Customizing Able Commerce

Posted Thursday, March 11, 2010 11:48 PM by Kevin

For the last few weeks, I have been working on a project to customize Able Commerce 7.0.4. When I started on this project, I had never seen Able before and certainly had no idea about the right way to go about doing some of these customizations. Over the course of the project, I’ve figured out a few “best practices” and I figured I’d share them with my blog readers. If you’re reading this and have worked with Able before, feel free to share any other thoughts you may have or correct me if there’s an even better way. :)

The first step in customization is to create a new site theme to contain your work. Note - this is important even if you don’t plan to customize the colors, graphics, and layout of the site. To create a new theme, log in as an admin and navigate to the “Themes File Manager” page on the “Website” menu.


(click for larger image)

In the lower-left corner of this screen is a box to create a new theme by copying an existing one. For this discussion, I have copied the YellowJacket theme and created a new one called “MyTheme”.


This theme will act as a sort of “container” for your customizations and allow you or your end users to easily activate and deactivate them through the Able UI.

Next, you’ll need to copy a clean Scriptlets folder into your theme (I don’t know why copying an existing theme doesn’t just do this for you... *shrug*). In a standard Able Commerce 7.0.4 install, the Scriptlets folder is located in the App_Data folder under the root of the site. Copy it into the root of your theme’s folder (in my case, I copied /App_Data/Scriptlets to /App_Themes/MyTheme/Scriptlets). If you look inside this folder, you’ll see a Default folder (containing all of the default scriptlets that come with Able) and a Custom folder (containing a structure of empty folders). If we copy a scriptlet inside of the Custom folder, Able will automatically use it in place of the default one. In fact, this is done automatically for you when you customize a scriptlet in Able’s admin interface. But I’ll get to that in a bit.

Now - to actually customize something... Here’s something simple - by default, the Contact Us page just displays some contact information. I’ll add a form to allow the user to submit feedback through the website.

First, I created a new ASP.NET user control - ContactForm.ascx and put it in the /ConLib/Custom folder. This spot seems to exist specifically for custom controls like this. Previously, I have copied controls that come with Able (from the parent ConLib folder) here to make minor changes to them as well.

My ContactForm.ascx is very simple - a few text boxes, a few labels, and a submit button plus code to send an e-mail to an address that is specified via a property. You would probably want to fancy it up a bit with some validation controls, error handling, etc. If you want to see the code I’ve created though, you can download it here: The Able Commerce magic comes from this comment at the top of the .ascx:




Displays a simple “contact us” or feedback form on the site that allows the user to type a message

and have it submitted to the site’s owner via e-mail.


<param name=“EmailTo” default=“”>

Specifies the e-mail address you want the contents of the form submitted to.




This is the help text that will be displayed inside Able Commerce for this control. To see it, log in to the Able admin and choose the “ConLib Reference” option from the “Help” menu. In the “Select Control” drop-down, scroll to the bottom and select Custom\ContactForm and the help for the control will be displayed. Note, this also includes a “Usage” that looks like this:

[[ConLib:Custom\ContactForm EmailTo=“”]]

This is how the new control is placed onto a scriptlet - which happens to be the last step I need to do to make the contact form appear on the site. In the Able admin, choose the “Content and Layout” option from the “Website” menu. In the “Show Scriptlets From Theme” drop-down, choose the theme being customized (in my case, “MyTheme”). Able will present a list of all scriptlets for that theme. Scrolling down a bit, I see the “Contact Us” scriptlet. To the right of each scriptlet there is an “Edit” button (the icon looks like a notebook with a pencil). Clicking this brings up the screen used to customize a scriptlet:


(click to enlarge)

If you look at this screenshot, I have basically just copy/pasted the example usage from the help to the bottom of the existing scriptlet content. Clicking the “Save” button takes me back to the list of scriptlets. But when I scroll down to “Contact Us”, I can now see an X in the “Custom” column - indicating that I have customized this scriptlet.

Anyhow - that’s it! When I log out of the admin interface and go to the Contact Us page on the site, I can see and use my new contact form.

The practices I’ve mentioned here (place your customizations inside a custom theme, use the Able interface to customize scriptlets, add the XML comments to your custom user controls, and placing your user controls in the ConLib\Custom folder) should make it easier to upgrade your site to new releases of Able Commerce, make it easier for you to share your customizations with other Able users, make your work easier to maintain, and make it easy to enable or disable your customizations through the Able admin interface. Have fun!

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