Our latest release revamps how Group members can share group resources with each other and introduces a powerful cloning tool for adapting existing Sites to new uses while preserving the original.
Both are well-timed to enable more efficient group collaboration and Site expansion (building off of last year’s new creation portal) as COVID-19 necessitates new digital connections, especially for education. The Courses Directory that we launched last fall is growing faster than ever.
Keep reading for a closer look at this release’s two marquee features, as well as other improvements included in Commons 1.17.
Though our creation portal dramatically streamlines the steps needed to set up a new Site, it can still be daunting to start one from scratch. Cloning allows admins who’ve already invested in a particular site to use it as a ready-made foundation for their next project.
This could be particularly useful for a teacher who sets up a course site for one semester and then wants to create another instance for a future semester, or for different sections (either taught by one teacher or close colleagues who are all admins of the original site).
If you want to clone an existing Site and are already a logged-in admin of that Site, you’ll find a cloning option in the creation portal for a Site or a connected Group+Site. Cloning a site means making a standalone copy of any Site(s) that you manage, replicating settings like the original site’s theme, nav menus, and widgets. The new clone will also contain copies of posts, pages and media from the original site that were created by admin users. Content created by other users on the original site will be omitted from the clone to avoid permissions issues.
By default, the only user account on the new cloned site will be the admin who creates the clone (more users can be added later). Other admins of the existing site will be notified about the new clone, and content authored by other admins on the existing site will still be attributed to its respective admin on the cloned site.
Before this release, the interface for Groups contained separate repositories for editable docs, uploaded files, and collaborative papers. The new Group library consolidates all of these into a fresh design while providing new interfaces for the creation of Docs and Files.
We’ve also introduced a new item type, External Links, that makes it easier to reference cloud-based documents (Google Drive or Dropbox items, for example) or any other link relevant to the group.
The entire library view has been redesigned and rebuilt to allow for a more clean view of a group’s shared items, including dynamic searching by keyword, filtering by folder and item type, and sorting. Library item descriptions can be expanded and collapsed to make browsing easier as well.
We’ve also decided to sunset the Papers feature with this release — existing Papers in Groups can still be edited and read, but new Papers can no longer be created. This feature was an experiment that’s run its course, giving way to other popular collaborative-text tools online.
- Password strength meter: Secure passwords are always important, and we just added a dynamic indicator of new passwords’ strength when signing up, as well as some copy for additional guidance. Read our documentation about creating strong passwords here as well.
- Email subscriptions panel: Users can now navigate their email subscriptions panel via keyboard and tab through each option, as opposed to only by mouse click or touchscreen tap. We’ve cleaned up the panel design as well.
- Accept multiple requests to join a group: There is now an option at the bottom of new group requests to accept them all at once. This should be particularly useful for teachers and other group admins managing large numbers of simultaneous new members.
We hope you enjoy the new features of 1.17, and we invite you to send us your feedback as you begin to explore them.