What's new in Caucus 4.6 "Sirius"

(Last revised 25 October 2004.)

The official Caucus 4.6 release, code-named "Sirius", significantly enhances the "professional" look-and-feel and usability of Caucus.  The specific enhancements are described in detail below.  (A detailed change-log describing each feature is also available.)

For the history of previous releases, see What's new in Caucus 4.4 and What's new in Caucus 4.5.

  1. Look and Feel

    1. CSS Integration.  The most important parts of the Caucus text layout and formatting are now controlled by CSS.  Caucus administrators may define overriding "local" stylesheets, managers may specify font families and sizes, and individual users may also pick their own fonts and sizes.  See Caucus and CSS for details.

    2. Easier-to-read layouts.  The item listings on conference home pages, and the display of the items and responses themselves, have been totally revamped to be much more readable and easier to work with (again, using CSS).

    3. Richtext Editor.  Users may write and edit their own professional-looking text with "richtext", a new WYSWYG ("word processor" style) editor.  This editor is fast to load, easy to use, and works with IE 5.5+, Netscape 6+, and Mozilla.  You can even cut and paste text from other web pages or Word documents right into the editor!

      (Caucus 4.5 offered two different experimental "richtext" editors; they have been removed in favor of this newer, faster, cleaner editor.)

    4. Symbol editing.  The Caucus "plaintext" editor lets you insert mathematical symbols into your text.

    5. Support Netscape 4.  Believe it or not, some folks are still using Netscape 4.  Sirius turns off incompatible Caucus features for them.

  2. Conference Features

    1. Conferences may be created as "standard" or "course" conferences.  Course conferences have additional features, such as assignment lists and gradebooks.  See Caucus Course Conferences for more information.

    2. Organizers may "force join" users to a conference.

    3. Organizers may mark items as "hidden" (invisible but not deleted).

    4. Organizers may set the default sort order for lists of items (by number, by title, by author, etc.)

    5. Users are not by default required to confirm joining a conference.

    6. Conference membership lists do not show "old" members who are no longer allowed in a conference.

    7. The "who's on now" macro "%onnow()" can show just the people currently logged on in the current conference.

  3. Item & Response Features

    1. The file upload (attach) dialog has been changed to a pop-up window, and has been greatly simplified.

    2. The response display includes a small "action" bar on the right, where users may immediately "mark new", delete, edit, or select a response.  The select choice automatically pops-up a box that provides additional choices (copy, move, add to notebook, etc.) in a format that is easier to understand than the old "act on checked responses" box.

    3. Results from Search button are shown without HTML tags (much more readable, especially when people use the richtext editor to write responses).

    4. Organizers may define a date-range "window" for when responses may be added to an item.

    5. Organizers may delete a numbered range of responses when editing an item.

    6. Item authors may choose to display responses in "reverse" (blog-like) order, from most recent to oldest.

    7. Item titles are shown in the "compass bar" by default.

    8. Organizers may choose to "not preserve original date" when copying or moving responses.

  4. Email Features

    1. Email participation has been greatly enhanced.  People participating in a conference via email may send and receive plaintext or HTML at their convenience.  They may also send attached files (images, Word documents, spreadsheets, etc.) with their email replies to a conference.  (A future release will include sending attached files out of a conference with emails.)

    2. Email participants may optionally be identified by a name instead of an email address.

    3. Email notification of new material can be sent for an entire site, rather than just individual conferences.

  5. User Features

    1. "Bozo" filter.  Users may choose to filter out responses from other users.  Site manager and conference organizers have the ability to disable this feature, as it is not always socially appropriate.

    2. Fonts and font sizes may be set individually by each user.

    3. Caucus Center page "type a conference name" field will match against any part of a conference name, not just an initial substring.

  6. Management and Site Administration

    1. Caucus can run any existing server-side virus checkers on all uploaded files.  (We recommend the f-sav product from www.f-secure.com. )

    2. If Caucus is installed with MySQL options and the database connection fails, a pop-up error box appears.

    3. Manager may turn off Help or Quit buttons.

    4. User groups are shown in "expandable list" format.  (For example, if there are 10 groups that begin with "info_", they will appear as one link which can be "expanded".)