Form Tools 3: progress update

Hi all,

Hope your year is treating you well! Boy it went fast for me.

It’s been a couple of months since my last update so it’s time for another post. I’ve been using the Form Tools twitter account for announcing day-by-day news so if you want to stay more current, do check that out.

Form Tools 3

Version 3 is coming along well. It’s still in alpha (meaning not production ready) and will remain that way until we have compatible versions of all components (themes, modules, API) and the script itself is nice and stable [N.B. it’s actually really not bad right now]. As of today the themes are done and 2/3 of the modules have been updated. The alpha download package was getting a bit bloated with all the compatible modules so I’ve trimmed it down to include just the major ones.

The remaining modules that still need to be updated are:

Client Audit
Custom Fields
Form Backup
Form Builder
JS Error Logs
Submission Accounts
Submission History
Submission ID Manager
Submission Pre-parser

Plus the API. The API will be changing quite a lot (like the rest of Form Tools it’ll be written as a single API class) so I’ll provide an adapter for people upgrading to FT3 that’ll emulate the old API method interface.

The end is finally in sight!

After that, what’s next?

Boy Form Tools 3 has been a hell of slog. I’m sure I’ve said this before but working on library updates, code improvements, PHP7 compatibility and so on are all necessary, but frightfully tedious when done en masse. And that’s pretty much been my life for… how long? 2 years? Urgh. When do I get to the fun stuff?! New features! Improved UI! Performance updates!? 

Well, my original plan was to get FT3 out the door containing all the hum-drum work, then embark on a shiny new FT4 rewrite containing all the fun stuff. But having seen how long it takes to update a script the size of Form Tools I’ve decided this is the wrong approach. Instead I’m going to do incremental updates rather than embark on another massive rewrite that’ll take years to see the light of day.

So various features I had planned for Form Tools 4 will actually be released one by one in v3. I think this is a much more sensible approach: it’ll mean new features will be quicker to roll out and ensure Form Tools doesn’t ever get as out of date as Form Tools 2 did.

There will still be a FT4, but it’ll be a much more realistic goal.

And what about that upgrade script? What’s that coming back online?!

Gah, I’m so sorry about that. In short: that script is a project unto itself. When I moved the codebase to github I borked a number of things and it’s been a nightmare to bring back to life. Note to self: dependency management is NOT to be taken lightly (I should get that tattooed somewhere). The ultimate goal is to remove the upgrade script from the website and include it within Form Tools itself. But that’s longer term. In the short term: I’m working on it. 🙂 I actually think I have it beat – it’s now largely working locally, I just need a lot more testing before releasing it.

Timelines

I’m taking off a couple of weeks in early December to go bird watching in Panama (it’s a hobby, what can I say) so don’t expect much activity during that time. But I think it’s pretty reasonable to expect the Beta to be release in January, and v3 to become the official build a month later. I’m actually relatively confident with the current alpha – I’ve had a few people report issues but by and large they haven’t been too daunting.

All the best!

Ben

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8 Responses to Form Tools 3: progress update

  1. Thad says:

    Thanks for the update and great form application! We’re looking forward to v3. We’ve been using Formtools for years. Enjoy the bird watching. Thanks again!

  2. Nelson Costa says:

    Great work, wish all the luck.

    Hope I can help in the future with FT4 🙂

  3. Peter Häggstrand says:

    I have been away for awhile

  4. Peter Häggstrand says:

    Oops…sorry…managed to hit ENTER while writing… Hehe… Just meant to say that it’s been a while since I came by Formtools. So happy to see you back on the case, working on my fav script! Looking forward to see where it’s going. Hope to help! Enjoy your days off Ben!

  5. admin says:

    Peter, great to hear from you! Thanks 🙂

  6. Gelo de Jesus says:

    This is great news Ben! Formtools is a great app in my company. I just hope I can learn PHP and MySQL to help with stuff! If you like bird watching, you should come by here in the Philippines!

  7. Thad says:

    Hi, Ben. Do you have a release date on the beta version? I think we need to upgrade because our company dropped support for PHP versions below 7. We have a pretty simple installation of Formtools. I’m wondering if we should just install the alpha version now and upgrade to the beta later. The modules we need are “File Upload” and “Submission Pre-Parser” for spam filtering and an email API integration. Thanks.

  8. admin says:

    Hey Thad, good timing! I’ll probably release the first beta version this weekend. That’ll be fully upgradable from Form Tools 2, including all modules, themes + the API. Everything’s already working, I just want to do some more testing before making it the official beta.

    However, the upgrade script won’t be online yet – that kind of makes upgrading a pain! You have to download the zips from each github repo and manually override them. Not ideal… so I’m hoping to get the upgrading script working again soon.

    I’ll make a post here + via the twitter feed when I have some news…!

    Ben

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