ownCloud receives a new user interface

Posted by Jonathan Kawohl – 26. March 2018

With “Phoenix” ownCloud integrates a completely redesigned frontend into its software. In the future, the interface should only contain HTML, JavaScript and CSS files and be completely independent from the server. The new WebUI creates a clearer and easier to understand code structure. The modular setup results in a design pattern that can be used without further modifications of the CSS files.

The decision for the complete relaunch was mainly based on technical considerations. The ownCloud frontend has undergone continuous development in recent years – both in terms of user experience and from a technical perspective. In this way, a large number of parallel JavaScript libraries, frameworks and components were created, which made the existing frontend increasingly complex but also confusing.

The developers then looked for a simple way to write HTML templates, decouple them from the data model and thereby obtain a clean and understandable structure for writing code. Phoenix now makes a radical cut here and delivers a completely redesigned interface based on the latest front-end technologies such as WebPack, Vue.js or UIKit.

A major innovation is the modular structure (UIKit), which provides for a so-called “atomic design pattern” that can be implemented and further developed without great programming effort.

The liberation of the frontend

With the relaunch, the frontend is completely separated from the ownCloud server. Phoenix is a pure web client that only contains HTML, JavaScript and CSS files and only communicates with the server via public APIs such as WebDAV or OCS Share.

The foundation stone for Phoenix was laid in 2017 as part of the Google Summer Of Code. The community developer Noveen Sachdeva implemented the js-owncloud-client library and the corresponding feature to enable cross-domain requests to the ownCloud server.
The integration of Cross-Origin Resource Sharing (CORS) enables any website to access its ownCloud in a controlled manner via APIs. The prototype for Phoenix comes from Felix Heidecke. (Profile on GitHub: https://github.com/felixheidecke)

From a deployment perspective, Phoenix runs in a completely isolated environment and can be hosted on a separate web server. Operation as a consolidated application within the same web server, which also provides the ownCloud backend, is also possible.

The first version of Phoenix is aimed primarily at larger and clustered installations where the operators of ownCloud want more control over resource usage and network topology. Phoenix is installed and updated via the ownCloud Marketplace and is ready for use immediately after installation.

Phoenix is currently in the test phase and will soon be available parallel to the existing frontend via the ownCloud Marketplace. The next development step will then take place within the framework of the Google Summer of Code. The selection of the students and the determination of the concrete topics for the well-known programming scholarship is carried out by ownCloud in cooperation with the partners CERN and AARNet.

This is followed by the release of the app plug-in and the search for the first candidates for the test phase. Phoenix is open source and as a community project open to all who want to contribute. Interested developers can participate via the Phoenix channel on ownCloud Talk (https://talk.owncloud.com/channel/phoenix) or in the corresponding GitHub thread (https://github.com/owncloud/phoenix).

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