I’m delighted to announce our InstantForum 2013 alpha release is online. You can take a closer look at this forthcoming release at the link below… http://instantasp.cloudapp.net/InstantForum2013/ NOTE: This is a alpha build so you may encounter problems. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any feedback. We are looking for users to assist us during the beta release expected in a few weeks. If you would be interested in helping provide feedback during this release the beta please contact us. So what’s new within InstantForum 2013 We've made hundreds of improvements in this release. I won’t include the complete list here but I do want to highlight some of the major changes… New Visual Theme Editor You can now customize the look & feel of InstantForum through a built-in visual theme editor. Within the demo linked above everyone can access the theme editor (including anonymous users) however for the final release this button will only be accessible to administrators. Share Your Themes You can share themes you create through the theme editor on our new marketplace. Note: Within the alpha preview you can only share themes using Internet Explorer. This will work within other browses upon release. Also note you cannot upload images just yet for your themes. Theme Gallery Browse all the themes on our central marketplace created by others from your InstantForum installation. You can preview & open themes within the theme editor. Once you’re happy with your theme you can install with a single click. No need to edit CSS etc. Migration to C# All source code has been completely migrated to C#. Going forward InstantForum will only be available in C#. You can read more in the blog post below… http://blog.instantasp.co.uk/General/Going-CSharp-And-ASP.NET-4.5 Windows & SQL Azure Support InstantForum 2013 now offers full support for Windows & SQL Azure. Those of you with a keen eye will notice from the URL above our alpha demo is actually running on Azure. Our InstantForum 2013 release will contain a dedicated database installation script for SQL Azure. Bulk Migration Tools Weave added new tools to the Admin CP > Synchronize and Rebuild page to help you easily rearrange forums. You can now bulk move messages between forums. You can also bulk move forum subscriptions. This makes it much easier to rearrange / restructure your forums. Password Hashing You can now choose from one of the following encryption methods to store user passwords. MD5, SHA1, SHA256, SHA384, SHA512. User passwords are also salted if you choose one of these encryption methods. New Provider Model We've moved to a provider model design pattern for several key services within InstantForum. The goal is to make our software more extensible so you can swap out functionality at run-time without having to modify our core code. This works in a similar way to the provider model introduced in .NET 2.0 - for example the membership and role providers. We will be providing more documentation on how to take advantage of this towards release. New Data Access Layer Whilst our existing data access code has served us well for many years we took this opportunity whilst migrating our code to C# to also bring our data access layer right up to date. This offers a state of the art foundation for us to build upon going forward. - Support for LINQ expressions. - Moved to repository and unit of work design pattern - Significantly less boiler plate code - Uses the “petapoco” micro ORM – great performance Inversion of Control In order to improve the testability and reduce dependencies within our code we've introduced a simple inversion of control container within our common framework. All key services are now registered through the IoC container. Instances for services are pulled from the container at run-time depending on the registration for the service. SQL Server 2012 Support Our database installation script for both on premise installations and SQL Azure installations has been updated to fully support the latest SQL Server 2012 release. That's all for now There are many other smaller improvements. I’ll detail these further as we near release. For now I just wanted to provide an update and share you with a link to take a look at the forthcoming release. I certainly encourage you to take a look at our demo and provide your feedback. We are hoping to move quickly now the majority of the work is complete.We are fully aware of some issues with this alpha preview and we hope to have everything we are aware of resolved before the beta due soon. I’ll continue to post updates here as we work towards final release. I look forward to posting further news and hope you like the improvements in this release.