Composr Tutorial: Customising what's on the menus

Written by Chris Graham (ocProducts)
'Menus' usually reside either in the header, or on panel-pages ('panels') placed around the main section of the website. They consist of links which may be organized in a tree structure, and displayed in various ways (for example, as pop-up menus, or expandable menus).

The default menu

When you install Composr there is a menu already there in the header. This menu is automatically generated from the Sitemap (i.e. on-the-fly using an algorithm) and not directly editable in any way. It is quite nice in that any content categories you add will automatically show in the navigation.

If you try and edit the default menu then Composr will offer to copy everything through to an editable menu, which you may then fully customise. Composr will never add anything to your editable menu for you as it can't deduce your intention for your site's navigation. There are, however, features to help you locate page-links to add, and also to auto-include subtrees of the Sitemap into your menu (see "Menu auto-generation / chaining").

If you want to revert back to the default menu then you need to go to Admin Zone > Setup > Configuration > Theme options, and change the "Header-menu call string" option back to the default. The default will be shown if you click to view the description for that configuration option. Copy and paste it exactly.

Template sets / menu types

The menu system supports 'template sets' to allow different kinds of menu on a website.

The template set to use is specified as one of the parameters to the menu block.

The following template sets exist:
  • embossed (the default type, a very simple single-layered type for side-placed menus; big buttons to make it tablet-friendly; does not support multiple-levels)
  • tree (for side-placed menus where branches can be contracted and expanded as drawers; supports multiple-levels)
  • popup (for side-placed menus where branches may popup as overlays by hovering the mouse over other branches; supports multiple-levels)
  • dropdown (for top-placed menus; supports multiple-levels)
  • sitemap (a spaced out menu type with expanders and contractors, designed for display on a page)
  • select (select menu items via a dropdown list; does not support multiple-levels)

Template sets contain the following templates:
  • MENU_*.tpl
  • MENU_BRANCH_*.tpl
  • MENU_SPACER_*.tpl

The menu structure is conceptually separate from the template set. If you wanted you could have a single menu structure displayed using every possible template set. However, for usability reasons Composr will adapt the menu editing interface a bit depending on the context you're editing for (i.e. the edit menu button will open up the menu editor in with an interface optimised for how the menu was displayed for that instance).


If you are trying to style the area around the default header-menu, you want to edit the GLOBAL_HTML_WRAP.tpl template.

Adding and editing menus


Adding a new menu

Adding a new menu

(Click to enlarge)

The easiest way to add a new menu is to edit a panel page so as to include a menu block that uses a menu with a codename of what you want to create. You can use the 'Add block' button to help you do this. When you view the saved panel Composr will detect the menu is missing, and place a link to create the menu there instead of the menu itself (in much the same way it detects a missing page and allows the creation of a new Comcode page).

It is important to not click to add a new menu from the Comcode page preview (i.e. when still editing the Comcode page / Zone), unless you open the add link in a new window/tab: this is because the Comcode page editing will not have been confirmed, hence making you repeat the page editing process.

The easiest way to edit a menu is to click the 'edit menu' link shown underneath, much like when clicking the 'edit page' link to edit the panel page.
Alternatively you can go to:
Admin Zone > Structure > Menu management

The menu editor


The menu editor

The menu editor

(Click to enlarge)

The menu editing screen is split into three main sections:
  1. the actual menu tree structure
  2. a form for editing a branch in the tree structure (invisible, until one of the branches is selected)
  3. a Sitemap tool to find 'entry points' for insertion into the selected branch's URL field

Menus are a tree structure made up of branches, where each branch may be a simple link and/or be a container for more child branches. For a branch with children that branch can be set to be initially expanded or contracted. Note that the expand/contract setting may not do anything; some menu types don't use it, and if you enter a Link then it probably would be displayed auto-expanded anyway (due to clickability on the parent being used to open that link, not expand).

The 'add branch' tool, used in conjunction with the branch-type drop-down list (shown for each branch) allows the full structure to be developed. When you change a branch so it can have children (contracted or expanded branch), you will see that suddenly you may create sub-branches for it.

In the form part of the screen there are the following fields:
  • a field for a caption
  • a field for a tooltip
  • a field for a URL or entry-point
  • a field for match-keys – match-keys are a powerful tool for making menus 'context sensitive'.
  • a check-box to determine if the link opens in a new window
  • a check-box to determine whether the link will be shown only if there is permission to actually view the page (slight efficiency hit, and can't check permissions deeper than the page level)
  • options to automatically include Sitemap children (useful if you want to have deep menus that automatically expand as you add new content categories)

You can also delete the menu from a button at the bottom.

Entry points

Entry points are used in the Sitemap tool in the menu editor.

Entry points are basically Composr links that are robust to changes in your website and are of the syntax, <zone>:<page>[:<param>=<val>...]. In other words, they all have at least a zone and a page, and may also specify additional parameters: for example, site:downloads:type=add is the entry point to add a download.

Entry points are the subset of all "page-links" that point to specific parts of Composr, rather than some content that you have added. Page-links are described in full in the Composr site structure tutorial.

Don't worry too much about entry point syntax as Composr will automatically convert any local URLs that you paste into the menu editor's URL field.

To copy an entry point to a branch in the menu editor you need to:
  • select the caption field of an item in the menu (this will cause an editing form to become available for that menu item)
  • click the entry point in the Sitemap tool
You will then see the URL has been changed to the entry point you want. Do not be alarmed that this was placed in the 'URL' field, as the field also supports page-links (of which entry points are a type of).

Contextual entry-points

If you do not want to hard-code what zone a page is in (perhaps because you might move it in the future), you may specify the entry-point zone as _SEARCH (do a search, which is slightly inefficient) or _SELF (the zone the menu is being displayed in).


The menu system can use match-keys for matching against the URL the menu is being viewed from, to determine whether a branch will be shown. If the URL matches against one of the match-keys for a branch, then the branch will be shown, otherwise it won't. Note that if you leave the "Restrict link visibility" field blank, none of this checking happens, and the branch is shown.

Match-keys may also be used in other places in Composr, for other kinds of matching purposes.

Match-key s are usually written exactly like page-links, but are instead used only for matching. They do not need to point to anything, unlike page-links which are actually convertible into real URLs.

For an explanation of page-links and entry points, see the Composr site structure tutorial.

The only differences between a page-link and a match-key are:
  • Match-keys may use _WILD as the zone or page in order to skip checking against zone/page
  • Related to the above, it makes no sense to use _SEARCH or _SELF as the zone/page in a match-key
  • While all specified components of a match-key enforce a match, the URL may also have additional parameters and the match-key does not need to state them – i.e. the match-key may specify a subset of the parameters of a URL, broadening the match
  • You can comma-separate different match-keys into one match-key

An example match-key list is _WILD:cms_downloads:type=add,_WILD:cms_galleries:type=edit. This would match URLs that were generated from the following page-links (whether these page-links points themselves actually work is irrelevant):
  • cms:cms_downloads:type=add
  • randomzone:cms_downloads:type=add
  • :cms_downloads:type=add:wide=1
  • cms:cms_galleries:type=edit
  • adminzone:cms_galleries:type=edit:foo=bar

It would not match URLs generated from the following page-links:
  • site:cms_galleries:type=add
  • randomzone:cms_example
  • :cms_downloads:type=edit:wide=1

In the menu editor, multiple match-keys may be entered in the "Restrict link visibility" field with commas to separate them.

Major caveat: caching

The menus default broad menu block caching works against the idea of menus varying by individual URL.

If you use match-keys, you must either:
  • disable caching on your menu block with cache=0
  • disable JavaScript highlighting with javascript_highlighting=0 (which makes the cache bucket work on a page & screen level, which is good enough if your match-keys go no deeper).

For the default menu in the GLOBAL_HTML_WRAP.tpl template that may mean changing:






Any theme images available with a prefix of icons/ will be available for attachment to menu items, so long as those theme images are defined in the default theme.
You can have different versions of the images for different themes, but they must be available on the default theme too.

The simple way to add them if you don't want to use the theme image management to upload them individually is to upload the images to themes/default/images_custom/icons/.

We supply a very large selection by default, including some generic and abstract icons for use on your own pages, if you don't want to create your own icons.

You can also find many icons online using websites such as Find Icons.

Indicating of the current page

Composr will try and calculate the current page and pass this into the branch templates. It does this via the CURRENT and CURRENT_ZONE parameters. CURRENT is only set if every component of the branch page-link matches the current URL (although the current URL can have additional components). CURRENT_ZONE just checks the zone matches.


The menu block is cached. Current page detection can only do this accurately while caching is enabled if each menu link goes to a different zone/page/type combination (necessary to stop the database getting huge).

In other words, if you have multiple links on a menu under the same page (e.g. to two different galleries), it won't highlight the 'current page' properly when cached because it caches against page-name rather than the whole URL.

To resolve this you will need to turn off the caching for the block by adding a parameter like cache=0 to the block Comcode (the Block construction assistant has a visual option for this, under the Advanced block parameters). Turning off caching will not affect performance much.

The panel/menu relationship


Links to edit a panel page (via the Zone Editor) and to edit menus

Links to edit a panel page (via the Zone Editor) and to edit menus

(Click to enlarge)

Please see the Composr site structure tutorial for more information on panel pages. This section is only intended to provide a brief orientation to help further clarify the panel/menu relationship. Basically panel pages are pages beginning with the name panel_ in the zone of the page being viewed.

The default header-menu in Composr 10+ is actually not in a panel at all, it's coded directly into the GLOBAL_HTML_WRAP.tpl template.

Your panel pages by default are just Comcode pages that use the block tag for arrangement of blocks, such as the menu block, menu. Blocks are described in the Using blocks tutorial, but basically, you can use any of the blocks that begin with the name side_ on your panel pages to add dynamic elements, as well as any Comcode. To edit a panel page, go to Admin Zone > Structure > Panel/layout editor (Zone editor).

Menus are not used in any of the default panels, as we use drop-down menus in the main site header. However, most of the menu types are designed for use in panels.

It's flexible (advanced):
  1. Panel pages need to be Comcode pages if you want to use the Composr menu features, but otherwise there is nothing stopping you constructing panel pages as HTML or modules if you wish to.
  2. You will very rarely want to put new menus onto anything other than a panel page, although there is nothing stopping you putting them anywhere Comcode or Tempcode is supported.

Menu auto-generation / chaining (advanced)

There is a way to include the Sitemap directly into menus.
This is used:
  • for the main sitemap page, which includes the whole Sitemap.
  • for the admin menu, which includes stuff just from the Admin Zone and Content Management Zone.
  • for the default frontend dropdown menu (although many users will switch this out to a customised menu)

The syntax looks like this:


adminzone:,include=contents,max_recurse_depth=3,use_page_groupings=1 + cms:,include=wrapper,max_recurse_depth=2,use_page_groupings=1
This is the code used to insert the admin menu.
It consists of:
  • a number of sections separated by " + "
  • each section starts with a page-link, then has optional options, separated by commas
  • options are:
    • include – either children or wrapper (this only applies to calls directly made to the menu block). children says to include the children of the page-link, while wrapper says to include the whole branch including the wrapper node.
    • max_recurse_depth – if set, this is a number specifying how deep the menu should go
    • use_page_groupings – if set to 1, page-groupings (i.e. the hard-coded page organisation, separate to zone structure) will be used
    • valid_node_types – a "|" separated list of Sitemap node-types to include (advanced)
    • child_cutoff – the maximum number of children a node may have (if this limit is exceeded no children will be shown for that node)
    • consider_secondary_categories – if set to 1, secondary categorisations will be considered, meaning nodes may be duplicated
    • consider_validation – if set to 1, non-validated resources will not be shown
    • title – forced override for node title
    • icon – forced override for node icon (a theme image under icons/24x24)

When you add a new branch to a menu, you can choose to include the Sitemap at the given page-link "over" or "under" that branch. This allows you to chain parts of the Sitemap into your menu (i.e. include a subtree of the Sitemap), giving you the best of both worlds (configurability but also auto-maintenance of displayed categories).

Comcode menus (advanced)

There are two ways to define menus:
  1. Editable menus. These are what we are mostly describing in this tutorial and the usual approach.
  2. Comcode menus. These are described in the Comcode and the attachment system tutorial. They are created using the Comcode menu tag.

Comcode menus and editable menus are alternatives to each other: both produce the same visual interface, using the same templates, but one is written and laid out in plain-text (Comcode menus) and one is constructed in an editor (editable menus).

There are advantages and disadvantages for both types of menu inside a panel page.

Comcode menus:
+   Quick to edit for those who prefer to do things in a quick but technical way
+   Unifies the panel pages and menus under a single editing interface
-   Complex syntax

Editable menus:
+   User friendly
+   Provides menus with greater power (context dependant menus)
+   Provides an interface to find all 'entry points' and easily add them to the menu
-   The admin interface is not designed to be accessible for those with disabilities (it requires JavaScript)

Almost all users would best choose editable menus.


Page-link style identifiers used to do pattern matching against URLs
Editable menu
A menu created by the menu editor
Comcode menu
A menu created via the Comcode 'menu' tag
Default menu
A menu created automatically from the Sitemap
Panel page
A specially named page that sits on an edge of the main page for all pages in its zone (although a templater could place it anywhere, edges are most common)
The menu that exists in the global header by default

See also


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