Zen to the power of T3


After a lot of in depth analysis, soul searching and reading tea leaves, we have decided to move our Joomla template releases to the T3v3 framework.

This has not been an easy decision to make but we are confident that it is the right decision. A lot of people have been surprised about the change, so let me take you through the reasoning behind the decision.

So, What is the T3 framework?

The T3 framework is a Joomla template toolkit that provides a set of useful tools for creating Joomla templates. It is developed by Joomlart and released as an open source platform that anyone can use.

It is an installable plugin that is installed in addition to your Joomla template but essentially sits in the background providing some of the core functionality and features that ship as a part of the template's feature set.

Why move to the T3 framework?

1. T3 is where I wanted the Zen Grid Framework (ZGF) to be.
When I first looked at T3v3 (around 6 weeks ago) I was blown away by the maturity and functionality of the framework. After speaking to Hung from Joomlart I was further reassured that what I could see in the code and on the page matched the design philosophy that we were also pursuing with ZGF.

T3v3 is a complete rebuild of their framework with an emphasis on performance and responsive / mobile functionality. The templating system and core functionality has been completely stripped back, reworked and revisioned - almost making it a completely new template framework.

2. The same zen philosophy on a new and improved codebase.
One of the big factors for me was the fact that the T3 templating system is very similar to the ZGF layout override functionality. It's actually a lot simpler to use and makes customisation a lot more obvious to the developer minded - I'll be writing a tutorial on how to customise your Joomlabamboo T3 template in the next few days.

The template system is so flexible that we can more or less keep the existing markup from our current framework with the same module positions and naming convention which - with a little luck - will mean that upgrading your ZGF Joomla 1.5 / Joomla 2.5 template will be a relatively easy task.

For all intents and purposes, shifting to the T3 framework for the developers will not be a giant leap and I think the improved flexibility and accessibility will make up for any short fall in understanding the new workflow.

3. Incredible control for responsive layouts.
One of the "next big" things for Joomla template frameworks across the board, in my opinion, is going to be the implementation of a more visual approach to controlling layouts. I think the more visual feedback we provide for things like module and template layout the more accepted and usable Joomla becomes for site builders and developers.

Responsive Layouts

T3 provides some killer control over the way that each module position is displayed across a broad range of screen sizes. Changing the width of an element is as simple as dragging a layout block and changing the relative width for that view. Each module can have it's own width assigned for each breakpoint. No more need to dig through mediaqueries to change how a particular block behaves at a particular screensize.

Responsive 2

4. Doing more with LESS (sorry I couldn't resist that).
One of the big changes in joomla 3 was the implementation of LESS as a means of controlling and generating the css for a site. LESS is essentially a programmatic language for CSS that improves the workflow for writing css. LESS cuts down on the code that you need to write as well as providing reusuable snippets (aka mixins) that can be used for implementing common css rules or declarations that are used throughout a template.

T3 has some great support for LESS. It includes a built in LESS compiler which can compile your LESS files at a push of a button. This takes the pain out of needing to compile the code with an external program. You can also run the template in development mode which loads the LESS files on the front end allowing you to use LESS durign the development phase of the process.

5. Theme Magic allows you to create themes auto-magically.
While LESS is, more or less, a feature for advanced users, Theme Magic provides real time, hands on control that is a perfect way for end users to make small design tweaks and colour changes to the template.

T3 Theme Magic

Theme Magic provides a real time "schemer" that allows the user to try out new colours and some other minor design changes in real time, but importantly, not on the live site. It also provides a super simple method for creating your own colour schemes so if you have a few colour ideas you want to try you can easily create a new palette, save it, create a new one and quickly flip between them.

This is all in a non-destructive real time preview that has no affect on the front end until the theme is either saved or applied to the site.

6. A mega Mega Menu
One of the most requested features for our themes has been the implementation of a mega menu and I am happy to say that as of v1.1 of T3v3 all T3 themes will have a mega menu built in.

The new mega menu for T3 is simply astonishing, and once again, it uses a beautifully implemented visual UI for users to control how to make their menu truly mega. Check out the screenshots below - i think you will be very impressed.

Zen Base - A blank Joomla 3 scaffold.

It's our hope that this week we will make available our free Joomla template called Zen Base. It's a free Joomla 2.5 and Joomla 3.0 template that is built on the T3 framework. Think Blanko but on T3 and ready to use for Joomla 3.0.

How does this affect us?

As I mentioned above, when I first saw the T3v3 framework for the first time I thought "well that is exactly where I want our framework to be - so if T3 is already doing this, then why reinvent the wheel".

When I approached Hung from Joomlart about the idea of Joomlabamboo using T3 as the template framework he was very excited. And since then he has been very open to new ideas for feature suggestions and improvements to the T3 workflow.

Part of the benefit to us (and to you), is that by pooling our resources we are able to continue releasing beautiful templates on a solid codebase with an incredible featureset.

My hope is that the move to T3 will mean that we can reign in the devlopment time for our templates and strat releasing our templates in a more timely manner.

Will you port other themes to T3 and when will that happen?

All of our current Joomla 2.5 templates will be ported to Joomla 3 and the T3 framework. We will start work on the building block themes this week and then move backwards through our recent releases to make the templates Joomla 3.0 compatible.

We will then take a look at some of the popular Joomla 1.5 only themes and make a decision about which ones to port to Joomla 3.

How do I upgrade to T3 from and existing Zen theme?

While I havent mapped out a specific path for this at the moment, it's my hope that moving to T3 and Joomla 3 will be a simple drag and drop of css and js into the new Zen base theme. In principal this is an easy process but I am yet to do this in a real world context but I will post a thorough overview of the process in the next week or so.

More news coming ...

Over the next few weeks I will be writing regular posts and tutorials about the T3 framework. Some focussed on the developer and others focussing on site builders. Part of the transition to T3 will of course be about getting used to the new tools in the T3 framework. Once you have given the framework a spin I think you will agree that it's a huge step forward for Joomla users.

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