at all. I know this is a bit of a step down, but I need to tame the website and get it under control. If it included the demo, I’d be working on it until doomsday. I will probably add a demo back in again at a later date, but not for some time.
  • The new site will be hosted elsewhere.

There’s still lots and lots of work to be done, but progress is being made…

- Ben

 

Posted in News | 2 Comments

Forums taken offline

Hi all,

I’ve received a handful of emails this week from people saying that their email addresses used only in the Form Tools forums have been used in phishing attacks against them. This is extremely worrisome. Naturally we don’t pass along any information about our users to anyone, so I’m fairly sure this is the result of a hack.

I’m exceedingly sorry if you receive any spam from signing up on our forums.

This website (but not Form Tools itself, note!) has been the recipient of a handful of hacks over the years, always caused by buggy software – forums and WordPress. Sadly, there just doesn’t seem to be any stable forum software out there – they all get hacked eventually.

For the moment, to be safe I’m going to take the forums offline. I know this is a nuisance for many people, but I’d rather be safe than sorry. I’m going to look into what I can do over the next few days. Frankly, I haven’t decided how to proceed.

All of this brings into sharp focus that my attention to the website really is paramount.

*sigh*. Nothing like returning to work on an old script.

Ben

EDIT: here’s what’s happening. The forum will be back online by the end of the weekend (Jun 15th), with whatever additional safeguards I can put in place. Rather than just patch formtools.org, I’m starting afresh with a new design, new everything. Once it’s ready I’ll be setting it up on a new hosting provider as well. The forums are invaluable. They’re such a great resource for developers I think the project would be much poorer without them. I’ll just have to be more diligent in keeping them up to date and spam-free.

EDIT: July 6th. Well, the forums have been completely saturated with spam this evening, and it’s possible they’ve been hacked as well. I’m afraid I’m taking them offline until further notice.

Posted in Important!, Maintenance | 2 Comments

Site maintenance this weekend

Hi all,

Just a quick word of warning, I’ll be doing some site maintenance this weekend, so the site may be up and down for a while.

What I’m doing is revising the build + deployment process for this website to make it easier for me to roll out changes.

You’ll also see a few small changes as well. In particular, the proprietary bug tracker, currently found at bugs.formtools.org is going bye-bye. All bugs will now be logged and tracked in the appropriate repository on github. I’ll be updating various pages (modules, themes, etc.) to link to the right sections.

- Ben

[EDIT: Urgh, this didn't go very well. The hosting company I'm using is really not up to snuff - I've been meaning to move for years and this may prove to the be time. I'm going to investigate Digital Ocean and try it out with a couple of my other sites to see how it runs on there first.]

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Security certificate

Hi all,

We renewed the SSL security certificate for https://accounts.formtools.org, but apparently the process takes several days. So in the meantime you may noticed your browser whining that the cert has expired. It’s true! It has!

Should be fixed soon.

- Ben

Posted in Maintenance | Leave a comment

Back to Form Tools!

As of today, I’m returning to work on Form Tools. Woo! Exciting day! In case you’ve no idea who I am, I’m not surprised – I’ve been a bit of an absentee landlord the last couple of years. My name’s Ben Keen, I’m the lead developer. I was the guy that created Form Tools 10 years ago this summer (whoah!).

Maybe I should start with a little history.

Some history

Three years ago, thanks to my business partner Joseph Lo and a grant from the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) I was able to quit my job and work full time on Form Tools, working to commercialize the script and make it into a viable business. This gave me time to work on such features as the premium Form Builder and Data Visualization modules – both of which have greatly enriched the project. A big thanks to everyone who’s purchased them!

But the truth is, Form Tools was always very much a pet project for me, and commercializing it made me lose interest. I wasn’t able to focus on what I regarded as the most important features – error handling, performance, unit tests, code re-writes, and other such seemingly mundane stuff. Instead I had to work on things that would increase revenue. This was expected, but for a project that was formerly a hobby I found it difficult to swallow. I felt like the quality was slipping and there wasn’t anything I could do about it.

The last couple of years we’ve able to recoup our investment and justify the time and money spent on the project. A big, big thanks to everyone who’s purchased the premium modules! We really can’t thank you enough. Without your support we wouldn’t have gotten close to what we have to offer today. I really hope they’ve proven to be useful.

So that takes us to now. As of today…

Form Tools is now completely free

Yup! As of today, all modules are now free for download. The default download package now includes the Form Builder by default. All the other premium modules can be downloaded separately, like everything else.

I’m going back to relying exclusively on donations to keep this project up and running. You’ll see the old “Donate” page appear soon. Running this project isn’t cheap – server costs alone are over $250 a month, so donations are always welcome. But the donation model is something I’ve always been far more comfortable with – and I feel it frees me up to focus on whatever I want. No more worrying about sales.

Okay, so what does this mean?

This means I’ll be much more active with the project than before. People who’ve purchased premium modules are far more likely to see updates to the modules they purchased. This is good news for everyone, really. :)

I have a lot of plans for the project, some short-term, some long-term. And there is a LOT of work to be done, oh boy. But for now I just want to touch on three of the short-term goals that take the highest priority. Nothing to get your pulse racing, but all very necessary.

1. Moving the code to github

If you haven’t heard of it, github.com is a website devoted to collaborative software development. I’ve been using it extensively the last couple of years for my other projects (generatedata.com, d3pie, the pixelator and many others) and that’s where Form Tools belongs. There are countless brilliant developers out there, many of whom may be interested in helping out. Github lowers the bar for entry and helps encourage contributions.

Moving to github has a number of deep implications for the formtools.org website. A lot of the functionality has close ties to the existing SVN repo, so that will all need to be refactored.

I’ve already created the Form Tools organization and put all the code up there (see https://github.com/formtools) but that’s only the first phase. The next step is…

2. Updating the website

This website is kind of a monster. As mentioned, it’s strongly tied to the old SVN repository which houses all the Form Tools code, so that all needs to be updated. Then there’s a lot of old junk that needs to be removed – premium module references, outdated content, broken links, etc. But above all, I need to revise the deployment and build process to allow me to update the site faster and easier. The current setup is a complicated mess. Occasionally formtools.org gets hacked due to WordPress or the forum software, and each time it’s a real nuisance to resolve. I want to tighten up all the nuts and bolts so formtools.org is more manageable and more secure.

Then once that’s done…

3. Back to Form Tools dev! Woot! 

The first thing to do with the FT codebase is to update it to ensure compatibility with PHP 5.5. I originally wrote Form Tools to support PHP 4.3 and I need to examine the whole thing so that it properly runs on 5.5.

And then… onto some much, much more exciting things. :) I’ll keep you posted with my progress, each step of the way.

Great to be back. There’s a lot of dust on this old script and it’s time to brush it off.

- Ben

Posted in Important!, News | 4 Comments

Premium modules offline

Well hey there! It’s been quite a while since I was around. My name’s Ben, I’m the lead developer of Form Tools.

Just a quick note. Form Tools premium modules are unavailable for the next month. More details to come! :)

People who’ve purchased premium modules can still find their license keys in their user accounts. In case anyone needs access to the download zip files, I can be found at [email protected].

- Ben

Posted in Important!, Maintenance, News | 2 Comments

German Characters

Hi All,

Recently some of our German users have had some issues with the characters <ö ä ü Ö Ä Ü ß>. It might not display properly in emails or it might prevent not be saved in the database. A few tips to ensure that these characters are properly saved.

  1. Ensure database is set to utf8_general_ci
  2. Check your /global/config.php file doesn’t contain a $g_unicode = false; line and your /global/library.php does contain a $g_unicode = true; line (unicode is enabled by default, so unless you edited it this should be fine).
  3. Encoding of form is set in metatag in the header of your form document, please add this meta tag to your form: <meta http-equiv=”Content-Type” content=”text/html; charset=utf-8″ />
  4. In the form tag add “accept-charset=”UTF-8″ to the form <form … accept-charset=”UTF-8″>

Cheers,

Joe

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Integrating Form Tools with Email Management

Hi all,

We’re often asked if we can add email functionality into Form Tools to send out and manage campaigns. Email campaign management application can be complex, feature rich applications. While we’re not completely ruling out the possibility of adding some features like these applications they’re not on our development road map in the near future.

Many of these application come with excellent APIs that you can integrate with Form Tools. An email application we often use is Mail Chimp. It has an easy to use API that some of our users are already using with Form Tools. This thread thoroughly documents how to integrate a Mail Chimp newsletter signup form to a Form Tools form: http://forums.formtools.org/showthread.php?tid=2414

Special thanks to Brandon (michatmaster7) for his work on this.

Cheers,

Joe

 

Posted in News | 1 Comment