For years TemplaVoilà (TV) was the de facto standard for building complex website layouts in TYPO3. But since further development has more or less ceased and as the release of the next LTS version of TYPO3 is imminent, an answer to the question, of what to use instead of TV, is badly needed. Luckily there exist quite a few pretenders to the throne, TemplaVoilà left abandoned, though a new king has not been crowned yet.
With this post I start a series of articles, in which I will try to give an overview of already available alternatives to TemplaVoilà, while also showing some other ongoing efforts inside the TYPO3 community for improving the page and content templating capabilities of TYPO3 CMS.
Say good bye
When in summer 2013 the maintainer of TemplaVoilà announced, that he will stop working on it, the TYPO3 community was split into two kinds of people: those, who were relieved about seeing this somehow outdated templating engine coming to an end (and thus clearing the way for more future-proof techniques like Extbase and Fluid), and those, who deeply regretted the end of TemplaVoilà seeing no adequate alternative in place and fearing the need to give up good old habits.
The latter resulted in rumors that development of TemplaVoilà will continue with a new team. But even though a new team did form, it seems, that TemplaVoilà’s time definitely has come now: the overall connotation of its Forge site strongly hints in that direction (despite the announcement, that there will be “at least” one version released, which will be compatible with TYPO3 6.2 LTS).
I suppose that even the biggest fans of TemplaVoilà had to perceive, that the arguments against continuing maintenance (see again Tolleiv’s blog) were just too strong. And one has to admit: TemplaVoilà did a great job in the past years; but now it’s time to hand over to the next generation, which – maybe most surprisingly to some – is already here!
The heir of TemplaVoilà
Basically TemplaVoilà was good for three things:
- Building flexible page templates leaving behind the default 4-column layout of TYPO3,
- providing reusable container elements, e. g. for flexible multicolumn layouts,
- giving endless possibilities for building custom content elements with its FCE concept.
Having worked for years with and getting used to all of these features, one hardly is willing to give up even one of it (which supposedly caused some of the strong reactions after TemplaVoilà’s retirement).
But as it turns out, you don’t really have to. Literally every of the above mentioned features of TV can be replaced with the one or other extension and/or templating technique, while there are even some concepts, which already can substitute TemplaVoilà as a whole.
So let’s take a look at the different approaches for replacing TemplaVoilà.
The all-in-one solution: Fluid powered TYPO3
Fluid powered TYPO3 is probably the most promising pretender to TemplaVoilà’s throne. As the name already suggests, it totally backs on Fluid (and Extbase) and thus can be definitely considered future-proof in the TYPO3 context. While it is actually a collection of several extensions, from which you can use all or only those you really need, it forces you to encapsulate your own code in a dedicated extension, making it highly reusable and easily sharable.
The “absolute core” (as the project website puts it) is flux, bringing Fluid based Flexforms to the TYPO3 backend. On top of it you can set fluidpages, a page templating engine, which even integrates with TYPO3’s default Backend Layouts concept, and/or fluidcontent, a content rendering engine, which renders Fluid templates as content elements and also allows nesting of content elements. Et voilà: all the flexibility, what made TemplaVoilà so great, is at your finger tips again!
And the FluidTYPO3 cosmos offers even more: extensions like VHS (a vast collection of ready-made ViewHelpers, extending the default Fluid ViewHelpers) and fluidwidget (extending VHS ViewHelpers with associated Controllers) aim at making developer’s life even more easier. Just dive into the full list of FluidTYPO3 related extensions and see the great potentials by yourself.
But the complexity of FluidTYPO3 is currently also one of its biggest drawbacks. Finding the entrance to it is not that easy – even for the experienced TYPO3 developer (see this experience report of a TemplaVoilà enthusiast switching to FluidTYPO3). This is mainly due to the fact, that documentation dealing with all aspects of FluidTYPO3 is still missing. The project website is not very verbose, when it comes to specific problems, a developer might face during development with FluidTYPO3, and the Beginner’s Guide does not act as the step-by-step introduction guide, one might expect from its name.
Though, this may be only a temporary problem for FluidTYPO3, as since end of January 2014 new efforts on creating an overall documentation are undertaken. So keep your eyes open on that (try e.g. #FluidTYPO3 to see what’s going on)!
In the meanwhile dig through the project’s website, install and try out the FluidTYPO3 introduction package, and read the already mentioned experience report “Dating Fluid Powered TYPO3” (plus comments!) as well as the blog of one of the creators of FluidTYPO3, including some quickstart guides and many how-tos (e.g. on menu rendering). It’s definitely worth it!
While Fluid powered TYPO3 is great, it’s not necessarily the best fitting solution for everyone’s needs. You should also have other potential TV-replacements on your radar, which I will introduce to you in follow-up articles:
- Gridelements and Theme Packages
- DCE, Fluid Template Manager, Content designer and others
- TYPO3 core features: Backend Layouts and Content Elements with Extbase and Fluid
So stay tuned!