Blog :: Cheatography, An Overdue Overhaul
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For a little over two years a new version of Cheatography, with a new PDF builder at its core, has been in the works. Enough procrastinating - time to take the cellophane off and see how it goes.
I've been slack. No blog post for over a year? Inexcusable. Though, if I were to try to make an excuse, I'd be tempted to show off what I've been working on instead - an almost entirely upgraded version of Cheatography!
The previous version of the site had a great many flaws. PDFs were very ropey, especially when it came to pagination. And I'd always hoped to have more than just HTML and PDF versions available. The design was clunky and overcrowded. Building a cheat sheet was laborious and disjointed. Still, though, you wonderful people came and built or shared cheat sheets, and there are now nearly 300 of them. 300! You're awesome, that's what you are.
I can't help but be sucked in by that kind of enthusiasm. So, I set to work fixing things. I'd intended to start with the PDFs, and release changes gradually. However, one thing led to another, and I couldn't very well launch new PDFs without fixing the builder, and if I was fixing the builder I really should look at the design, and a new design means new pages and ... down the rabbit hole I went.
After many iterations, PDF experiments, design changes, layout arguments, tests and late-night coding sessions, the new version is ready to use. It's not perfect, or finished, or in some places even functional - but it is better than the old version, so time to unwrap it and tell you what's new!
First, and most obvious - Cheatography has had a facelift. I've aimed to clean up the interface and make it more pleasant to use. The previous design had a lot of clutter and it was difficult to know where to go or where to look for specific things. Here are the highlights of what's changed:
- The old sidebar is gone. In some sections, there is no sidebar at all. Where there is a sidebar, it's specific to the section you're in.
- The dropdown navigation is gone. It wasn't quite right, though it may make a comeback in the future. We have new, shiny sub-section navigation at the top of each page instead. One dropdown has been saved, for the account links.
- The stock photos for each topic section are gone, replaced with useful text links and funky icons.
- The homepage is reorganised, focusing better on the latest content.
- The Explore section has been revamped and there are new ways to find cheat sheets.
- The Community page has been improved as well, pulling in recent activity here, on Twitter and on Facebook, as well as highlighting users who are posting great content.
- Profile pages have been cleaned up and gently reorganised.
- The help section has had a minor upgrade, with more changes on the way soon.
- The site forms have had a complete overhaul. They are shorter, cleaner and smarter, checking what you type as you go.
New Favourites Page
One of my personal favourite upgrades is the new favourites page. You can now filter your favourites by their tags, and your filters are saved on your computer, so you can bookmark the page and keep your most-used cheat sheets right at your fingertips.
We have a new Facebook page, where we post occasional minor bits of news, and we will be linking to new and interesting cheat sheets from there, so come and say hello!
Perhaps the biggest change is that we have all new PDFs. These are built using LaTeX (LuaLaTeX, specifically), and this has meant we are now handling pagination much better than before - no more cheat sheets with half a line of content on one page and half on the next page!
You might also notice that the new PDFs are far crisper (much less blurry text), which is a result of the new building process. I've been printing two pages to a single side of A4 and they are still easy to read. They're also smaller file sizes, mostly.
The new PDF builder doesn't handle unusual characters as well as the old system, and there are still a few bugs in the layout system (the odd gap at the top of a page, and very rarely a block overlapping the footer), but for the most part the new PDFs are a major improvement, and give us plenty of opportunity for future improvements.
Some of you may prefer the older PDFs, so those are still being generated, and are available to download for all cheat sheets. The TeX file used to generate the cheat sheets is available too, with more download options coming soon (JSON first). You can use these to create your own versions of cheat sheets, or to integrate a cheat sheet into an app or website.
Please note that I may at some point introduce an HTTP authorisation system to download some formats if they are experiencing heavy use - if you are thinking about building an app using one of these formats, drop me an email and I can let you know what sort of changes are likely to affect your work later.
We're looking to add more formats here, such as a Large Print PDF for people who want something easier to read.
New Cheat Sheet Builder!
The cheat sheet builder has been re-arranged. Blocks are now tightly linked to their cheat sheets, and building is a little more intuitive. There are plenty more changes to come in this area, so please let us know what you'd like us to change.
Cheatography Cheat Sheet
I'm still stunned I didn't make one of these sooner - a cheat sheet for making cheat sheets! It shows the block types with a few useful tips and tricks for making great cheat sheets.
Well, more like two new people. My lovely wife Lindsay, also known as SpaceDuck, and I had a son, Henry, in early February of last year (one of the many reasons I've been distracted!). You might have noticed a few baby-related cheat sheets from her. She's going to be getting more involved in Cheatography, helping me keep on top of support, and offering her help around the site. Feel free to email her to say hello!
Cheatography, An Overdue Overhaul was posted on 19th February, 2014.
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