FocalPoint V1.2.5 update and what to expect in future releases.

  • Friday, 10 April 2015
http://focalpointx.com/

I've just uploaded an update to FocalPoint fixing some bugs and continuing to pave the way towards some new features. But first... what's included in todays update?

  • Fixes a bug where unpublished and trashed location types and legends would still be displayed. Thanks to Michael Rothmann for reporting this and patiently awaiting a fix.
  • Adds maximum zoom to global configuration and map configuration options. This inclusion was request a few times. Often a location type was presented by only one location. Google's Fitbounds library would zoom in as close as possible. In some cases showing just a pin and nothing but blank space around it. Being able to specify a maximum zoom overcomes this and makes things much friendlier.
  • Fixes a bug where a quotation mark in a location title would break the front end javascript. A simple mistake that shouldn't have slipped through. I slapped myself for this one. Thanks to Suzanne Koppenhol for reporting this one.
  • Change to focalpoint.xml which enables a field for KML file storage for a new plugin in the works.

It's all fairly simple stuff. No major new features in this update.

What's coming soon.

KML Layers

I've been working on a plugin that allows you to load an external KML file onto the map. In this way you can use FocalPoint to categorise and display locations around a city or along a trail and a KML layer can define the city boundaries, or draw a particular route or include special labels. Whatever you include in your KML file will be included as a layer on the FocalPoint map. It's actually part of a bigger project for a paying client but I'll be releasing it and making it available with the other FocalPoint plugins.

Layers have been requested quite a few times and we've speculated over the best way to do it. It has been suggested that adding the ability to turn layers on and off in the same way markers are toggled would be a good option but it's simply too memory intensive on some devices when detailed layers are used. So it's just one KML file per map rendered when the map loads.

The plugin still needs to be tweaked and tested a little more and hopefully released in the next few weeks. It will be available as a subscribers download.

Leaflet.js and Open Street Maps

Leaflet.js is an open source Javascript library for creating mobile and user friendly maps. See: http://leafletjs.com/ It's been a dream to work with and I find it much more developer friendly than the Google API. I do have a working Leaflet/OSM version of FocalPoint. It's still got some features to finish. But, I have to say the feel and usability of the maps is a great improvement over the Google API. 

Some of the features that users will enjoy may sound gimmicky but they do make a difference to usability.

For example...

  • Markers subtly animate into position when you zoom in and out.
  • When markers get too close when zooming they animate together and kind of "pop" into a numbered cluster.
  • Clusters include a boundary so you can see how far the markers extend before you click on them.
  • At maximum zoom, a cluster of markers will "spider" apart allowing each marker to be visible and clickable. This has been a big problem using the Google Maps API especially when there are several markers in the same location, like businesses in the same building. I've yet to find a good Google Maps library to handle this functionality. With Leaflet.js it's a breeze.
  • It's very easy to set up Leaflet to work with Mapbox. If you have very specific design requirements you can design your own maps. See https://www.mapbox.com/design/

A Leaflet / Open Street Maps version of FocalPoint is just around the corner. I think the Joomla community will be very pleased to see it. It will set FocalPoint apart from the multitude of Google Maps extensions on the Joomla Extensions Directory. There may be some people that prefer a Google version especially if they have built their own styles using the style API. It's possible I will maintain a Google Maps version and a Leaflet/OSM version.

Thanks for reading. Stay tuned and follow me on Twitter to keep up to date.

Regards
John