This Month on the OpenLab: February 2023 Release

Kitten smelling a bouquet of red flowers.

On February 15 we released version 1.7.67 of the OpenLab. It included a few new themes and some bug fixes.

New features

We added two new themes: Neve and Miniva. Miniva is a simple minimalist theme, good for beginners or someone who doesn’t want to do a lot of theme customization. Neve is a more complex theme, which requires some setup, but it can look great even with just a small amount of customization.

We changed the sender name for site-related emails from WordPress to City Tech OpenLab, making it easier to understand where emails are coming from.

Bug fixes

There were a few bugs caused by the improvements to email notifications made in the January release:

  • Line breaks were missing for a number of different site-related emails.
  • The OpenLab footer that appears in some email notifications was not displaying correctly in certain email clients. 

We also fixed an issue causing incorrect characters (e.g. ’) to appear on certain posts and pages when the OpenLab Attribution plugin was activated.

As always, please contact us with any questions!

This Month on the OpenLab: January 2023 Release

Penguin jumping out of the water with a group of penguins standing in the background.
Fly! by Christopher Michel is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

On January 18, 2023, we released version 1.7.66 of the OpenLab. It included multiple new features, as well as updates to all existing themes and plugins, including BuddyPress and WordPress, the two primary plugins that power the OpenLab. 

New Features and Functionality

Activity Sections for Courses, Projects, Clubs, and My OpenLab

We added a new Activity section to Course, Project, and Club profiles, to provide an easy way to catch up on what is happening in the group. In this section you can view all the activity, including posts and comments on the site, as well as new content or updates in the profile tools – Discussion, Docs, File Library, and Calendar. You can “star” activity, which marks it with a star, and allows you to filter the view to list only starred activity. You can also view only your own activity, or only activity that includes @Mentions. In addition, you can filter by all different activity types (e.g. Posts, Comments, Discussion posts, new Docs, new Files, etc).

There’s a similar Activity section in My OpenLab, called My Activity. It works in the same way as group activity, except that instead of including activity for a specific group, it includes activity for all your Courses, Projects, and Clubs.

Announcements for Courses, Projects, and Clubs

The Announcements feature allows admins of a Course, Project, or Club to post announcements that appear just beneath the avatar on a group’s profile. These provide an easy and prominent way to notify members about something, whether an upcoming class, event, meeting, or anything else, and will also be sent via email notification in addition to appearing on the profile. Announcements are activated by default, but you can deactivate them in Profile > Settings, if you don’t want to use them.

File Library

We changed the name of ‘Files’ to ‘File Library’, where you can now add links to external files, in addition to uploading files. The links can be to anywhere – a Google Doc or Spreadsheet, a OneDrive or Dropbox file, or anything else.

Search added to Discussion

We added search to Discussion, making it easier to find topics in Discussion forums with a lot of activity, especially those with activity over a long period of time.

Improvements to appearance of Discussion, Docs, and File Library

We also made a number of visual improvements to Discussion, Docs, and File Library, to improve the consistency of the navigation and layout of the different tools, making them easier to use.

Profile of the Open Road project with an Announcement posted.
Changes and new features on a Course, Project, or Club profile

Changes to Acknowledgements

We made some changes to streamline and simplify the way that acknowledgements appear on a Course, Project, or Club Profile. When you create a new group, the profile will include a line stating who created the group. If the group is cloned, a link will be added to show all the clones. On any cloned group, there will be a link back to the group it was cloned from. 

Course profile with new Acknowledgements format.
Course profile with Acknowledgements

Email Notifications

We made several changes to email notifications, including a new design and layout, and changes to the subject and sender of almost all notifications. The sender should now always appear as “City Tech OpenLab,” and the subject lines have been edited to make the purpose of each notification more clear. 

Missing Alt Text Notice

WordPress has made an accessibility improvement to the Block Editor, reminding you to add alt text whenever you add an image to a page or post. Add alt text for an image in the Block Settings sidebar panel. You can learn more about alt text in the OpenLab Help document, Making Your Work Accessible.

Notice that alt text is missing

Bug Fixes

We fixed an issue with the OpenLab Attributions plugin, where attribution numbers didn’t link properly to the attributions in the list at the bottom of the post or page.

As always, please contact us with any questions!

This Month on the OpenLab: November 2022 Release

On November 15 we released version 1.7.65 of the OpenLab. It included a few new themes, a plugin modification, and some bug fixes.

New features

We added two themes: GeneratePress and Twenty Twenty One.

We also modified an older plugin–Expire Sticky Posts–that had previously been retired because it didn’t work with the Block Editor. The plugin allows you to set a date at which sticky posts will automatically expire, and now works in the Block Editor. There are instructions for how to use the plugin in OpenLab Help.

Bug fixes

A bug causing the links to be removed from author and group name at the top of email notifications has been fixed.

We also fixed two bugs in the OpenLab Attributions plugin:

  • When adding an attribution to the very last sentence in a paragraph block, it wasn’t possible to move the cursor after the attribution superscript number and thus couldn’t add text after the attribution number – only before it.
  • When attempting to add an attribution to an image in the caption field, the ‘Add Attribution’ window would close.

As always, please contact us with any questions!

This Month on the OpenLab: October and September 2022 Releases

Two cats looking out the window at a squirrel eating a jack-o-lantern.
 2 Cats 1 Squirrel by Leif Kurth is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

On October 12 we released version 1.7.64 of the OpenLab. We didn’t publish release notes for the September release, so those features are included here as well. 

New features and improvements

Rich text and media embedding for comments

The OpenLab now has enhanced commenting functionality, allowing you and your site members and visitors to write comments with rich text (bold, italics, links, etc), and easily embed media by simply pasting the URL, as you would in a post.

When you add a comment, you’ll see buttons to add rich text styles to your comment – bold, italics, underline, and numbered and bulleted lists. There’s also a button for adding a link, and one for embedding media. 

These plugins are already activated on all OpenLab sites, so if you’re a site admin, you don’t need to do anything on your site. We have help for Commenting on a Site, which includes the new rich text and media embedding functionality.

We hope this helps to make discussions on the OpenLab even more vibrant! 

Embedding for Miro boards

In addition to other types of media embedding, we now have easy embedding for Miro boards. Simply paste the URL for the board you want to embed on its own line, as you would for a YouTube video, and that’s it!

Health Services Administration department changed to Health Sciences

We added the new Health Sciences department, and changed all existing courses, projects, clubs, portfolios, and members associated with Health Sciences Administration, to Health Sciences. 

OpenLab Attributions plugin

We’ve made some improvements to the OpenLab Attributions plugin. Now when you add an attribution, the window is movable so you can see the text beneath the window to include in your attribution statement. We’ve also reorganized the flow of the fields in the window.

And, the plugin is now responsive so it works better on mobile.

OpenLab Support & Help widgets

We formalized the OpenLab widget that appeared on the course template as a text widget, and also added an OpenLab support widget. These are now standalone widgets that you can add to any site by going to Dashboard > Appearance > Widgets, and adding OpenLab Help and/or OpenLab support.

The OpenLab Help widget includes links to The OpenLab for Students module, and to Help pages for Getting Started, Adding a Comment, and Writing a Post.

The OpenLab Support widget links to the OpenLab Help section, the schedule and sign up for Open Hours, and the email support Contact Form

Library Subject Guides widget: Gender & Sexuality Studies

We added a link to the new Subject Guide for Gender & Sexuality Studies in the LIbrary Subject Guides widget. 

Bug fixes

The OpenLab Attributions plugin had a bug causing attribution statements to be formatted incorrectly.

We fixed an issue with the Hemingway theme where the sidebar was not appearing on mobile devices.

As always, please contact us with any questions!

This Month on the OpenLab: August 2022 Release

On August 18 we released version 1.7.62 of the OpenLab. It was a very small release, since we’ve just updated all themes and plugins, as well as WordPress and BuddyPress, the software that powers the OpenLab. 

OpenLab Gradebook plugin: We fixed an issue causing the scrollbar to “jump” back to the beginning after scrolling to the right side of a gradebook to add grades.

Course, Project, Club, and Portfolio Profiles: We made a change to the ‘See More’ links under the Recent Comments section so that they now link directly to the comment on the site rather than the post. 

We have some exciting new features we’re planning to add during the Fall 2022 semester, so stay tuned here for more details in the coming months!

As always, please contact us with any questions.

This Month on the OpenLab: April 2022 Release

Cherry blossoms at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

On April 19 we released version 1.7.61 of the OpenLab. It included one new and one retired plugin, a few minor plugin and theme updates, a small design update, and two bug fixes. 


The Zephyr Project Manager plugin adds some project management capabilities to OpenLab sites, most notably the ability to create, assign, and manage tasks. 

We retired the Expire Sticky Posts plugin because it no longer works with the Block Editor and is not being maintained. It will continue to appear on sites where it is already activated, but won’t be available for activation on new sites.

Design Update

We updated the design of the “Visit Site” link for Courses, Projects, Clubs, and Portfolios to make it more visible. 

Previous Site link
New Site link

Bug Fixes

We fixed a bug in the OpenLab Gradebook plugin that was causing <br /> tags to appear in comments where line breaks were added.

We also fixed an issue with the cloning process where files uploaded via a form created with the Gravity Forms plugin were being cloned to new sites, but couldn’t be deleted because they weren’t uploaded to the Media Library. These types of files are now no longer cloned to new sites. 

As always, please contact us with any questions!

This Month on the OpenLab: March 2022 Release

On March 15 we released version 1.7.60 of the OpenLab. It included two new plugins, a few plugin and theme updates, and two bug fixes. 


The new plugins are:

  • Taxonomy Dropdown Widget, which allows you to add a widget with a dropdown listing categories or tags on your site. It has a number of options for customization, so you can include or exclude certain categories or tags, and list them in different ways. 
  • List Category Posts, which allows you to easily add a list of posts within a particular category to a page or post on your site. 

We also re-enabled the PublishPress blocks and Highlight Text plugins, which were previously made unavailable for activation on new sites due to issues caused by a plugin conflict, which has been resolved.


In addition to some minor theme and plugin updates, there was a major update for the TablePress Responsive Tables plugin, which provides a few different layouts to make TablePress tables mobile friendly. The update fixed some issues with these displays. 

Bug Fixes

We fixed a bug causing links to be stripped out of the email notifications for site posts.

We also fixed a bug with the OpenLab Attributions plugin that caused the ‘Add Attribution’ window to increase in width when a long attribution statement was added.

As always, please contact us with any questions!

This Month on the OpenLab: February 2022 Release

Cat investigating a heart sculpture.

On February 15 we released version 1.7.59 of the OpenLab. It was a small release, which included some plugin and theme updates, and a bug fix. 


In addition to minor theme and plugin updates, there was an update for the Wonder Gallery plugin, which fixed an issue with adding videos via URL from platforms like YouTube and Vimeo. We also updated the Gutenberg (Block Editor) plugin to the latest version.

Bug Fix

We fixed an issue with the Yoast Duplicate Post plugin, which was causing the default user permissions settings to be deselected for new Course sites and cloned sites, meaning that admins had to activate these settings before being able to use the plugin. 

As always, please contact us with any questions!

This Month on the OpenLab: January 2022 Release

On January 26, 2022 we released version 1.7.57 of the OpenLab. It included updates to all existing themes and plugins, including BuddyPress and WordPress, the two primary plugins that power the OpenLab. 

New Features and Functionality

The latest version of WordPress includes a block-based editor for widgets. Because this is a significant change and we didn’t want to confuse people, we’ve enabled the Classic Widgets plugin on all sites, which keeps the familiar classic editor for widgets in place. If you’re interested in experimenting with block editing for widgets, let us know and we can disable the Classic Widgets plugin on your site.

We’ll be switching to the block-based editor for widgets in the Summer of 2022, with the option to enable the Classic Widgets plugin on a site-by-site basis.

Bug Fixes

Four bugs were fixed in this release:

  1. There was a block editor bug preventing text from being properly pasted into list blocks. This has been fixed with an update to the block editor.
  2. We fixed an issue with the Easy Table of Contents plugin causing the toggle for expanding or collapsing a table of contents on a page or post to be hidden, even if it was set to be shown.
  3. The ‘+’ icon shortcut in the toolbar at the top OpenLab sites allowing site users to create a new post without going to the dashboard was not working on mobile devices. This has been fixed.
  4. We fixed a conflict with the Hemingway theme and the Gravity Forms Quiz add-on that caused quiz questions to appear in white text so they weren’t visible.

As always, please contact us with any questions!