Caucus 4.3 -- New Features
(Last updated 2 October 2001.)

This is a brief summary of new features and changes in Caucus 4.3 through Caucus 4.1.  It does not cover everything, especially the technical details of new CML functions.  But it is a good summary for Caucus managers who want to know the implications of the new version for their sites. 

Parenthetical numbers next to each feature note the Caucus version that introduced that feature.  If you're interested in features specifically new for 4.3, just use your browser to "Find in page" the string "4.3".

The new features and changes are organized below into rough categories, although the implications of some of the features run across different categories.

  1. Major new features

    1. Dynamic Tables. (4.3)   Caucus supports a very simple kind of spreadsheet, called a "dynamic table", that is global to a Caucus Center, and has its own permission list.  (See the new chapter on array functions in the CML Reference Guide.)  (More information to follow! 7/4/01)

    2. Parsing CML files in functions (4.3)   The new $includecml() function parses a complete CML file inside a function evaluation.  This is an extremely powerful enhancement for those that want to write their own complicated macros.  Now a single macro has the full power of the CML interpreter available to it.

    3. E-mail notification. (4.1)   A conference organizer may create one or "e-mail notification schedules", which send e-mail to all members of a conference about new material in (selected items of) the conference.

      Individual users may also set their own notification schedule(s), which supplement or override the organizer's schedule(s).  This can be an extremely helpful way to "tickle" conference members who can not check in to the conference on a regular basis.

      The e-mail contains clickable links to the relevant items, so that the recipients can go immediately to the new material of their choice.  (All e-mails have a return address that points to the conference organizer, in case of questions.)

    4. CSNAP. (4.1)   The new "Caucus SNAPshot" utility provides a way for a Caucus manager to create a set of static HTML files that act as a "snapshot" of a group of conferences.  These snapshots are viewable from any browser on any platform (Windows, Mac, Unix) without any additional software, and can be placed on a static website, or stored on a CD, etc. etc. 

      The snapshots reproduce the Caucus environment, including all uploaded files, as closely as possible.  All navigation, conference, item, response, and people links work, although the static files cannot track what is "new" versus what is "seen".

    5. Customizable Center Page. (4.1)   The Caucus Center page is now completely customizable from within Caucus.  The manager can insert arbitrary CML or HTML code, or even use CML text from items in a global "Interface Storage" conference.

    6. Customizable User Fields & Registration. (4.1)   The new user self-registration is also customizable.  The manager can add new user information fields, and add arbitrary HTML text to the self-registration page.

  2. Item and Response enhancements

    1. Upload zip files. (4.1)   Users may upload "zip" files into an item or response.  Caucus automatically "unzips" the file. 

      This is potentially a very powerful capability.  You could, for example, take a multi-slide powerpoint presentation, translate it into HTML (in powerpoint), 'zip' the resulting files into one file, and upload that file into Caucus.  You now have an entire slideshow in Caucus, available with one click.  This is also a good way to upload a web page (with graphics) into Caucus -- or even an entire web site.

    2. Files tied to responses. (4.1)   All uploaded files are now kept in individual subdirectories, tied to the particular item and response.  This means that you can upload multiple versions of the same file into different responses, without "collisions".  It also means that uploaded files get moved, copied, or deleted along with their responses.

    3. Anonymous responses. (4.1)   Items may have truly "anonymous" responses, at the descretion of the conference organizer and the item author.  Any such item may switch back and forth between anonymous or signed entries.  (Anonymous responses remain anonymous.)

    4. Customizable item lists. (4.1)   The conference organizer now controls the exact layout of the lists of items (such as appear on each conference home page).  The lists may now include any of the following, in any order: item number, title, author, last response number, date of last response, and whether the item is "frozen".

    5. URL detection. (4.1)   4.1 has a greatly improved technique for automatically detecting and "blueing" URLs in items and responses.  The handling of special characters in URLs is configurable by the manager (see swebd.conf).

  3. Caucus "engine" enhancements

    1. "Floating point" math.  (4.3)   The Caucus math functions now support "floating point" (real number) math, instead of just integers.  For example, Caucus now understands that $plus(2.1  1.04159) is 3.14159.  (More information to follow! 7/4/01)

    2. Speed improvements.  (4.1)   The Caucus engine (the CML interpreter) is approximately 30% faster (measured in CPU use) than 4.0.

    3. CML extensions. (4.1)   The CML language has been extended with new directives and 30+ new functions (see section 1 of the 4.1 CML Reference Guide).  Most of these simply make it much easier for custom CML authors to add new capabilities.

    4. Y2K ready. (4.1)   4.1 has passed all of our Y2K tests.  All date-related functions work properly in the year 2000.

    5. Simultaneous conferencing. (4.1)   4.1 properly handles "semi-synchronous" scenarios.  This means that when many people are simultaneously responding to the same item, the new responses will appear immediately.  (Previously there was often a delay due to internal caching schemes.)  Or in other words, "when in doubt, just press RELOAD!", and everything will appear.

  4. Improvements in Caucus manager and organizer capabilities

    1. Better conference management. (4.3)   A new class of managers can be defined that are allowed to create conferences, and then delete or archive those conferences -- and do nothing else.  This is very useful when the manager wishes to delegate conference management abilities to a large number of people, without compromising any of the other management permissions.  (More information to follow! 7/4/01)

    2. Managers in groups files (4.3)   Caucus managers may be specified in "groups" files -- instead of entering a userid on the "manage the managers" page, just enter "<group_file_name".

    3. Interface Management. (4.3)   When creating new interfaces for a conference center, a registration interface can be "tied" to a user interface, so that a user registering through interface X can be automatically guided/initialized to always access the conferences through interface Y.  Manager-generated user reports also know where the user first registered.  For more information see Tying a user interface to a registration interface

    4. Caucus management. (4.1)   The main Caucus manager menu has been completely reorganized into categories (conferences, users, operation) and extends most of the previously existing capabilities.

    5. Preregister users. (4.1)   Users may be pre-registered, with or without a userid, and with or without "pre-joining" to specific conferences.

    6. Manage users by date (4.1)   has been completely revamped and rewritten, and works on all size licenses.  This allows managers to analyze "last use" patterns for any and all users, and remove users that have not been on in a long time.

  5. Conference Features

    1. Search by Author. (4.1)   Conferences may be searched for items and responses by a particular user name.

    2. The Personal Conference List (4.1)  management has been significantly improved.  Users may change or reorder their personal conference lists with an entirely point-and-click interface.  (4.0 required editing a text box containing a list of conferences.)

    3. Conference descriptions. (4.1)   Each conference has a one-line description that appears on the Caucus Center page.

  6. Other

    1. Browser Compatibility. (4.1)   Caucus 4.1 is fully compatible with Netscape 3 and 4, and Internet Explorer 4.01 and 5.0.  It includes several workarounds for bugs in IE 4.01 that caused problems in Caucus 4.0.

      (Should still be compatible with IE 3.02 excepting some javascript features, although this is not guaranteed.)

    2. Pop-up windows improved. (4.1)   Caucus uses "pop-up" windows to display "blued" URLs or links in items, to handle the "Go To" button, the "Help" button, the "Act on checked responses" features, and (new in 4.1) individual people.  (Click on a name and a pop-up window appears with information about that person).

      Pop-up windows now "remember" their size -- if a user resizes a window for their browser, Caucus uses the new size the next time the pop-up appears.  Pop-ups are also now guaranteed to "float" to the top (so that they are not hidden by other windows) when the appropriate button or link is clicked).

    3. License activation key. (4.1)   All Caucus licenses are delivered (downloaded) "pre-expired", i.e. with an expiration date in the past.  Each customer is given a 21-character activation key that encodes their customer number, operating system, expiration date (if any), and limits on number of users and number of conferences. 

      The customer uses the key to activate their license at install time, or to upgrade their license (from within Caucus) at any time thereafter.