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Getting Started

Getting Started
Mar 11, 2014 (Edited Jul 16, 2014)

When the installation completes, you'll be directed to the guided start area. Due to all the features available, the WSN admin panel can be intimidating to search through -- the guided start addresses this problem by gathering togeather all the essential tasks you need to get your website moving, and presenting them to you in series. You'll be able to reach all these same tasks later through the regular admin panel when you're done with the guided start, of course, but they'll be mixed in with dozens of other sections.

At any time, you can use the Admin Panel -> Settings -> Switches page to turn features on and off according to the needs of your site. To learn about each option and decide if you want it, hover over the question mark icon next to it (this brings up the related article from the knowledge base in a hovering layer).

The first customization most people want to make to personalize their website is to add their own logo. You can do this at Admin Panel -> Themes -> Logo Designer (also part of the guided start). You can specify text for a text logo or upload an image you've made for a graphical logo.

To change the site's colors and font sizes, there are two options. If you're not comfortable with CSS, you can use Admin Panel -> Themes -> Style Designer to pick colors and sizes graphically. If this is too limiting for you and you'd like to work with the CSS, go Admin Panel -> Themes -> Manage Templates and click "Stylesheet". This is a CSS stylesheet (click for CSS tutorial), which specifies HTML color codes. If you've never used CSS or color codes before, it's simple -- just copy colors from the color picker WSN provides on the right (be sure to read the help text in the help browser beside the stylesheet).

The next step in customizing is the wrapper template, at Admin Panel -> Themes -> Manage Tempaltes -> "Wrapper". The wrapper controls the top and bottom of every page, so it's the easy way to change what everything on your site will look like without having to edit the hundreds of different internal pages. For many people, the stylesheet and wrapper are all that need customizing -- so don't be intimidated by the hundreds of templates available, you only need to think about a few of them. The templates are just HTML with some special template variables and structures added in, this will be covered in more detail later in the templates section of this manual.

Now you'll probably want to get started creating your categories and listings. You can add them in bulk, or individually with more fine-grained control. Just go to Admin Panel -> Categories -> Add Cateogries to set up your category structure, and then Admin Panel -> Listings -> Add Listings to add the content.

If you're translating to a new language, go to Admin Panel -> Customizations -> Language. This page allows you to replace English text with the language you desire. Note the useful 'show untranslated language' option which brings up everything you still have left to translate. Also see the multilingual issues section later in this document.

Note that you can expand and collapse menu groups in the admin panel by clicking on them. If you find yourself using a particular page regularly, click the "+ Add to common tasks" option to add it to the top of the menu where you can get to it quickly in the future.

SEO Considerations

If search engine optimization (SEO) is important to you, you'll probably want to use URL rewriting. If you're on an apache server capable of running it, it should automatically turn on when you install. This allows you to have URLs like instead of , which is advantageous to your ranking since it puts keywords in the URL. In case you want to change some of the options, go to Admin Panel -> Settings -> SEO. On that page you'll find the options for URL rewriting... though if you're not sure what you're doing, leave them alone.

If you're looking to use meta tags, note that you can set the meta tags scheme on your Admin Panel -> Settings -> SEO page instead of going into the wrapper template. The default content pre-filled into your SEO settings page uses conditionals to say that the meta description tag will be the category description when in a category, the listing description when viewing a listing, and the site description (from Admin Panel -> Settings -> System Settings) anywhere else.

If you want specific categories to have different meta tags which don't follow this scheme, edit the category and specify that in the "Header Insertion" box. Note that you'll have to include any of the default meta tags that you want to remain the same as well, all of them will be replaced if you put anything in the header insertion box for the category.

You can change the meta tags scheme to test for any other page and give it a special value. For example, changed to add in a "List of site members." meta description for memberlist.php pages:

   <IF {TID} contains displaylinks> <meta http-equiv="description" content="{CATDESCRIPTIONSTRIPPED}" > <OTHERWISE IF {CURRENTURLCONTAINS[action=detail]}> <meta http-equiv="description" content="{LINKDESCRIPTIONSTRIPPED}" > <meta http-equiv="keywords" content="{LINKTAGSSTRIPPED}" > <OTHERWISE IF {CURRENTURLCONTAINS[memberlist.php]}> <meta http-equiv="description" content="List of site members." > <OTHERWISE> <meta http-equiv="description" content="{SITEDESCRIPTION}" > </IF> 

If you want to set keywords for categories by editing the category, just go to Admin -> Customizations -> Add Fields and add a 'keywords' category field. Then add <meta http-equiv="keywords" content="{CATKEYWORDS}" > to the meta tag scheme in the category section.

To change page titles or set titles for new pages, go to Admin Panel -> Customizations -> Page Titles.

For the rest of the SEO options, just click the help icons next to them on the SEO settings page.

Understanding Templates

As already mentioned, at Admin Panel -> Themes -> Manage Templates you can change all of the output which is sent to visitors' browsers. You can customize these templates through the internal editor, or via your favorite HTML editor such as Dreamweaver if you prefer (but if you use a WYSIWYG editor it'll hide things from you, so those aren't recommended).

Templates break up your normal HTML page into two parts. The HTML which you'll wish to have shown on every page is in the "wrapper" template, which consists of both a header and a footer with a <-- BODY GOES HERE --> marker in the middle where the rest of the page will be inserted as appropriate for the location. The wrapper is where most of your customizations are likely to take place. The body content is controlled by all the other non-wrapper templates listed on your templates page. Bits which are used in a bunch of different templates are listed as subtemplates.

Templates are much like HTML pages and accept all HTML, but also have special template variables, controlling comments, template conditionals and includes. The template variables look like {VARNAME} and are replaced with the appropriate value at display time. For example, {LINKTITLE} is listed in templates to stand in for all possible listing titles... at display time the title for the particular listing being displayed is placed there. The controlling comments look like <!-- BEGIN AREA --> and <!-- END AREA --> (be sure you don't delete these). The content between the beginning and ending comments gets repeated a to-be-determined number of times -- for example, <!-- BEGIN REGULAR --> in the 'show listings in category' template indicates the area which has all the HTML which will be shown for each listing, since all listings look the same.

Since there are numerous places where listings are shown which may as well look the same, your 'display listings' template contains [INSERTFILE=linkbit] -- this tells the software to insert everything from the listing bit template (linkbit.tpl) here. The listing bit is listed in your "sub-templates" section, being called by several different templates in this way. For places that show listings in a tabular format (the member home area, subscriptions and new listings page) there's the Link Columns Bit and Link Tabular Bit subtemplates which you can use to change the look of all those spots at once.

Custom fields which you add also get their HTML for the add/edit pages inserted into the subtemplates in the 'Custom Templates' section, which are called into the actual add/edit templates with [INSERTFILE=]. You can do [INSERTFILE=]s with your own custom templates also if you wish, wherever you like -- create custom templates at the bottom of the manage templates page and use [INSERTFILE=yourcustomtemplatename] to call them in. This will help you keep your customizations separated from the standard design and easy for you to find, instead of having to search through a long template each time to figure out which part you customized.

Tip: Although there are lots of templates, most people only want to customize up to 6 templates: wrapper, main index, show listings in category, listing details, standard listing bit and submit listing. These few templates control the most important places people navigate through on your site.

Sometimes there are reasons why two listings should show different bits of HTML from each other, and this is where template conditionals come in. For example, suppose we want to make listings with more than 200 views stand out. We do this by testing for the value of the applicable template variable:

<IF {LINKHITS} is greater than 200>
<blink>This is a super-popular listing!</blink>
Just a plain old listing.

To add dynamic data into your templates, go to Admin Panel -> Themes -> Toplist Generator more about toplists).

You can read more about template conditionals, and get a list of template variables, to learn how to make them show what you want to show. There are many template variables available which aren't in the templates by default, so you'll need to reference the lists to learn the possibilities open to you.

Adding Themes

Most people will only use one look for their site. If you don't want a user-customizable look, skip this section. Sometimes, however, you may want to have multiple looks and let visitors choose.

Creating new stylesheets and template sets to give your visitors a choice is easy. Just go to Admin Panel -> Themes -> Manage Templates -> "Create a new theme called ___ as stylesheet-only/style + template set"and type in the name of the new theme you want to make. If you'll only be customizing colors and sizes and other stylistic elments, select to make it a style-only theme that will share your current template set. If you want to customize templates in the new theme, make it a style + template set theme. Once you add the theme, you'll see it in the theme selector menu at the top of the page. Once the theme is selected as the current theme, note that the logo designer and image uploader pages will allow you to customize images for it.

Of course, you can also add themes the lazy way by installing someone else's pre-made theme. Just go to Admin -> Themes -> Add Themes for that.

To make it easier for visitors to switch between themes (normally they have to edit their profile to switch), you can turn on the style selector and templates selector in your switches (Admin Panel -> Settings -> Switches). The selector will only show up when you have multiple themes available, so no space is wasted when you only have one option.

You can also add a packaged theme through the theme installer, or create one with the theme packager. Contact WSN support if you'd like your theme promoted on the theme installer page, whether for sale or for free. You can also bundle your theme with a customized autosetup.php to sell your own branded version of WSN with no up front cost or risks, just ask WSN support for details.

Multilingual Matters

To translate WSN to another language, just go to Admin Panel -> Customizations -> Language and begin translating all the items (presuming you've done a multilingual install).

Using multiple languages at once is easy too. At Admin Panel -> Settings -> Switches you can turn on the language selector. Make you you select a default language at Admin -> Customizations -> Language also. When you (or someone else) submits or edits a category or listing, it prompts for the title and description translations in all the installed languages, starting with the default language. When viewing a category or listing, it'll be shown in your currently selected language if the submitter/editor supplied a translation for that language, or will fall back to the default language if not.

Some images may have text written in them, so you may want to have different images depending on the language being used. You can accomplish this by making a copy of templates/images_default named /templates/images_languagename, where languagename is the lowercase name of the language. If you have a language at /languages/italian.lng, the images would go at templates/images_italian.

If you make use of the tagging system, you'll want to enable some extra characters for your language beyond the alphanumeric ones it accepts by default. You can do this by specifying $keepchars in tweaks.php.


WSN allows you to do two sorts of sponsorship. You can have people pay to promote their listings to a special listing type (or to submit any listing at all) or you can have them pay to promote their account to a special usergroup (whose submissions you may in turn choose to have automatically promoted to a special listing type if you wish) or to register at all.

Payments can be handled through PayPal, 2checkout, or NoChex. If you're using 2checkout, make sure that your account is associated with the same domain name your WSN is on as it will not allow IPN calls to other domains.

See the knowledge base for more on listing type promotion and usergroup promotion sponsorship.

The Administration Panel

Your admin panel has two modes: simplified and advanced. Switch between them by clicking the options on the top left in the menu panel. The simplified mode strips things down to the menu items you're likely to want to use, while the advanced mode shows all your options. Use simplified when you're feeling overwhealmed.

Various items in your admin panel have icons next to them that look like a question mark in a circle. Click these icons to read an article about the feature the spot relates to.

The top section of the menu on the left side of your admin panel is "Common Tasks". This is where you can store the pages of your admin panel which you use the most. Pending Items is on this list, and is the place where you'll go to approve anything people submit to you. On any page you'll see an "add to common tasks" link at the top which you can click to add it to this top section. Once added, the page will contain a removal link. Also note that you can click the title of any section (group of menu items) to collapse the section, saving space if you rarely use those options. Just click the title again to reexpand.

The next several sections cover actions for each type of item: categories, listings, comments, members, etc. You'll notice options to add and edit for each. The "Members" menu is the most complicaed, and contains everything related to member accounts, registration, management and permissions. The member settings page contains member settings such as registration type, banned IPs and the terms of service. The registration defaults allow you to set how a member's profile should be configured if they don't select otherwise. "Manage Usergroups" is one of your most important sections, where you control which usergroups can take advantage of which features -- note that guests are considered a usergroup as well, besides members and administrators. "Administrator Permissions" allows you to limit what any other admins you've created can see. The remaining options are rarely used... "Merge Members" combines two member accounts into one, "Duplicate Members" finds people who have two accounts, moderator logs and notes help you and your team of editors keep track of things, "Show Banned" lists the members you've banned, and "Search IPs" allows you to find what members have an IP or what IPs a member has. "Member Ranks" are little titles along the lines of "novice" and "junior member" which you often find on categories. Finally we have the integration page, which is useful if you have a pre-existing member system from another script which you'd like to have WSN use. You can select amongst pre-made integrations or create a new one with the wizard.

The "Revenue" section contains everything that makes you money -- sponsorship and ads. You can enter ad code, set up sponsorship levels, review payments, or enter a payment recieved offline.

The "Settings" section contains most of the hundreds of options at your disposal for changing how WSN works. "System Configuration" has basic site and server details and allows turning the site off for maintenance. It's also where you supply your customer email and password. The switches page, as already described, turns features (whole categories of options in many cases) on and off and thus has an impact on which settings you'll see available elsewhere. The localization settings help you make everything fit with the conventions of the country you live in. "General" lists settings which don't seem to fit well under all the other labels below. The type manager helps you set up different types of listings with a special look for each, and also lets you choose which type of listing should appear above or below which other types.

In the "Themes" section we find options relating to your templates. "Manage Templates" offers complete control of your templates and styles. The toplist generator helps you create lists of items to place in your templates -- be sure to check this out as it's a very powerful customization option. Be sure not to leave the "Type the content of what you want displayed" box at the bottom blank -- you need to fill it in with HTML and template variables to describe how you want the list shown. For example for a toplist of posts you might type At {COMMENTDATE} {COMMENTPOSTERNAME} wrote: <br >{COMMENTMESSAGE}</a> there for a simple list. The theme packager and installer allow you to create/use themes which can include templates, styles, language and fields.

Next we come to the customizations section. The language page allows you to translate, or just to rephrase various items to be more personalized to your site. "Page Titles" lets you set custom titles for any page of your site, including custom pages. Under "Add Fields" you can create new items to prompt for on submissions. The WSN Codes and Smilies pages let you create and customize markup codes which can be used in whichever fields you select to parse WSN Codes and smilies for at the bottom of your Admin Panel -> Settings -> General page. Finally, the modifications page allows you to generate/apply changes to WSN source code in cases where the modifications directory and plugins aren't sufficient.

The e-mail section begins with the preferences page which allows you to configure various sorts of notification emails, turn MIME (HTML) email on or off, and set a signature to be automatically appended to emails. Next you have the chance to edit the text of outgoing emails (note that if you're using multiple languages you're only editing it for your presently selected language). The bounce detector allows you to avoid repeatedly sending mail to addresses which have died. The "Send E-mails" page allows you to send bulk messages. You can bulk-email listing submitters and include listing template variables, perhaps telling people to sponsor their listing or the like. You can also bulk-email your registered members and include member template variables. Note that if you're sending to thousands of recipients it will take some time after sending for the e-mail queue to process them all (and your site must be live-- the queue only processes when people load pages). Also note that members who select in their profile to not receive emails from the administration won't get your bulk messages.

The maintenance section is where you go when something has gone wrong or you want to prepare in advance. We have the database backup options, where you can download a mysql backup, set automated backups or restore a backup. These options are no different from mysql's own backup options, and in fact simply call mysqldump via command line. Note that these backup options might not work in safe mode or on Windows hosts -- if it doesn't work for you, you can just use phpmyadmin for backups instead and it makes no difference. Moving along, we have the "Regenerate" page. It's most commonly necessary to regenerate after moving categories around. These are the times when it's useful: when your site is listing the wrong number of listings in a category, when an listing lists the wrong number of comments, when url rewriting is on and a subcategory has become a dead link (due to some combination of moving and renaming leaving an outdated url), when the number of listings or comments attributed to a member is off, and when the totals on your front page are off. "Unused Attachments" allows you to reclaim some disk space from files that are no longer needed. The CHMOD utility is almost never needed, but if you've got some files which have been generated by the script such that you can't CHMOD them via FTP you will be able to use this utility to do it.

The final section, dubbed "Miscellaneous," contains rarely used uncategorized options. The stats page gives you a basic idea of your site's recent activity. The search log shows what people have been searching for. The crons page allows experts to set timed scripts (ignore if not an expert). The advanced options page is useful for bulk alterations, especially replacing one bit of text with another across all templates or language. The censor/replace page can be used as a swear filter or even as an advertising tool to link keywords to sponsors. The "Manage Redirects" page controls what page people are sent to after they take various actions like submitting an listing or editing their profile. The javascript export page allows you to generate javascript files showing the top items from your site, for use on pages outside of WSN. The static generation page allows you to make a static copy of any any desired URL (needn't be part of the script) and automatically keeps it fresh every 12 hours.

Notes For Big and Busy Websites

If your website is exceptionally popular or has an exeptional number of categories/listings, be sure to read the KB's tips on handling large sites.

Strategies For Large Scale Deployment

If you're planning to deploy dozens of copies of WSN, you will of course be looking for ways to make each deployment go as quickly as possible. The autoinstaller makes installs quick and easy, and as of the 7.0 series sites keep themselves up to date by default -- so you won't have to waste time running upgrades or risk missing security updates.

If the sites you're making should all look very similar to each other and/or share the same fields, you'll want to package a theme at Admin -> Themes -> Theme Packager. You can then install that theme (Admin -> Themes -> Add Themes) at all subsequent sites you create. If category data should be shared you can use PHPMyAdmin to export the categories table data, then bulk-replace the table prefix with your text editor if necessary and import to the next install.


You don't need to, but sometimes you may want to build or test a site offline (for ease of development, testing upgrades before applying to the live site, or whatever). To do this you can install a web server using XAMPP. Please note that email will not usually work on a localhost test server so you won't get the emails you expect from WSN and won't be able to test any email-using features. To move from a localhost installation to a live server, see the moving procedure.

Do not hide your site behind an .htaccess password prompt while testing! Doing so will prevent WSN from loading its own URLs, which it needs to do for various things ranging from geocoding to PAD updates to feed fetching and more.

Private installations which aren't available over the internet don't require purchasing additional licenses, so you can do as many test directories as you want. If you want to test something on a full copy of your site, use the clone utility at Admin Panel -> Miscellaneous -> Clone Utility.

Getting Support

Don't be afraid to ask support how to do something.

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