Guest column: TNM asked the developers at Alley Interactive to provide more information about their plug-in Publish to Apple News, and the new themes introduced in version 1.2.2. Here is Kevin Fodness, Principal Software Developer at Alley Interactive to explain
Publish to Apple News, developed by Alley Interactive, is the go-to plugin for organizations using WordPress to publish their content directly from their CMS to Apple News. It is available on WordPress.org and on the WordPress.com VIP platform. On August 10, we released version 1.3.0 on WordPress.org, including some significant changes to how users are able to manage the look and feel of their published articles using the themes system.
The new version makes several example themes available to be installed, showcasing the customizability features of the plugin and highlighting the capabilities of the Apple News Format. For users that are installing Publish to Apple News for the first time, these example themes are installed automatically. For those who were already using Publish to Apple News prior to this release, these new themes are available to be installed on the Themes page at the click of a button. The example themes can be used as-is, but we encourage organizations to use them as a starting point for customization.
When we introduced themes in version 1.2.2 in February, they allowed users to create and maintain multiple visual styles for articles within the same WordPress installation, rather than having all articles appear the same. Since then, we have been building on this foundation to allow for greater customization of theme elements, automatic mapping of themes to articles by category, and even customizing the JSON that the plugin generates and sends to Apple News.
Version 1.3.0 extends the custom JSON capabilities of themes in two important ways. First, it binds custom JSON to specific themes, so users do not need to have the same JSON structure for a particular element on all themes. This change allows for greater difference in themes on the same site, which can enable organizations to publish articles that look quite different from each other, depending on taxonomy properties. For example, an organization that publishes news and reviews could have separate themes for news articles and review articles with differing layouts, colors, and so on.
The second significant enhancement to the JSON customizer is the ability to add custom fields (post meta) to the JSON output. For organizations that make heavy use of post meta, this change allows for inclusion of the content stored in custom fields directly in the Apple News Format output. Some example use cases are including additional images, modifying colors, and bringing in text from custom fields.
To get started using themes, in the WordPress admin menu, under Apple News, select the Themes menu item. From here, users can choose which theme is the default, create new themes, remove themes, edit theme settings, export theme configuration, and import previously exported themes. To edit a theme, users can hover over the theme they want to edit and click the Edit button that appears. From the edit screen, users can modify theme properties, such as fonts, colors, and sizes, and see an approximation of what the theme will look like in the live preview pane on the right.
For further customization, users can modify the JSON templates for specific components, such as headers, body text, images, and so on. To customize JSON, in the WordPress admin menu, under Apple News, select the Customize JSON menu item. Choose the theme to customize, then the component to customize in that theme. The values for all settings are available to include as tokens, as are post meta values, and some custom tokens that are only available for specific JSON templates. More information on tokens and customizing JSON is available on the Publish to Apple News wiki: https://github.com/alleyinteractive/apple-news/wiki/customizing-json.
Once users have created themes, they can map themes to categories and Apple News sections. In the WordPress admin menu, under Apple News, select the Sections menu item. Simply choose the categories and Apple News section for each theme and click the Save Changes button. When articles are published using the specified categories, the chosen theme and Apple News section will be used automatically.
For any questions or support requests, please visit our WordPress.org support forum at https://wordpress.org/plugins/publish-to-apple-news/, or visit us on GitHub at https://github.com/alleyinteractive/apple-news. Happy publishing!