FreePBX 2.8 beta2

Version 2.8 has really shaped up with quite a few new features from when we first launched [url=/trac/milestone/2.8?by=type]the 2.8 Milestone[/url]. I’m really excited to see many of the changes and nuggets of features that we have squeezed into this release since kicking it off just 3 months ago! We are almost at the home stretch so roll up your sleeves and help us get there!

We started out highlighting the [url=/news/2010-05-09/preview-the-all-new-directory]All New Directory[/url] which has panned out quite nicely. We still need to get some better recordings made up to polish off the default recordings but we are very much looking for your feedback on what’s there so far. Also, don’t miss the tie-in with the 2.8 IVR which let’s you enable direct dialing to Directory members in addition to or in place of the dial-by-name functionality.

I showed some [url=/news/2010-03-20/sneak-preview-of-2-8]Sneak Previews[/url] of some of the changes including several visual improvements such as the double cascading destination selections and the new Outbound Routes and Trunks Dial Rules GUI boxes. However, as excitement built up for this release so did the additional contributions, bug fixes and various other great ideas that have made this another blockbuster release! As of this blog, there are [url=/trac/query?status=closed&milestone=2.8]223[/url] closed tickets against the milestone so far, of which about 1/3 of those are new Feature Requests, big and small!

For those of you who followed the efforts of Kenn10 and the [url=/bounties/custom-context]Custom Context Efforts[/url], it looks like that was a success so I will be coordinating with Kenn10 to get that effort under way as well!

Since there are several changes in some of the critical core components of the dialplan, I’m approaching this beta more cautiously then usual. We could really use another wave of testing and new testers before I add the 2.8 Version Upgrade module to the 2.7 repository. Your help in both flushing out any issues or giving us other feedback about things you like (or dislike) would be very welcome! (For instance – check out the Accordion effect on the Left Module navigation bar – do we keep that, or put it back the way it was, or other suggestions?)

With this beta2 release we are more-or-less freezing new features on 2.8. There is a small handful of changes that we plan on rolling in and did not want to hold up beta2, but beyond these, we will be pushing most new feature requests out until we get 2.8 finalized.

There are two options to install or upgrade to 2.8 and help us test. If you want to stick with the GUI only, you can manually download the 2.8 Upgrade Module onto your existing FreePBX install and then upgrade though the Module Admin GUI.

You can get the Upgrade module here:

[url=http://mirror.freepbx.org/modules/release/2.7/versionupgrade-2.7.0.2.tgz]2.8 Version Upgrade Module[/url]

which is not yet available through the online repository until we get a little more testing done.

Alternatively, you can [url=http://mirror.freepbx.org/freepbx-2.8.0beta2.tar.gz]download the 2.8.0beta2[/url] tarball and use the traditional install_amp installation/upgrade option, instructions can be found on [url=/support/documentation/installation/upgrading-your-system]the Upgrade Instructions[/url] page.

Which ever route you take, please give us feedback either here, though the ticket system or in the forums to help us drive this release to a final version!

[b]Philippe[/b] – On behalf of the FreePBX Team

19 thoughts on “FreePBX 2.8 beta2

  1. Wow – I cant believe were finally here! Has it really only been three months? 2.8 was a lot of fun to work on, and we added lots really cool stuff. I’m sure everyone is going to love it!
  2. Version 2.8 is a very good milestone, it confirms even more the maturity of FreePBX, and will be a good model to keep up for 3.0 development.

    I’ve found the Accordion effect on the Left Module navigation bar quite disapointing.

    It is a good idea, but i think we need something more : we should be able to selectively lock each bar (with a small bug in the bar), like it is often possible on some Windows GUI softwares. This should stay memorized with a cookie.

    So that we can still have a fast view of things we use very often.

  3. I am with oliver1010 in that I am not so sure about the accordion menu. It is a neat idea, but it will really frustrate new users whom do not know their way around.

    To be honest, the new outbound routes had me scratching my head for a while. Turned out I forgot to install G729 and reg it. Meanwhile, I had convinced myself that I did not know what I was doing with outbound routes.

    About two to three days out of each month, I turn into an egghead and am easily frustrated. I think anyone new may have a little steeper learning curve then with previous versions. Maybe not… could be the absence of unlearning may make it easier ?

  4. Maybe FreePBX seems sometimes complicated because it is using a classical WEB gui, and because in some places, like for SIP and IAX trunk settings, there is still textual manual configurations. SIP settings are certainly the biggest problems for beginners, and one of the main reason why they don’t success in linking IPBX machines, or link to VoIP providers.

    FreePBX 3.0 web 2.0 GUI will be certainly better and faster in the end, but to get a really easier GUI, it should be more graphic oriented.

    A good example of such truly graphic interface is something like “Labview” from NI, where we can drop graphical objects directly on screen with the mouse, and compile the final program almost directly from this, with very limited textual input.

    I do not think it is necessary to have such an ultra modern interface, but perhaps that a couple of graphical help figures on pages like routes, trunks and IVR would greatly help users to understand how does work FreePBX.

    With the actual version 2.8, some things can be quite complicated, like the CID priority rules, from extensions to trunk through routes. It is quite easy to understand when you have a few years of experience with FreePBX, but for beginners, i suppose it is quite cumbersome.

  5. Depending on their technical background, for most beginners EVERYTHING is complicated, especially things Asterisk/Linux/FreePBX related. And there would be no way to make it easier for them without having the more advanced people suffer (i.e. via less features). Instead, we provide an extremely intuitive gui, help tool tips on almost every single option, great forums and an irc channel staffed around the clock. If we were to stop and think everythime we wanted to introduce a new feature whether a noob can understand it – there would be no innovation!

    While we TRY to make life easier for everyone, ultimately you can never please EVERYONE. We were all at that point where we knew nothing at all, and needed to shift through forums, Googles, beg people on irc for help, etc. I suspect that we have a serious case of old dogs and new tricks here, and it really has nothing to do with noob’s. Regarding the accordian feature: the ability to semi-permanently turn off the accordion feature has been added to the 2.8 branch, and will hopefully be available next time the framework is published.

  6. I’ll take the plunge and give my personal opinion here, but I really want to make the decision based on what all of you say…

    My personal opinion is that I don’t like the accordion effect and I’m with oivier1010’s first comments.

    The question is – what do the rest of you say? In many ways, the accordion effect shows the same amount of information as v3 does (if you have played with v3), you have to choose a specific category to see the options under it.

    The difference, and probably my frustration with the accordion, is often I have a page up that is already scrolling with lots of information, so now the hidden tabs just makes that much more work to get to where I want. (Plus – finding it, even for me, is sometimes a challenge…)

  7. “Depending on their technical background, for most beginners EVERYTHING is complicated…”

    Yes, but some simple graphics, even simple JPG pictures, can greatly help beginners, avoiding to read many help tips and long manuals. Life is so short and technics development is so fast today than we do not have so much time to loose.

    Even for an advanced user, having everytime a clear view of the sky is a must.

    We can go a bit deeper in GUI design, simply by forgotting a bit pages and menus, and creating more graphical views, where each element do have a logical relation with other elements, using arrow, colors, and forms or tables to group elements. In the end, the goal is to perfectly mimic how does work the underlying software.

    Then the GUI interface has now two functions : configuration and help screen at the same time. This is my conception of a good GUI.

    Those graphic helps can be quite easy to design by programmers, because they know perfectly the inner mechanisms of the software.

    Creativity and simplicity should always drive GUI designers. They should not be shut in by the technology they are using. But create things freely with the tools they have in their hands.

    Thinking like this, it should be possible to create a FreePBX interface easier to use for beginners, and with the same power for advanced users.

    Things are now better inside latest versions 2.7 and 2.8, but it should be possible to do even better, just modifying the GUI code, not the FreePBX engine.

  8. [quote=olivier1010]In the end, the goal is to perfectly mimic how does work the underlying software.[/quote]

    Now that’s a scary thought, we might see a mass exodus of users if they actually saw what was going on under the covers… (:P)

    Seriously though…

    olivier1010,

    you are absolutely correct that better GUI design coupled with much more graphically “intuitive” interfaces is something that we would all like and would benefit many. However there is a fundamental flaw in your reasoning. You are assuming that engineers == GUI designers.

    In my experience it is rare to find a cross between the truly talented GUI designer (one who really understands GUIs) and the truly talented engineer/software designer. When it comes to FreePBX, most of the contributors who are interested tend to come from the engineering side of the spectrum, they love the telephony part. In a project that most people view as “a GUI to control a telephony engine” (of which it is much more but that is besides the point), you would be surprised how many of us “force ourselves” to do any GUI design…

  9. I can’t see any type of collapsing buttons in beta 2. Not sure what I am doing wrong.

    We are talking about the directory along the left side?

    If I am still confused tomorrow I will post some screen shots.

    We have been using 2.8 internally for almost a month and have not had any significant issues. The directory module still explodes when I add a used, I need to submit a ticket on that. It certainly does not feel like a beta.

  10. “Now that’s a scary thought, we might see a mass exodus of users if they actually saw what was going on under the covers… (:P)”

    Yes, there are chances, that with the power of the engine under the hood, FreePBX / Asterisk (or Freeswitch) telephony systems would become the definitive leader telephony platform on the Market. (it is the technical leader but it does miss a few 10 percents of market to be the economic leader :=)

    This was the case with Windows, who got in a few years 95 % of the market, thanks to its GUI interface, even if the first versions, (Before Windows 95) was very unstable and buggy.

  11. Specifically my thoughts on the accordion are that I like it if the changes are made that allow us to lock a couple open. In my use, once everything is up, there are just a few modules I use often. Hey, here’s a thought that would cause more work, that’s probably already been thought of and nixed for a good reason, but I’ll throw it out anyway, what about allowing for creation of a “favorites” group, where a second link could be placed to just the modules we want? On a side note, could there be placed a description of the format the wave file needs to be in (16bit 8khz) on the MOH page?
  12. I think the menu should be expanded to start with. It would be good if the user has the ability to collapse sections and the state of the menu is remembered per user.

    The collapsable sections and tabs at the top of the menu are a little counterintuitive. It seems like the tabs and the accordion do the same thing. Also, some sections like admin are on both tabs and admin and system administration sound like the same section.

    It would also be nice if the menu did not scroll off the page. The header takes up a small percentage of the screen and the left/right columns are dedicated areas anyway.

  13. I don’t like a lot the Setup / Tools split. It’s something of the past who should really be redesigned at the same time than other small things.

    I’ve always find that grouping things by Setup and Tools was a non efficient method of grouping.

    I think that all Setup items should be on the same Index menu, grouped by functions as it is know. The second index (Tools) could be replaced by “Third party”

    Extensions, Inbound routes, Outbound routes, trunks, ring groups, follow me and day/night should be immediatly availabe in the basic screen.

    Other items need to be grouped by functions :

    advanced call management : queues, IVR, time conditions, route congestion messages, …

    special functions (DISA, intercom and paging, Mis App, Misc Dest, Custom destination, Custom extensions.

    administrative functions (administrators, general settings, feature codes, asterisk API, asterisk CLI, iax settings, Sip settings, Asterisk phonebook, config editor, logfiles.

    A good GUI is something a normal user can memorize easily and fastly. In this regard, there must be no more than 8 to 10 items per group. Its too difficult for humans to memorize more than 10 items per group. This is a general rule for GUI developpment. 5-6 items is ok, 6 to 10 items begin to be quite difficult to memorize, and more will be memorized only by very bright peoples.

    When a group become to large, it must be smartly splitted in smaller groups, with most important things at the beginning, and rarely used things at the end.

    If some settings needs abondant items on the GUI, then to avoid complexity, rarely used items should be grouped on a separate screen for advanced users. This rule is generaly most of the time respected for FreePBX, even if some small efforts here still need to be done, specially for extensions and trunk settings.

    Using colors is a very good idea to group things, and to help the eye to locate very fastly texts or graphics of the same nature.

  14. First off, on the accordion discussion, based on the feedback I have heard, I dumped the accordion and replaced it with expandable/collapse-able sections (they all start expanded). These are retained in cookies on the local client.

    Concerning olivier1010’s last feedback, when it comes to ‘memorizing’ – I think most people stop at about 3-5 items.

    I understand where you are coming from in that the organization is not always ideal. However, it is subjective. You suggest things like Ring Groups and Day Night should be available on the basic screen, however, there are some users that either don’t use either of those, or set it up once and never touch it (as they never use the GUI to control the current Day/Night state, they use feature codes, xml scripts, blf buttons, etc.

    This does not preclude looking into alternative organizations for all of this and clearly your concern wrt to the separation of tool vs. setup is well received. The name tool is far from ideal to begin with for what is in that section and often there are things that probably belong elsewhere.

    I think the best suggestion and something I’ve always thought about is the idea of a “favorites” which would allow a user to put what they care about most in one place.

    However – wrt to this entire discussion, it is well received however will not make it into 2.8. My best suggestion would be to start up a thread in the forums or even on the trac wiki to propose and get community feedback on improved organizations. It is unlikely that we will make any drastic changes so I would try to keep it from going too far astray.

    With that said, if there are any modules that people feel very strongly about being in the wrong category, that is something that is fairly easy to maintain.

    The other thing that we may be able to investigate (but again this would be very unlikely to make it into 2.8) is a ‘secret configuration file’ similar to freepbx_featurecodes.conf or freepbx_module_admin.conf) that would allow you to redefine the categories and even ordering that is used over what is found in the module’s xml. We would effectively use any information found in such a file to supersede what the module is providing (which is currently what defines much of this). (Not that there could not be a new module introduced that allows you to do this through a GUI interface, it’s just a lot more work and someone would have to come to the table and write such a module, once the implementation was determine on how to override the defaults.)

    The only caveat to this idea is that many modules still have hard coded information in their php code defining whether they are in ‘setup vs. ‘tool’ and these modules would have to have this fixed.

  15. For those of you who are inspired to play with a proposed [i]experimental[/i] patch per some of the above discussion, read on.

    I’ve create a patch that will allow you to define a [i]freepbx_menu.conf[/i] file where you can create a Favorites category and/or redefine existing or new categories, move items to new tabs (setup/tool) and/or change the name.

    You can see details in #4311 so feel free to have a look and provide feedback in the ticket.

    Since this patch will only be executed if the specified file exists it is low risk and we could put it in. There is no GUI associated with it, if this makes it, maybe in the future someone might get inspired to make a fancy GUI that lets you redefine the structure easily.

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