BookStack in 2021

Thought it would be nice to take some time out to look back over the last year and review how things have progressed. This’ll be a relatively high level summary but more detailed figures can be found in our six years of BookStack post from back in July.

Development Rate

Development rate in 2021 has been fairly steady. The chart below shows releases, of any type, per month from the start of 2020 through to now:

2021 Development Rate Chart

For 2021 we’ve had releases every single month with 7 feature releases and 30 patch releases. In the last few months, since leaving my job, I’ve been able to wrap up a feature release every month thanks to having much more time available to devote to the project. I hope to continue this cadence although a focus on some larger upcoming features may hinder this at some level.

New Features & Enhancements

Below lists many of the major additions we’ve added to BookStack in 2021 across the 7 feature & 30 patch releases:

  • Tag overview page
  • Favorites system
  • Recycle bin
  • Content ownership
  • Multi-factor authentication
  • OpenID Connect authentication
  • Outgoing webhooks
  • Chapter, book & role copying
  • Custom footer links
  • Logical theme system implementation
  • 8 new languages:
    • Norwegian, Bosnian, Catalan, Indonesian, Latvian, Portuguese, Lithuanian, Estonian
  • Next/Previous page & chapter navigation
  • A large amount of search enhancements
    • Tags within search results
    • More advanced parsing and scoring
    • Relative usage based-scoring
  • LDAP user avatar import
  • Markdown export
  • Improved accessibility
    • Usage of new contrast preferences
    • Addition of “Skip to content” link
    • Header keyboard navigation overhaul
  • API enhancements
    • Page endpoint
    • Search endpoints
    • Image upload via page markdown/html content
    • Attachment endpoints
  • Audit log enhancements
    • Greater event tracking
    • More search options
    • Addition of IP address tracking
  • Shelf sorting
  • A new debug view
  • Implementation of Content Security Policy for greater security
  • Laravel framework update from Laravel 6 to Laravel 8
  • PHP 8 & 8.1 support

Personally, my favorite addition has been the “Favorites” system since it was relatively easy to implement while having a large affect on my own usage, in allow personal content list curation for quick access.

The developments to the API this year have meant it’s now viable for many use-cases, and it’s been good to hear feedback of people using this to automate and speed-up processes. The recent addition of webhooks, along with the implementation of the logical theme system, mean that BookStack is now much more extensible and open for integration.

Some of the most challenging developments this year have been then authentication elements; OpenID Connect and multi-factor authentication. Understanding the relevant specifications, while attempting to understand the various desired user/environment use-cases, takes a lot of time and discovery. It’s been personally beneficial to learn some new web standards but the effort and time required, while knowing the likely limited existing BookStack audience usage, can be demoralizing. Going into 2022 I’ll be even more defensive when it comes to implementing further authentication features.

Gaining an extra 8 languages is pretty incredible. I can’t thank the translating community enough for the work they do to add and update language content.

Version Numbering Change

Back in April, as of v21.04, we dropped our beta status and moved to a new versioning scheme which follows a year-month style format. This change went pretty smoothly and the new scheme has already been very beneficial to me when dealing with support requests, allowing me to instantly know the relative age of someone’s BookStack instance just by their version number. Looking back, I’m happy we made this change.

YouTube Videos

Producing official BookStack videos has been a new thing for 2021. You can find the YouTube channel here. This has been an interesting new learning process for me as I attempt to improve the presentation and quality of these videos, but it’s also been quite fun during moments I want to do something a little more creative.

Below is my most recent video, at time of writing, which goes over using webhooks in BookStack:

Having videos on specific BookStack topics has already proved very handy when needing to reference certain functionality and processes when supporting others so I’ll look to continue producing videos throughout 2022.

Official Twitter Account

In October I created an official BookStack twitter account so people can follow project updates without having to also scroll through cat pictures on my personal handle. This is something I should have done sooner really since it’s clear that people are more likely to tag the project in their own tweets when an official account exists, providing a network boost affect.

Sponsors & Project Funding

Over the last year I’ve been accepting sponsorship/donations via GitHub. Initially most of these donations were used to help donate to upstream projects used by BookStack. Over the last few months I’ve stopped expanding that idea, while not being employed, to assess viability of working on BookStack full time.

GitHub Sponsor Progress, 23% towards $2k goal

A massive thanks to all those that have sponsored me so far. There’s been over 50 unique donators contributing in various amounts. About half of these are one-off donations with the other half being monthly/yearly commitments. I set a monthly goal on my profile of $2,000 since that would roughly cover my living costs to work on BookStack full time (If I chose to take that path).

A special massive thanks to JGraph (Known for and Stellar Hosted for their especially large monthly sponsorships. I’ve since formalised the larger “Company” sponsorship tiers, to provide logo display on the BookStack website homepage in addition to the project readme, as a token of thanks and to encourage further company level monthly sponsorships.

BookStack Silver and Bronze Sponsors

Website Usage

Throughout 2021 our website usage has been fairly flat, with it lowering in the northern hemisphere summer months. Ideally I’d like to see this grow at a greater rate as BookStack reaches a larger audience but I find it difficult to gain engagement outside of existing BookStack specific channels.

Website analytics for 2021

All of our website analytics are accessible here: BookStack Plausible Analytics Instance.

Going into 2022

As of now, I’m still planning on spending the next 3 months focused on BookStack. My attention will be primarily dedicated to building the new editor. The next stage after that on the roadmap is is a permission system review but there may be a stage before this to heavily restructure the BookStack content database to support future plans in permission & URL handling.

Over these next few months I’ll be further assessing my own stance on BookStack work, exploring how maintainership fits in with my own career desires & if it’s viable to work on BookStack full time.

Header Image Credits:   Photo by Alfred Kenneally on Unsplash