2.3 and Simple Template System

By | October 12, 2010

I just learned that my good friend Bill Kellum is to start work on making the Simple Template System (STS) compatible with 2.3 version of osCommerce.

STS is basically a module script that parses information and displays it based on one (or more) template files. It’s a convoluted and not particularly great way to make a site look nice. Side note; I’ve seen sites with hundreds of STS template files which gave an effect that a couple of well placed “switch” could have achieved. Horrible module that no-one should be using in my opinion.

So, 2.3 and STS…

On the one hand I’m disappointed as STS brings little advantage that 2.3 does not have natively. 2.3 moves towards a slightly better template structure. 2.3 has the ability to grab tags per page. And so on.

On the other hand, I love STS, as it holds back people from learning how osCommerce and PHP work together. The smallest error or needed code change usually means an STS user having to get help from someone like me, and that means they have to pay for expertise.

It’s a conundrum. With no conclusion. Perhaps some of the readers here might like to share their views on STS? Should it make it into 2.3? Why? Why not?

Category: RC3

25 thoughts on “2.3 and Simple Template System

  1. will langford

    Just say no. With the modified templates in 2.3 modifying the theme should be much much easier. Spend a few hours learning PHP / HTML and create a store that’s a million times more solid and faster than a STS store. I used STS when I first got into OSC about 5 years ago, it did the job, once I themed my first store I found it to be easier to just theme it and cut out all the fat. Now converting stores to XHTML with no tables is cake. STS is a great starting point, but spend a few more hours and help yourself grow vs taking the easy way out, if someone is super serious about growing a rock solid business put some effort behind it.

  2. Billy Kellum

    HA…tell us how you really feel. Just kidding. I know that you do not like STS so your opinion does not take me by surprise. I’m saying this respectfully.

    I’m thinking v2.3 can still benefit from a modified STS, different from what v4.6 is for the osCv2.2 series. I’m wanting to take advantage of the new top and bottom template system in place in v2.3 so the new STS is still in the idea stage at the moment.

    Don’t get me wrong…I’m liking the direction of v2.3 with the new top and bottom template. It does bring some other issues though but it appears that these will soon be resolved.

    I guess the best thing about v2.3 is that it may help hasten the debut of v3 of which I have no desire to continue a release of STS for.

  3. Gary Post author

    Hi Bill – STS is holding people back from learning PHP and the internals of osCommerce. That’s why it’s a solution that does more harm than good. But it’s also the reason why I love STS as I originally mentioned – the stunning lack of knowledge displayed by STS users means I get to help them for compensation 😉

  4. will langford

    You and me both .. we are both in the same business however I mainly run my own stores as I found it pays more. 🙂

  5. Gary Post author

    Hi Will – I really need to get my finger out and get my own osc shop back in business. Must put it on the top of the to-do list!

  6. Billy Kellum

    Well, some people do not want to learn PHP or don’t have the time to learn it so STS is still there for them. I see it both ways. I do try to push them to take advantage of osCommerce methods such as multi-language as well as some basic case switch statements to keep them from creating the mess that you alluded to (several template pages).

  7. Matt Fletcher

    I see it the other way. It’s not so much that STS keeps people from learning the internals — most people who are interested in PHP will skip STS anyway. To my mind, most STS users wouldn’t use osCommerce without STS. As such, STS gets additional people on the platform. Since those people tend not to be technical (STS is certainly aimed more towards the graphics design folks), the STS installer won’t want to support more than the graphic design. That leaves more business for everyone else from the people that wouldn’t be on the platform otherwise.

    Thanks, Bill!

    Note: I’m not advocating that anyone use STS. People would generally be better off paying Gary to implement their site design. He’ll do so in a more efficient way than STS does and will be able to do other things at the same time. However, I don’t think that STS being an inferior solution means that it’s bad for the platform. Overall, anything that brings more users to osCommerce has some positive effect on the platform.

  8. Pete

    We have used STS extensively for making a lot of our sites, and found it so flexible that it stopped us moving to another platform. So I am very thankful to Bill and all the others who made this happen for us..

    However I would suggest that the ease of use of STS be kept, BUT the system be completely re-written to take advatage of the excellent custom modules capability in 2.3.

    The only thing that Harald did wrong (in my opinion) is the hard coded Left/Right blocks in the module placement in admin..

    The Left/Right Areas should be a variable that can be extended at will and applied to pages (much like STS using the page name + ID), and allow a template to be designed with multiple Areas instead of just left/right/center.

    I have half built this but time is an issue, and Christmas is coming fast!

  9. Gary Post author

    “The only thing that Harald did wrong (in my opinion) is the hard coded Left/Right blocks in the module placement in admin..”

    Agreed. The system is not that friendly and needs looking at.

  10. Pete

    Mind you – Harald needs to leave some of the really good stuff for V3 right 😉

  11. Marc

    Ah, let’s face it. The template in osc 2.3.1 shouldn’t really be called a template at all. It hasn’t changed much over the years and, although it’s nice to see 960 in there, splitting the generation of the “template” into, what? 5 files plus any goofing around with boxes that’s required etc etc is a complete and total letdown.

    STS should do one thing and does one thing very well which is to extrapolate output into tags making the job of applying an actual template a one file job – and quick. Don’t want to use it in product_info? Don’t. In fact, osC’s contributions kind of demand that you don’t.

    Now, whether that can’t be improved – WordPress or Drupal style – is a question for Bill to contemplate.

    But, if what you mean to say is that osC generates more cash for developers when it’s output is split into multiple files and there’s poor documentation for end-users as to how to modify said files to achieve what they want then we’re in complete agreeance.

  12. Eddy


    Have you reviewed George’s Mini Template System yet? Looking forward to reading your comments! Cheers,

  13. Gary Post author

    Hi Eddy – as yet I have not had an opportunity to do so. Hopefully I’ll be able to soon.

  14. Cashmere

    Hi guys, I’ve just installed the OSCommerce v2.3.1 & I tried to installed the STS template v4.6.
    It doesnt seem to work and messed up my boxes and all.. Can anyone help pls?

  15. Gary Post author

    STS is not needed in 231. In fact, it will not work at all. 231 includes the 960 grid system, which is fairly useful if you are not too skilled with .css

  16. Cashmere

    Thanks Gary for responding.. Do u mean that I have no STS to use on v2.3 and that it’s not needed?
    How about downgrading? Is there such thing as downgrading my 2.3 to 2.2? If it’s possible, do u know how?

  17. Gary Post author

    It would be madness to downgrade to 2.2 just for STS.

    There is no STS for 2.3.

    Design 2.3 properly using the 960 grid to layout your own theme/look. It is really very simple.

  18. Bill

    Thank you everyone for being professional in the above comments. I have had to take a leave from OsCommerce for just over a year to return this week to work on a client’s site to upgrade a USPS shipping module.

    I was happy to see that my good friend Gary has released an eBook for Designing OsC v2.3.1 using the 960 Grid System.

    Thanks Gary for putting that together. I’ll be picking up a copy!

  19. Gary Post author

    Hi Bill – good to see you back 🙂

  20. Gary Post author

    That is correct. 2.3 has a better markup system using 960 grid system and is why I wrote the tutorial on it.

  21. bjorn

    Seem the tutorial site got error. Showing 500 – Malformed Header.
    It’s possible design our own pages for each category such as STS in oscommerce v2.3 using 960 grid system? Until now i still using STS as i love it with oscommerce rc2.a updated to v2.3.

    Current STS look like minitemplatesystem. Not actually same but mini template system make it possible to design own pages. Anyone have developed that system for free? Thanks

  22. Gary Post author

    There is no STS for 2.3, I think that Bill was going to start it, but never got around to it. Bill?

    There is no particular reason why STS cannot be updated to work with 2.3, why don’t you make it so?

    Mini Template System is the closest you can get to a template system where you don’t need to learn much about anything to get a shop that looks different to standard osCommerce. If you do want to learn a little bit of HTML, CSS, PHP, 960, osCommerce … then the eBook tutorial is something that is helpful.

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