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Manual: Usage-Topics

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While much of a RidgeStar Interactive Site is about dynamic database driven information (e.g. Assignments, etc.), there are a variety of relatively static bits of information that need posting on the site. To satisfy this requirement, there are three basic strategies:

  1. Static Pages (RidgeStar manually maintains these for you)
  2. Uploaded files (typically PDF files). These can be uploaded (Feature=FileSupport) and then referenced elsewhere in a variety of ways
  3. HTML page contents (via the Topics mechanism)

The Topics mechanism is intended to permit Administrators to publish information in an HTML based format within the look and feel of the Site without requiring a direct knowledge of HTML itself (HTML familiarity is helpful, but not required). Upon Display, the Topics mechanism "converts" the specified content into the appropriate HTML language (for Version 4 and up sites, this is XHTML 1.1)

Create a new Topic

To create a new Topic, you can follow these steps:

Click to Administrator: Manage-Topics and click the AddAdd symbol
This causes the Site to allocate a new Topic in the Topics table that will contain general information about the Topic. The site should respond with a new Topics form.
Assign the desired Topic, SubTopic, Title and associated Segments
Common Topic values are FAQ, Help, Policies, etc. (but it can be almost anything). SubTopics are typically groupings within the Topic, such as Assignments, Introduction, etc.). A single Topic can be available in as many Segments as desired (just remember to check on the appropriate checkboxes).
Click Update
This commits the information you have entered to the Topics database table

Entering Text Content

You can enter Topic Text (Content) in one of two ways. You can allocate individual Text entries (if the Text database table is available) using a "Text Entry" mechanism or a WYSIWYG Editor (the RidgeStar recommendation) identified as "TinyMCE", as (described below):

Text EntryShow


If Feature=TinyMCE is active in your site, you'll be presented with a WYSIWYG Editor-> area in the Topics display (a representation is in the following example):Topic Content via TinyMCE

Simply move your mouse into the Content... area and overtype the text, as desired. You can make use of the TinyMCE sub-menu of elements to assist your editing process. Remember to click Update once you've completed editing to commit your changes to the Topics table in the database.

Test the Formatting of the Topic

When you believe you have arranged the Topic and Content you want to convey to the User, you can review what it will generally appear like by clicking on the Preview symbolpreview you'll see at the top of the individual input Forms. Of course, you can also open another Browser Tab or Window and flip from one to the other (one for editing, one for review), but that's completely up to you.

Things to consider

While there are many possible variations, the key thing to consider is how you will reference the Topic within the Site. Topics can be listed as a group, available in the Table of Contents, directly referenced in other hyperlinks, or any combination of these things.

It is quite common for collections of Topics to be grouped under specific Segments as FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) or Help. It can also be used to publish individual Chapter Policies, complex Agreements, let your imagination go.... But, make sure you indicate which Segments should have the Topic listed so that your end users can easily locate the appropriate information.
Sites with Feature=Tag activated, can also reference a Topic through the assigned Tag value. E.G. Most SelfAssign Topics have multiple Text elements and, in some situations, can be quite complex. If the SelfAssign Topic has Tag=SelfAssign associated with it, the Topic can be displayed with the URL of "display?tag=SelfAssign". This CAN be used in other URL sequences throughout the Site (internal or external to the Topics mechanism). Inclusion in an Email message would be coded as http://www.RidgeStar.com//display?tag=SelfAssign

However, the key to all this is to simply keep HTML based information organized well (meaning, set the Topic and SubTopic values carefully in the individual Topics). The actual effectiveness of the Topics mechanism is very much controlled by your organization of the Topics and corresponding Content as a whole.

Good luck with your efforts, but don't hesitate to experiment and find what works best for your requirements and situation.