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[IPS News] Theme Tip: Dynamic(ish) forum feeds inside Pages databases

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Recently, we had a post in our pre-sales forum that asked how to achieve a few different things with Pages. One of the questions asked was if it was possible to show topics from a particular forum in each database record. While Pages can create a topic for each record for you, there's no way to associate an entire forum with a record.

In my reply, I indicate that you'd need to have a forum ID stored with each record in a custom field, and then use PHP to interact with our API to pull the topic list.

As it turns out, however, there's an easier way that I discovered after some experimentation. In hindsight it's obvious, but I want to share it here because it could open up some other interesting possibilities with some creative uses.

Setting up blocks

The first thing we need to do is create our blocks. We're going to create a block for each of our forums. You can set whatever parameters you want here, but the important thing is that they're named consistently using the forum ID. So, for my forum ID 2, I've named the block forum_2. This will allow us to include our blocks later.

forum_id.jpg

Creating one of the blocks we'll need

 

Adding the field

Next we'll need to create a field in our Pages database that will be used to set the forum ID that is going to show in each record. For simplicity, I'm creating a Number field and I'll enter the forum ID manually, but if you wanted to go further, you could create a Select Box field, with the key being each forum and the value being the name. This would give you a friendlier input from which to select the forum for each record.

Here, though, I've just created the Number field, and named it Forum ID.

forum_id_2.jpg

Setting up the database field

 

Using the field formatter to show the correct block

Finally, we'll use the Field Formatting options to show the correct block based on the forum ID entered for each record. On the Display Options tab, I'm going to hide the field from the listing template, but show it on the display template. I've selected Custom as the format, then entered this format:

{{if $formValue}}
	{block="forum_{$formValue}"}
{{endif}}

That's it - that's all you need for this to work. It's very simple. All we're doing is passing the $formValue of the field (which is the raw value) into the {block} tag as a variable, so that the block that is rendered depends on this value. As long as a block exists with the correct key, it'll be shown in the display view:

Vestibulum Fringilla Porta Nullam - Records - IPS Community Suite 2016-05-08 12-34-53.jpg

End result, with the correct block pulled in based on the ID we provided to the record

 

Going further

So, given that we know we can use variables in block names to pull in different content (providing the block has been created ahead of time), what other possibilities are there? For starters, we aren't just restricted to using field formatters. Instead, we could use blocks directly in the database templates, using some of the data available there.

Here's one idea - if you have just a few staff members posting records, you could create a block for each staff member that lists their recent posts, status updates, etc. In your database template, you could include the correct block by doing this:

{block="content_for_{$record->author()->member_id}"}

 

I hope this relatively simple approach gives you some ideas for more creative ways to use blocks. If you have any suggestions for other ways to use this approach, please let us know in the comments!

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