Connections Cloud Navigation Tricks

There are some rather neat navigational tricks that you can use inside IBM Connections Cloud. Unfortunately these tricks are undocumented and as such are likely to be “unsupported” by IBM and could possibly change in the future.  But because I find them so useful, I just have to show you. And hopefully over time, they find their way into product documentation and API.

Top Navigation Bar Extensions

There is a documented way to add new links to the navigation bar in Connections Cloud. This is done through an extension point where you define the text, link, icon, and other properties of the link. By following these instructions, you can add a link to your company’s expense reporting system, or scheduling, or whatever. The problem comes in when you want a menu of links, or rename this default link to something else, or just want something a little more sophisticated.

A Real World Need

So what might be an example of something more sophisticated. Let’s assume you are using communities to group concepts in your company. Some people have communities devoted to clients. Others have communities for specific projects. And if you’re really organized, you have client communities with projects as sub-communities. The problem arises when you go to look at those communities.

Flat Communities

Because communities are listed all together, you lose the semantics. Which ones are my projects and which ones are my clients? So you begin to use tricks like tagging. My client communities are tagged with “client” and projects are “project” tagged. This helps, but you’ll still start with the full list and need to refine based on tags. Not terrible – in fact this is a great start. But we can do better.

Tags, Semantic Glue

If you were to click the tag “client”, you would be looking at all communities that are effectively clients.

Client Communities

The link in your address bar looks like this.

https://apps.collabservnext.com/communities/service/html/allcommunities#tag=client&sortKey=update_date&sortOrder=desc&page=0&numItems=10

And you can even look at “My Clients” by using a link to communities you are a member (or own) with the tag “client”.

https://apps.collabservnext.com/communities/service/html/mycommunities#tag=client&sortKey=update_date&sortOrder=desc&page=0&numItems=10

This is neat because we have the semantics of what we want through the links (aided by tags). We just need to go one step farther to provide direct access.

Navigation Tricks

Here’s where it gets really interesting. I want two menus

  1. The first will list “Clients” with a submenu of “My Clients” and “All Clients”
  2. The second follows the same convention but will be for projects

To do this, we need to use a special syntax in the Organizational Extension’s name. The red arrow is the secret sauce. The blue arrows show values that go unused but still need to be populated to save the extension.

Org Extension Trick

We create two of these extensions for both Clients and Projects. The result is two new menus in our navigation bar. Notice that Projects has the submenu with My Projects and All Projects. And clicking My Projects takes you to the communities application that list your communities and then applies the “project” tag. We’re just enforcing the semantics in a dont-make-me-think type way.

New Navigation Menus

So let’s look at that extension trick in more detail. Here is what’s entered in the name field.

@@mod@auth-left.servicesMenu@after@{"id" : "Projects", "topMenu" : "ProjectsMenu", "text" : "Projects", "class" : "feature", "iconUrl": "", "items" : [{ "url" : "https://apps.collabservnext.com/communities/service/html/mycommunities#tag=project&sortKey=update_date&sortOrder=desc&page=0&numItems=10", "text" : "My Projects"}, { "url" : "https://apps.collabservnext.com/communities/service/html/allcommunities#tag=project&sortKey=update_date&sortOrder=desc&page=0&numItems=10", "text" : "All Projects"}]}

This looks really really esoteric so let’s break it down.

  1. The beginning is the secret syntax to add a new menu at the end of the navigation bar: @@mod@auth-left.servicesMenu@after@{“id” : “Projects”, “topMenu” : “ProjectsMenu”, “text” : “Projects”, “class” : “feature”, “iconUrl”: “”
  2. Next we have a list of items that are the submenu links: “items” : [{ … }]
  3. And each of those submenu links has the URL to the communities application with the tag parameter added: { “url” : “https://apps.collabservnext.com/communities/service/html/mycommunities#tag=project&sortKey=update_date&sortOrder=desc&page=0&numItems=10”, “text” : “My Projects”}

That’s all there is to it. The really observant person might also see that there is no more “Communities” link. That’s because I removed it – favoring the “Clients” and “Projects” direct access over generic “Communities”. To remove the communities application, you create another organization extension with the following name .

@@mod@auth-left.communitiesMenu@delete@

Final Thoughts

You can use these tactics to remove, rename, and create more intuitive navigation in your Connections Cloud. Or add more tags and facets to build additional semantics. For example to find out what those tags or facets are, use Connections Cloud’s advanced search to find the content you want. Then review the address bar. It will contain the URL with parameters needed in the extension.

Just remember that these changes will apply to everyone in the company. And you’ll want to Ctrl+F5 to clear your browser cache to observe the changes.

3 thoughts on “Connections Cloud Navigation Tricks”

  1. This is a great article. I’ve asked for this information around (stack overflow & IBM) but haven’t got this articulated information.

    Is this way of customizing the navigation supported ?
    Does it also works inside the new Verse header ?

    Thanks in advance for any answer you may be able to provide.

    1. Hi Daniele,

      Presently, this particular tactic is undocumented, and likely to be “unsupported” by IBM’s definition. Though these are the types of things that are needed, and I’m urging the business to formally support. Good question on Verse. Unfortunately, I don’t have the server available to test at the moment. While the navigational framework isn’t specific to Verse, I do see differences in today’s user interface between Connections Cloud Social and Verse. If it fails, I expect that’s a point in time issue as Verse matures.

      1. Thanks for your answer, you confirm what I suspected (technically unsupported).
        I’m going to have my company become SSP we’ll ask everyday for extensibility (and I’m already having discussions with the guys at AppFusions).

        We’ll have a talk sooner or later…

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