The Canalplan Plugin : Configuration Part One

In which we cover the various menus that the plugin has and what each one does. We also cover the initial configuration and general settings for the plugin. Future posts will cover more of the configuration and how to use the route importing features.


It’s time for the second post about the Canalplan Plugin for WordPress. The first post covered the way you can use the plugin short codes to embed links to Canalplan Gazetteer entries and Canalplan maps into your posts and gave a basic introductions to some of the features of the plugin.

This one will cover the general configuration of the plugin so its probably going to be a little boring in places but hopefully not too much.

Overview

Once the plugin has been downloaded and activated you should see a new menu in the WordPress Admin menu – this menu (CanalPlan AC) has a set of submenus which allow you to set up various parts of the plugin :

General Options
This sets up various general options for the Canalplan plugin such as the Distance Format and your Canalplan AC link code

Home Mooring
This allows you to set your home mooring location and give it a customised name

Favourite Locations
This allows you to set up some favourite locations and give them customised names.

Google Map Options
This allows you to set up the various options to do with how Google Maps are displayed.

Diagnostics / Version Information
Provides information and diagnostics – You’ll need to refer to this page if you’ve got problems.

I’ve actually skipped three sub menus because they’re associated with interaction with Canalplan AC at a much deeper level which will be covered in a subsequent post :

Import a route from CanalPlan AC
This is the starting point for importing a route from Canalplan AC and creating a set of blog posts for the imported route

Manage Imported Routes
Once you’ve imported a route you might need to make adjustments to the daily totals – this page allows you to do that

Bulk Link Notifier
During normal use the Canalplan AC website will learn about links from you blog back to it’s gazetteer. However if you’ve just added a set of posts you might want to let Canalplan AC know about all the links.

Now we can get onto each of the sub menus in detail :

General Options

This page contains a few things that really need to be set up before you can use the Canalplan Plugin in any meaningful way.

Canalplan Data

Before you can do anything with the Canalplan Plugin you need to get a copy of some data from the live Canalplan AC website. When the plugin is first installed there is no data there and you will be presented with the folowing screen:

Click on the Get Data button and wait a few minutes…. The plugin needs to go to the Canalplan website and pull down a subset of its database. The download is approx 1.8MB (the main Canalplan database is 225MB) so hopefully it shouldn’t take too long. One thing that is very important to remember is that the data pulled down by the plugin can be up to 24 hours old as it is built once a day from the live database so if you’ve just added a place it wont appear in your plugin if you immediately refresh the data.

Once the data has downloaded the screen will refresh and you’ll be presented with the following:

Notice that there is no button to allow you to download the data again. The plugin will not display the download button until at least 24 hours have passed at which time it will display it again.. the following screen shot is from a system that had not updated its Canalplan data for quite some time:

At the moment the plugin doesn’t automatically run an update on a fixed schedule but its something that I might look at adding if there is enough demand.

Note for Networked blog users : As the plugin only uses 1 set of tables per network then any blog that runs a data update for their blog actually runs the data update for all the blogs in the network.

Distance Format

Traditionally canal distances are measured in Miles and Furlongs but rather than force that on everyone the plugin allows you to set the default measurement unit that is used when the plugin is displaying distances as part of its trip blogging features :

The distance formats supported are:

  • Decimal Kilometres (3.8 kilometres)
  • Kilometres and Metres (3 kilometres and 798 metres)
  • Decimal miles (2.3 miles)
  • Miles and Yards (2 miles and 634 yards)
  • Miles and Furlongs (2 miles , 2 ¾ flg)

It is possible to change the distance format on a route by route basis so if you usually blogged about trips in the UK but then wanted to blog about a trip in France then you could change the distance format for that specific set of blog posts.

Canalplan Key

One of the features of the Canalplan plugin is its deep linking between your blog and the Canalplan Website. This is done silently in the background and involves using a Key to uniquely identify links from your site. This option shows you what your current key is, the blog url and the title of the blog it is associated with. If you have not previously set the key then the Plugin goes out to Canalplan and negotiates a key and prompts you to save it:

Once you have done that then the key is valid until you need to change it:

If you change your blog URL or title, or if you need to change your key for other reasons, then you can click on the Reset Canalplan Key and a new key will be issued to you

Note for Networked blog users : The key is unique to your blog so each blog in a network has its own key.

Route Page Slug

This is, as with the distance format option, related to the route blogging features of the Canalplan plugin. If you don’t intend to use the route blogging features of the plugin then you don’t need to worry about this.

The idea is that you have a single page in your blog which contains links to each of the trips you’ve blogged, and each of those trips contains a link to the individual posts for that trip. For this to work you need to have a specific page set up for this, and this option allows you to set what that page should be. In single blog (i.e non networked) mode this page slug is not initially set:

Once you’ve set a page slug the plugin will tell you what page it expects to find :

In the above example we’ve set the trips page slug to be trips.. so we would need to make sure that the page existed and that it contains the text {BLOGGEDROUTES}

Note for Networked blog users : To allow the “root” blog in a network to have a single page to display all the trips that have been blogged about in the network the slug is set centrally by the network administrator so you will not get the option to change it in your blog. Instead this option will display something like:

In the next post we’ll cover the next steps you need to carry out to get the most out of the Canalplan Plugin for simple blogging. Using the Trip importer and the route blogging features will be covered in its own post.


A quick introduction to the Canalplan AC Plugin


I thought that it might be a good idea to do a set of posts on the various features of the Canalplan AC Plugin for WordPress and how to use it even though the plugin does contain its own user guide.

The plugin enables three distinct sets of functionality:

  1. Easy linking of Canalplan places, canals etc into your blog posts.
  2. Back Linking from Canalplan Gazetteer entries to corresponding posts in your blog.
  3. “Cruise” blogging from a route imported from CanalPlan.

I plan to cover each of these areas of functionality in separate blog posts along with one covering the various customisation options the plugin supports. In this post I plan to basically cover some of what the plugin can do in general, and if you think bits of this sound familiar its because I’ve “borrowed” bits from previous posts on the subject.

Canalplan Locations – linking and Micro maps

WordPress makes adding links to a post quite easy but to add links to places in Canalplan you’d need to keep getting the urls from Canalplan and posting them into new links. This might be OK for one or two posts but what if you want to actually put a lot of Canalplan places into a blog post.. it would become a complete and utter pain. So the Canalplan Plugin makes this a complete doddle by adding a new input to the Edit Post screen which allows you to find a Canalplan location and insert a link into your post simply by typing a few letters and clicking on a button. You can insert places as either links to Canalplan Gazetteer entries such as :

[[CP:Market Drayton|tnj9]] which presents a link Market Drayton

or you can do it as “micro map”

[[CPGM:Market Drayton|tnj9]] which renders a little Googlemap of the location: [Embedded Google Map for Market Drayton]

There are a couple of additional options which can be manually inserted to override the defaults which are set on the Plugin page. These options allow you to change some of the map parameters. For example

[[CPGM:Market Drayton|tnj9|height=400,width=300,type=t]] produces a larger map that the normal map and I’ve changed the map type to “t” (terrain) :

[Embedded Google Map for Market Drayton]

Of course for those of you who want to show somewhere off the canal system – well you can do that too!

Here is somewhere I used to work :

[Embedded Google Map for Steve’s old workplace]

which was produced using the following code:

[[CPGM:Steve’s Office|nothing|lat=52.077994,long=-2.299249,type=s]]

If you hover over the pin in the map you’ll see it contains the text that is shown in the tag, and I suspect you might have already worked out that if you change the text in the first part of the Canalplan tag that it changes the text used in the link/map – so:

[[CP:Market Drayton (Newcastle Road)|tnj9]] would make the following link Market Drayton (Newcastle Road)

So that’s single places dealt with but Canalplan AC also has complete canals in it… so it would be good if the plugin allowed you to basically do what we can do with single locations but with whole canals wouldn’t it? Well it can:

Canalplan Waterways – linking and Maps

Say you’re writing a blog post about the Leeds and Liverpool canal, specifically the Main Line – Wigan to Leeds, and you’d like to link to the Canalplan gazetteer entry for the canal. You could do it by creating a link containing the following url : http://www.canalplan.eu/cgi-bin/waterway.cgi?id=779v

Or you could use the Canalplan linker and again by typing a few letters (to pick the right canal) and a click and your post ends up with [[CPW:Leeds and Liverpool Canal (Main Line – Wigan to Leeds)|71jn]] which creates a nice link for you: Leeds and Liverpool Canal (Main Line – Wigan to Leeds)

But rather than link out to a map wouldn’t it be even better to have a map in your blog post?

[[CPGMW:Leeds and Liverpool Canal (Main Line – Wigan to Leeds) |71jn|type=h]] produces a nice map in your post:

[Embedded Google Map for Leeds and Liverpool Canal (Main Line – Wigan to Leeds)]

Or how about the Shropshire Union Canal (Llangollen Canal – Main Line)
[Embedded Google Map for Shropshire Union Canal (Llangollen Canal – Main Line)]

The two examples above show single parts of a Canal which is how CanalPlan stores its canals. But what if you want to show an entire canal? You don’t need to try to patch together bits, we do that for you.

So here’s the complete Leeds and Liverpool Canal :
[Embedded Google Map for Leeds and Liverpool Canal]

Or how about the sprawling mess that is the Shropshire Union Canal ?

[Embedded Google Map for Shropshire Union Canal]
These last few examples show customisation to the default map with different colours and differing thickness for the line used to draw the canal.

These link and map codes are the basis of most of the functionality of the plugin. In the next post I’ll cover how we actually embed these short codes into a blog post.