7.2

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Cerb (7.2) is a major functionality update released on August 5, 2016. It contains over 143 new features and improvements from community feedback. There are 85 additional improvements provided in 5 maintenance updates.

This is a summary of the most significant improvements.

  • To check if you qualify for this release as a free update, view Setup->Configure->License. If your software updates expire on or after May 1, 2016 then you can upgrade without renewing your license.
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Contents

Introduction

We aim to ship a major functionality update every 3-4 months. The development cycle for 7.2 was longer than usual (about 7 months), since it evolved in tandem with the introduction of Cerb Cloud.

** To honor our commitment to 3-4 major updates per year for annual subscriptions, we are backdating the release date of 7.2 for licensing purposes to May 1, 2016 **

We've spent several months auditing the daily usage of Cerb Cloud instances with 7.2 and fine-tuning our code and queries. We revamped our platform to take proper advantage of cloud-based deployments (e.g. load balancers, multiple web servers, databases with read replicas, distributed filesystems, distributed caches, Elasticsearch, etc). A single instance of Cerb is now capable of painlessly scaling to hundreds of concurrent workers who field tens of thousands of messages per day. There is nothing proprietary in how we're accomplishing that -- even if you run Cerb on your own hardware, the "cloud" focus of the 7.2 release provides you with many major scaling and performance improvements.

Many other improvements in 7.2 are similarly focused on scalability: dashboard widgets load in parallel, bulk update on long worklists runs incrementally rather than taking forever without any progress output, fulltext searches that return too many results help the worker be more specific, the schema and database indexes were made more efficient by combining related fields and records, etc.

The other major focus of 7.2 was on improving the flexibility and usability of worklists and Virtual Attendant behaviors, since they are the basis of almost everything interesting about Cerb. As we've consulted with teams who are deploying Cerb, they've asked for seemingly simple things that Cerb just couldn't do easily: "How do I build a worklist with tickets I'm either the owner of OR a watcher of?", "How do I build a worklist with a non-continuous range of values, like < 5 OR > 10?", "How do I build a worklist of records with at least one watcher who is not myself (without explicitly filtering for every other worker on my 70 person team)?", etc.

To that end, quick search has been significantly improved. You can now include the same filter multiple times, use lists and negation, and (most importantly) you can group filters with AND and OR. This makes so many new workflows possible.

Similarly, when we run through a training session with a new team, there's a fairly universal pause as the huge list of 800+ placeholder options results in cognitive overload. Those placeholders are now presented in nested menus like Ticket » Latest Message » Sender » Organization » Name. It's much, much simpler. We're looking forward to breezing through those examples during training sessions in the future.

There are a lot of palpable improvements in this release. There just as many "under the hood" improvements to keep things running efficiently, on the most modern hardware, with less frustration, as building blocks for all kinds of future functionality. We have a huge pile of feedback, plenty of big ideas, and no intention of slowing down.

Thanks for supporting Cerb!

- Jeff Standen, Software Architect, Cerb

Important Release Notes

  • If you use the REST API for integration, note that the is_waiting, is_closed, and is_deleted fields on ticket records are now stored in the status field.


Quick Search

Completely overhauled the quick search interpreter to enable more expressive queries. This is simpler for workers, saves a lot of work for third-party developers, promotes a consistent syntax across filters, and is far more flexible when adding new functionality.

Group worklist filters with AND and OR

Previously, all the filters added to a worklist were in a single AND group. Additional filters could only further narrow down the current results. There was no way to join the results of two independent filters.

It is now possible to add any number of filters in arbitrary groups using AND and OR keywords. By default, AND is used when an operator isn't specified.

Parentheses are used to define a group of filters, and groups can be nested within other groups.

For example, a very common request is for a worklist that displays tickets either owned by OR watched by the current worker. This previously required two worklists. It can now be accomplished with this quick search:

720 search andor.png

Similarly, you can display a worklist of tickets that have at least one watcher BUT exclude any records watched by a particular worker:

720 search andnot.png

Filter with an array of values

Previously, some filters allowed an array of values, but it was never made clear when this was possible, and the format wasn't standardized.

Now you can specify an array of values by including them within brackets and separated by commas:

720 search arrays.png

Filter using ranges of numeric values

Previously, you could only filter a numeric value using greater than or less than.

You can now specify a range of values by separating the lower and upper (inclusive) boundaries with an ellipsis (...):

720 search ranges.png

Filter using negation

Previously, some filters supported negation, but this was also inconsistently handled.

Now you can specify a negated filter by using an exclamation mark (!) as the first character of the value:

720 search negation.png

Apply the same filter multiple times

Previously, each filter could only be used once per worklist. This made it difficult or impossible to handle some queries (e.g. "any value from 10 to 20, but not 15").

You can now apply the same filter any number of times.

For instance, you can find records without an owner OR where you are the owner:

720 search dupe filters.png

You can also filter non-continuous ranges:

720 search dupe filters ranges.png

Improvements to fulltext searching

Any search text without an explicit field: prefix is considered to be part of a text-based search. Quoted phrases in quick search queries may contain any characters other than extra quotation marks.

Boolean operators are now supported regardless of the search engine in use (e.g. word OR "phrase two").

720 search fulltext.png

Fulltext search results provide more information

When performing a fulltext search on a worklist, meta information is now displayed above the worklist for each search (search engine, query time in milliseconds, total results). If more results were found than returned, a "try being more specific" message is given. This should help address usability issues when using search engines like Elasticsearch (returning 500-1000 results) where it wasn't previously clear that partial results were being returned.

720 search meta.png

Improved quick search hints menu

Previously, the hints for quick search were found in a drop-menu that had to be opened and closed manually. Now the syntax and available filters are autocompleted while typing. Previously, inserting filters from the menu only appended to the end of the text box. Now, autocomplete suggestions will be inserted at the cursor position. Autocomplete situations are now also aware of the content around the cursor.

720 search hints menu.png


Cards

Customizable fields on card popups

[CHD-4353] We've received many requests for the ability to add other built-in and custom fields to the card popups. Previously, the displayed fields were hardcoded and couldn't be changed without hacking around in the code.

From Setup->Configure->Cards, admins can now configure the default fields that show up on card popups for every record type:

720 cards customize.png

Quickly compose new messages from cards

[CHD-4386] When viewing an address card popup, a 'Compose' button is now available in the 'Tickets' section. Clicking this buttons opens the compose dialog and pre-fills the email address in the 'To:' field:

720 cards compose addy.png

When viewing a contact card popup, a 'Compose' button is now available in the 'Tickets' section. Clicking this buttons opens the compose dialog and pre-fills the email address in the 'To:' field.

When viewing an organization card popup, a 'Compose' button is now available in the 'Tickets' section. Clicking this buttons opens the compose dialog and pre-fills the org name in the 'Org:' field, which provides autocomplete suggestions of the most common contacts from that org.

Card popup for task records

Implemented card popups for task records. Previously, the peek for task records always opened in edit mode.

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Comment timelines on card popups

When viewing a card popup you can now quickly view all the comments on the record. You can also add a comment using the new 'Comment' button at the top. After commenting, the comments timeline will automatically refresh.

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Workspaces

Incremental bulk update for large worklists

Improved bulk update functionality on worklists. Previously, the bulk update attempted to complete in a single request, which often timed out on the server, leaving the worker unsure if it completed or not (whether it did depended on PHP/MySQL configuration). Now, bulk updates run small batches of records with real-time progress shown above the worklist. Upon completion, the worklist will refresh as expected. The new process properly handles the updating of thousands of records.

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Improved the usability of broadcast placeholders

When broadcasting from a worklist, the available placeholders now display in nested menus rather than a very long list. This significantly speeds up the process of finding the desired placeholder.

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Broadcast from contact worklists

Implemented broadcast functionality in bulk update for contact worklists.

Broadcast from worker worklists

Implemented broadcast functionality in bulk update for worker worklists.

Broadcast from organization worklists

Implemented broadcast functionality in bulk update for organization worklists.

Custom fields in worklists are much more efficient

Significantly improved the performance of worklists that use many custom field columns. Previously, custom field columns had a linear cost in the database (more columns meant more complexity). Now this cost is constant, and the custom field values are "lazy loaded" (they are all loaded with a single query and only when requested, and then merged with the original search results). Any number of custom fields may now be displayed as columns without negatively impacting performance. If a custom field column is used to sort the worklist, we still retrieve it with the original search results to make that possible.

Improved the performance of multi-value custom fields when used as NOT IN filters on worklists. These fields have a special condition where the presence of any of their fields in a "NOT IN" should exclude the field entirely, even if other values exist.

Dashboard widgets load faster

Dashboard widgets now load in parallel. Previously, dashboard widgets all loaded serially (i.e. one at a time). Now, up to three widgets will load at the same time.

Improved field selection on worklist export

When exporting from a worklist, the field chooser now uses nested menus to simplify selection. The default fields for each record type is also automatically selected.

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Miscellaneous worklist improvements

  • [CHD-4330] Contact-based worklists can be subtotaled on gender.
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  • Worker-based worklists can be subtotaled on gender.
  • Removed the 'Last Action' column on ticket worklists in favor of 'Last Wrote'. The same functionality can be added back through Virtual Attendant worklist behaviors.
  • Significantly improved the performance of filtering by watchers on worklists.
  • Improved the performance of ticket worklists when filtering by participants: (particularly when filtering for participants with a *@host wildcard).
  • Contact-based worklists can be quick searched by gender:.
720 workspaces contacts filter gender.png
  • Worker-based worklists can be quick searched by gender:.
  • Added a comments: filter for searching comments on contact worklists.
  • Added a va: filter for searching by Virtual Attendant in scheduled behavior worklists.
  • Added an inGroupsOfWorker: filter to ticket worklists.
  • On ticket worklists, the resolution.first: and response.first: filters now accept dates in natural language, like "< 1 hour" and "2 hours ... 8 hours".
720 search dupe filters ranges times.png
  • On message worklists, the responseTime: filter now accepts dates in natural language, like "> 1 hour" and "2 hours ... 8 hours".
720 workspaces filter times.png
  • [CHD-4375] In message worklists, added a header.messageId: quick search filter for matching messages based on their 'Message-Id:' header. This is particularly useful for webhook behavior from Mailgun, where the message-id header is the only identifier available. The filter will only return exact matches.
  • On ticket worklists, the bulk update popup now uses linked dropdowns for group and bucket in the 'Move To:' option. Selecting a group in the first dropdown displays its buckets in the second dropdown. Previously this was a huge list of "Group:Bucket" options.
720 workspaces ticket bulk move.png
  • Removed the 'pile sort' option from ticket worklists. This can be handled with subtotals and bulk update in modern versions.
  • When using bulk update from an organization worklist, the country field now autocompletes using existing values.

Added a primary email address to organizations

[CHD-4370] Added a primary email address field to organization records.

720 workspaces org primary email.png

Localization fields on contacts

Added 'language' and 'timezone' fields to contact records. These provide for localization in community portals, and improved segmentation in worklists and reports.

720 workspaces contacts localization.png

Bulk update watchers on contact worklists

When bulk updating contact worklists, watchers can be added and removed.

720 workspaces bulk contact watchers.png

Bulk update more fields on worker worklists

When bulk updating a worker worklist, the following fields may now be set: title, location, gender, language, and timezone.

720 workspaces bulk workers.png

Condensed the active workers list

The "Who's Online" section now has a smaller footprint. Previously, every worker was listed on a separate line with their IP, idle time, and last activity. This information (and much more) is now available in worker cards. Workers are now listed as links (to cards) in a paragraph and separated by commas.

720 workspaces whos online.png

Improvements when importing ticket records

  • The <is_waiting> and <is_closed> fields no longer exist in the schema. These should be replaced with <status> with a value of: open, waiting, closed, or deleted.
  • The <is_outgoing> element can be provided for all message records. This removes the requirement that sender addresses are set up beforehand and match.
  • The raw message headers can be provided in the <headers> element as a CDATA text block (rather than itemized elements per header/value pair).
  • The <org> element is available to create/link an organization to the ticket.


Virtual Attendants

Improved the usability of placeholders in conditions and actions

When editing Virtual Attendants, the 'Insert Placeholder' button now opens a nested menu with related placeholders grouped together. This replaces a flat list with hundreds of options.

720 va placeholders.png

Simpler worklist behaviors

All worklists now have improved markup to simplify Virtual Attendant behaviors that target specific columns. A data-column attribute is available on each table cell.

720 va worklist markup.png


Search

Improved search performance

Improved the performance of fulltext search filters when using the default MySQL Fulltext search engine. As of MySQL 5.6+, both MyISAM and InnoDB database tables support fulltext indexes. Prior to that only MyISAM supported fulltext, and that was how Cerb was developed and benchmarked.

Our testing has shown InnoDB to generally be faster when matching terms ('all these words'), but significantly slower for matching phrases, especially in datasets with millions of rows (as is the case in many Cerb environments).

We've discovered many "exact phrase" searches in Cerb Cloud that took less than a second with MyISAM which are taking minutes in InnoDB. This has do with the fact that InnoDB uses distributed indexes and doesn't currently support a LIMIT clause to stop once the desired number of matches are returned.

By moving phrase searches into Cerb (using the index to match all the words in any order, then a LIKE for the exact phrase), we're able to make those slower searches in InnoDB more than 100X faster. This change also speeds up non-phrase searches, even against MyISAM tables.

Improved search relevance

Previously, when building search indexes for the MySQL Fulltext engine, we heavily pre-processed content to convert to lowercase, remove punctuation, remove reply-quoted content, remove common ("stop") words, remove accents, etc. This resulted in more efficient indexes, but it also reduced search accuracy. It also prevented some phrase searches from matching properly. Now all we do is strip reply-quoted lines and truncate content to the first 5KB. This only applies to content indexed after the 7.2 upgrade, so a full reindex should be performed if you need to search older content this way.

When using a fulltext search filter on a worklist using the MySQL Fulltext search engine, the query will now be pre-processed to conform to MySQL's requirements. Terms that are smaller than 3 characters or larger than 82 are ignored, as are words that appear in the default InnoDB "stop words" list. This is because the presence of any of these terms in an "all these words" search would return 0 results instead of being ignored by MySQL.

Improved InnoDB Fulltext support

  • A new APP_DB_ENGINE_FULLTEXT option is available in the framework.config.php file. This specifies the MySQL database engine that should be used for newly created fulltext search tables. In MySQL 5.6+, 'InnoDB' now supports fulltext indices. Previously, only 'MyISAM' tables supported them. This is particularly important at scale since InnoDB is recommended (or even required).
  • APP_DB_ENGINE_FULLTEXT now defaults to APP_DB_ENGINE when not explicitly set in framework.config.php. If this results in InnoDB being selected in MySQL versions prior to 5.6, then MyISAM is always used regardless of this setting.
  • The installer now checks if the MyISAM storage engine is disabled and the MySQL version is less than 5.6 (where InnoDB has fulltext indexing). If the MySQL version is >= 5.6 then the installer will succeed with InnoDB handling everything.

Improved Elasticsearch integration

  • Fixed an issue where newer versions of the Elasticsearch search engine couldn't be configured.
  • Condensed search schema document indexing into a single 'content' field. This is what the MySQL Fulltext search engine did anyway, and Elasticsearch doesn't need the inefficient _all field with this approach. Cerb already provides filters for everything else.
  • When configuring Elasticsearch, a "default query field" option is now available. This makes it possible to disable the _all field in an Elasticsearch index to save resources (up to a 50% reduction). In most cases, Cerb writes to an aggregated 'content' field rather than itemizing fulltext search fields.
  • Added default timeouts to searches using the Elasticsearch engine. The indexing timeout is 20 seconds and the query timeout is 5 seconds.
  • When performing fulltext searches using Elasticsearch, a 'max results' setting over 1000 results now joins a temporary table. When returning fewer than 1000 results, the more efficient inline IN(...) method will continue to be used.
  • Added a helper script to install/extras/developers/search_dump_elasticsearch_json.php to assist with bulk importing message content from Cerb into Elasticsearch.

Limit results for all search engines

  • All search engines (MySQL FT, Sphinx, Elasticsearch) can now provide a 'max results' option.
720 search max results.png


Mail

Improved placeholder usability in signatures

  • When editing signatures on sender addresses in Setup, the 'Insert Placeholder' button now uses nested menus rather than a huge dropdown list of placeholders.
720 mail signature placeholders.png
  • When editing signatures on bucket records, the 'Insert Placeholder' button now uses nested menus rather than a huge dropdown list of placeholders.
  • When editing HTML templates in Setup, the 'Insert Placeholder' button now uses nested menus rather than a huge dropdown list of placeholders.

Improved ticket status performance

Optimized the way the status field is stored for ticket records in the database. Previously, there were three different fields and indexes involved (is_waiting, is_closed, is_deleted), as a byproduct of continuous improvements over many years. These fields have been consolidated into a single status_id field. This should result in slightly faster ticket worklist results, slightly less filesystem space wasted, and much cleaner logic in the code.

Improvements to email headers performance

Improved the performance of operations involving email message headers (e.g. to/from/subject/date/etc) and made them much more efficient in the database.

Previously, each header/value pair was saved as a separate row in the message_header table. Since each message has many headers, the record count of the headers table grew exponentially larger. For instance, one sampled production Cerb environment had 1.7 million messages and 42 million message headers (an average of 25 headers per message). The access times of the message_header table could be negatively impacted at scale. Additionally, since message headers are immutable (never modified and never appended to), it made little sense to store headers individually.

Cerb now stores all of the headers for a message together in a single row, making reading and writing a single operation and result. The 7.2 update automatically migrates existing records to the new format. The overall size of the data in the table should be relatively unchanged, but the size of the indexes is significantly reduced since the header names and first few characters of each value no longer need to be indexed.

Full original headers in message records

Previously, when viewing a ticket profile, messages could be toggled to show "brief" or "full" headers above the content. However, the "full" version of these headers was not the original copy -- it was decoded, de-duped, etc. The raw original headers are now stored for each message, and can be accessed from the "Show Full Headers" button in the extended "..." options at the bottom of each message. The original headers are shown unformatted in a popup, rather than expanding above the message, which makes it easier to inspect and copy them. Whenever these headers are used in Cerb (displayed on messages, in Virtual Attendants, etc) they are decoded in real-time. This allows the handling of header information to change and improve without modifying their original state.

720 mail original headers.png

Logging message headers in the email parser

When the 'cron.parser' scheduler job runs to process incoming mail, it will now log output for several important headers (e.g. To, From, Subject, Date, In-Reply-To, Delivered-To) to assist with later troubleshooting and forensics. Previously, only the file name of the parsed message was logged, unless Virtual Attendants ran conditions against specific fields.

Faster message threading performance in the email parser

Improved the performance of threading replies to conversations.

Previously, Cerb used a MySQL header_value prefix index on the message_header table for lookups. This was inefficient for several reasons:

  • All of the stored headers wrote to the same index, not just 'message-id'
  • The value of 'message-id' wasn't guaranteed to be well distributed (there could be millions of rows with the same prefix); etc.

The Message-ID: header of each message is now converted to a SHA-1 hash and stored on the 'message' table. It's now much faster when matching an incoming In-Reply-To: or References: header against these values. The SHA-1 hash is a fixed length (40 characters), and even very similar (but different) values will end up having very different hashes, which allows us to more efficiently index only the first few characters of the hashes for lookups. In high-volume environments with database contention (e.g. locks), message_header lookups were often implicated, and this should no longer be an issue.

Improved email parser efficiency

  • Refactored the email parser to be more efficient. Replaced the direct usage of the mailparse_* API in PHP with Mailparse's MimeMessage wrapper class. This simplified the ability to parse email messages as either files or text-based variables and cleaned up a lot of code. Previously, Cerb always wrote email messages to the filesystem before parsing (i.e. Support Center, REST API), which generated needless filesystem I/O (much slower than memory).
  • In the inbound email parser, the enforcement of the maximum attachment size is now more efficient. Previously, the attachment was always written to disk before the size was checked and the file potentially discarded. Now, if a Content-Disposition-Size: header is provided, this can be used to ignore an attachment before doing anything else with it (saving compute cycles, filesystem I/O).

Track the last checked time on mailboxes

[CHD-4188] Mailbox records now keep tracked of their 'last checked at' timestamp. This is used to check mailboxes in the order of least recently checked first, which addresses issues where a slow or busy first mailbox could block other mailboxes from ever being checked.

720 setup mailboxes last checked.png

Usability

  • Improved the usability of the 'skip to bottom' link on each message in a ticket profile. This link was designed to make it easy to jump to the message actions when viewing a large message; however, it displayed on all messages. This button will now only show up when the message actions (like 'Reply') are scrolled beyond the bottom of the browser's current viewport. This saves some screen space and reduces clutter when reading shorter messages.
  • [CHD-4396] When sending HTML mail, improved the way that Markdown-formatted lists are converted back to plaintext.
  • [CHD-4329] When viewing a ticket timeline, if a message sender has an organization but not a contact, the organization details are now displayed along with a card popup.


Tasks

Task records have an owner field

Task records now have a built-in 'owner' field to simplify worker assignments. Previously this required the use of a worker-based custom field.

720 tasks owner.png

Task records have an importance field

[CHD-4226] Task records now have a built-in 'importance' field that behaves like the same field on ticket records. This allows for simpler prioritization of tasks without requiring the use of custom fields.

720 tasks importance.png


Snippets

Improved placeholder selection in snippets

When editing snippets, the 'Insert Placeholder' button now opens a nested menu rather than a flat list with hundreds of options.

720 snippets placeholders.png

Creating snippets using selected text

[CHD-4415] When opening the 'Create Snippet' popup from compose or reply, any selected text in the current message will be used as the snippet's default text. Previously, this content had to be copied manually in a second step.


Profiles

Improved permalinks on profiles

Improved the usability of permalink buttons on profiles. Previously, clicking a permalink button redirected the browser instantly to the permalink URL, which was often undesirable (e.g. when in the middle of a reply). These buttons didn't allow copying the URL in all browsers (Firefox in particular). Now, clicking a permalink button opens a popup which displays the permalink URL, already selected and ready to copy. This doesn't prevent a worker from continuing what they were doing by redirecting them to something else, and it makes it much easier to share these URLs.

720 profiles permalinks.png

Activity Log

In the activity log, when a ticket is assigned to a worker, that worker's name is now a clickable link to their profile.

720 profiles log assign links.png


Portals

Performance

  • Added a cache for community portal records. Previously, these results always came from the database.
  • Improved the performance of loading templates from plugins. Previously, the content of the referenced templates was being loaded every request. Now they are only loaded when their modification times have changed.
  • Previously, when custom templates in Community Portals (like the Support Center) were modified, the entire template cache was flushed. Now only the cache of that specific template is removed.

Usability

  • Added an error message when attempting to add a community portal and no portal extensions are enabled.

Security

  • Custom templates in the Support Center now run in a secure sandbox.


Notifications

Changes to the notifications popup are saved

[CHD-4266] The unread notifications popup now saves any changes made (e.g. filters, columns, subtotals, sorting).


Setup

Usability

Improved the organization of the Setup page. The 'Configure' menu now has subsections for System, Contexts (Record types), and Plugins. Virtual Attendants and Portals moved out of Configure into their own top-level menus.

720 setup menus.png

Mailboxes

In Setup, when creating or modifying mailboxes, a new 'Disable PLAIN Authentication' option is available. This is necessary for proper authentication in some environments (e.g. shared mailboxes in Exchange/Office365).

720 setup mailboxes disable plain.png

Scheduler

  • Added an ignore_internal=1 option to bare scheduler /cron URLs. This ignores the built-in scheduler jobs (e.g. heartbeat, mailbox, parser, search, etc) and only runs plugin-provided scheduler jobs. This is useful when scheduling jobs independently by type.
  • In the scheduler, added a max_mailboxes URL option to /cron/cron.mailbox to control how many mailboxes are checked per job.

Sessions

In Setup->Configure->Sessions, the bulk update action for deleting sessions moved to a worklist action.


Reports

Added choosers to report filters

[CHD-4331] The 'Worker History over Date Range' and 'Group Replies over Date Range' reports now use the new chooser popups for filtering.


Web API

Add attachments to comments in the API

[CHD-4369 When creating a comment through the Web-API, attachments can now be added to the comment using one or more instances of the file_id[] parameter.


Plugins

Asset Tracking

  • [CHD-3576] Implemented bulk update functionality on asset worklists.

Domains

  • When sending a broadcast from a domain worklist, file attachments can be added to the messages.


Platform

Installer

[CHD-582] The installer now automatically adds the client's IP to AUTHORIZED_IPS_DEFAULTS in framework.config.php.

Updater

The Cerb automated upgrader will no longer close all worker sessions when updating. If a specific patch needs to force all workers to log back in (which should be rare), then it can explicitly do so. This change makes the upgrade process more seamless, less annoying for workers, and allows it to be automated.

Localization

[CHD-4398] Added a global 'Timezone' setting to Setup->Configure->Localization. This serves as the default when a worker doesn't have a timezone set, or there is no session (Virtual Attendants, webhooks, etc). In many standalone deployments this wasn't necessary since the system timezone was sufficient as a default, but in distributed and multi-tenant environments we needed a per-instance default.

720 setup timezone.png

Performance

  • Worker 'last activity' is now determined by the activity log and sessions, and the separate mechanism from 4.x that wrote simple activity info directly to worker records has been removed. This is more efficient since it's not constantly invalidating the worker cache (previously even several times per minute). On worker peeks, when a worker has been active within 15 minutes, they're "currently active" rather than "active 49 seconds ago", which allows sessions to update more efficiently as well.
  • Optimized the database indexes for: address, attachment_link, comment, context_link, message, and ticket. This should reduce disk space usage and speed up writes.

Resiliency

  • Added APP_DB_OPT_CONNECTION_RECONNECTS and APP_DB_OPT_CONNECTION_RECONNECTS_WAIT_MS options to framework.config.php. These control the number of times, and duration between, that Cerb will attempt to reconnect to a prematurely closed database connection (i.e. one that had connected successfully at the beginning of the request). The first database connection when Cerb answers a new request ignores these options, and will fail instantly if the database is unavailable. These options are specific to situations where MySQL severs connections ("MySQL has gone away", "MySQL is shutting down", a long running query is killed from the MySQL console, etc). The option defaults to retrying 10 times with 1 second between attempts. In high traffic environments this could be tuned to fail quicker (and not hold load balancer or proxy connections open longer), and in lower traffic environments it could be tuned to retry longer (especially for a known flakey database host). Previously, if a database connection closed during a Cerb request, the subsequent queries in the same request would fail. It is now possible for Cerb to retry the previously failed query (when caused by the database host connection rather than SQL syntax errors) and resume/complete normally.
  • When the database isn't running in master/slave mode (read/write splitting), or when the slave connection fails and it falls back to master, Cerb is now more efficient about continuing with that assumption for the remainder of the request. Previously, the connection was re-checked multiple times.
  • Added some sanitization checks when writing to the server-side cache. Previously, it was possible for the cache to become poisoned with invalid results in some rare situations (e.g. "MySQL has gone away"). This could lead to difficult to troubleshoot issues, like legitimate logins returning "Invalid password".

Scalability

  • The templates_c path where Smarty compiles templates is now configurable in framework.config.php from the APP_SMARTY_COMPILE_PATH option. This is useful in multi-tenant environments where the template compile cache can be shared between instances (which reduces I/O on disk and memory usage in opcache). It also allows the template compile cache to be separated from other temp files, since the compile cache is frequently accessed and rarely changed, and it may not perform well on some shared filesystems (NFS, etc). Previously, this path was always located in APP_TEMP_PATH.
  • When Cerb displays an error and shuts down (e.g. "Cache not writeable", "Can't connect to database", "Access denied"), a proper HTTP status code is returned. Previously, a lot of these error messages still returned HTTP 200 OK, which caused problems with detecting errors from distributed services like proxies, load balancers, and monitoring.
  • Added APP_DB_OPT_MASTER_CONNECT_TIMEOUT_SECS and APP_DB_OPT_SLAVE_CONNECT_TIMEOUT_SECS options in framework.config.php for independently controlling the timeout when connecting to the MySQL database(s). This previously used the system default, which was often 30+ seconds (way too long in distributed environments). The default timeout is now 5 seconds for the master and 1 second for the read slaves. This improve the gracefulness of fail-over capabilities in distributed environments.
  • When a connection to the slave database fails (if defined), Cerb will now revert to the master. Previously a fatal error was returned which prevented the app from working at all. This change improves graceful fail-over in distributed environments.
  • Added a DEVBLOCKS_CACHE_ENGINE_PREVENT_CHANGE option to framework.config.php for preventing changes to cache configuration from Setup. When enabled, it also hides Setup->Configure->Cache. This option is useful when combined with DEVBLOCKS_CACHE_ENGINE to prevent Cerb's cache from ever touching the filesystem in a clustered environment.
  • Added DEVBLOCKS_CACHE_ENGINE and DEVBLOCKS_CACHE_ENGINE_OPTIONS options to framework.config.php for overriding the default cache in the platform. In a distributed environment with many web nodes and a shared filesystem, it can be inefficient for the initial cache (plugins, extensions, classloader, etc) to always be read from and written to disk-based storage, even when a memory-based cache (Redis/Memcache) is enabled. This occurs because the platform uses the cache before it has started up (cache engines are implemented as plugins, and plugins need to be loaded to use them). The DEVBLOCKS_CACHE_ENGINE option bypasses this. In our multiple web node tests against shared filesystems (NFS/EFS/RedisFS), connecting to Redis/Memcache directly rather than using an NFS/FUSE mount was over 400% faster. This is particularly useful for high-volume, high-availability installations and cloud hosting.
  • Added a DEVBLOCKS_STORAGE_ENGINE_PREVENT_CHANGE option to framework.config.php for preventing changes to storage configuration from Setup. When enabled, it also hides Setup->Storage->Profiles. This is particularly useful in multi-tenant environments (like Cerb Cloud).
  • Added a DEVBLOCKS_SEARCH_ENGINE_PREVENT_CHANGE option to framework.config.php for preventing changes to search configuration from Setup. When enabled, it also hides Setup->Configure->Search. This is particularly useful in multi-tenant environments (like Cerb Cloud).
  • Added a CERB_FEATURES_PLUGIN_LIBRARY option to framework.config.php for enabling/disabling the Plugin Library feature in Setup. When disabled, it hides Setup->Plugins->Library, and doesn't attempt to fetch/install plugin updates during upgrades. This is useful in multi-tenant (Cerb Cloud) or intranet environments where the available plugins are curated manually, and potentially shared locally between multiple instances of Cerb. This is also useful in highly secure environments that want to prevent Cerb from downloading automatic code updates in a more user friendly way (currently these outgoing connections can just be firewalled).
  • Added an APP_SMARTY_COMPILE_USE_SUBDIRS option to framework.config.php to toggle whether the template compile cache uses subdirectories for hashing (in ./storage/tmp/templates_c/). Enabling this option is more efficient than having thousands of cache files in a single directory.
  • Previously, Cerb checked the contents of the storage/_version file to detect changes to the underlying files (i.e. upgrades). This file just contained the numeric APP_BUILD as of the last time the upgrade process ran. Some OSes cached this content, but it could be inefficient when constantly loaded from distributed filesystems like NFS. This file has been renamed to storage/version.php so that it can be cached in shared memory via PHP opcache. It is recommend that the corresponding setting in php.ini (opcache.enable_file_override=1) is also set to make the file_exists() checks more efficient.
  • The DevblocksPlatform::redirect() and DevblocksPlatform::redirectURL() methods now accept an optional $wait_secs argument that intentionally delays the redirect. This is particularly useful in distributed environments where a change needs to be replicated for consistency (e.g. new sessions).
  • Added the option APP_DB_OPT_READ_MASTER_AFTER_WRITE to framework.config.php. This toggles 'master read-after-write' functionality to combat latency in read replicas when using read/write splitting for database queries. Previously, if a read replica was behind, then the UI could appear to be ignoring worker actions for a brief time. For example, several tickets could be selected in a worklist and then marked closed (writing to master), and when the worklist instantly refreshes those tickets could still appear open (reading from an eventually consistent replica). A subsequent manual refresh in this situation would show the current state of the data. This lag is only apparent to the worker who initiated an action, and not other workers who may see old data that's less than a second behind the master. This situation is more common when read replicas are distributed geographically away from the master with relatively slower network access. However, Cerb pages can load so quickly (tens of milliseconds or less), and read replicas can become busy with expensive queries no matter where they're located, so it was possible for this situation to occur anywhere. When this option is set to any non-zero integer value, reads will be redirected to the master following a write for that number of seconds within the current session. If a volatile memory cache is being used (Redis/Memcache vs disk), then reads in other requests (Ajax) will also be redirected to the master for the configured duration. The _DevblocksDatabaseManager::OPT_NO_READ_AFTER_WRITE flag passed to ::ExecuteMaster($sql,$bits) bypasses this behavior for writes that tolerate eventual consistency. This option is disabled by default.
  • Added a APP_SMARTY_COMPILE_PATH_MULTI_TENANT option to framework.config.php for multi-tenant environments that share a single Smarty templates_c compile cache. When true, Cerb won't flush the template compile cache during upgrades or when enabling/disabling plugins. The default is false, which doesn't change Cerb's long-time behavior (these caches are flushed in several situations).
  • Added a APP_SMARTY_SANDBOX_COMPILE_PATH option to framework.config.php for multi-tenant environments. This allows each tenant to have their own template compile directory; ideally on a shared filesystem, which solves issues with templates being out of sync across multiple web servers.
  • Cerb no longer directly reads from the $_SERVER['REMOTE_ADDR'] value from multiple places. The DevblocksPlatform::getClientIp() method now returns the client's IP. When multiple load balancers and proxies are involved, it's possible for multiple client IPs to be available (based on X-Forwarded-For), and Cerb now selects the appropriate one in these conditions.

Security

  • [CHD-4311] The DEVBLOCKS_HTTP_PROXY option in framework.config.php now configures a proxy for all outgoing HTTP requests. By default this uses an HTTP forward proxy, but the value can be prefixed with socks5:// to use a SOCKS5 server instead. This allows networked Cerb functionality to work behind a proxy: Virtual Attendant behaviors, Plugin Library, Widget datasources, avatar image URLs, Elasticsearch, etc.
  • When using the PHP open_basedir setting, the logs complained about CURLOPT_FOLLOW_LOCATION not being available. We now handle following redirects in Devblocks.

Monitoring

Added a /debug/status page with stats in JSON format. This is useful for monitoring a Cerb instance.

Developers

  • Added DevblocksPlatform::setRegistryKey($key, $value, $as, $persist) and DevblocksPlatform::getRegistryKey($key, $as, $default) methods for simpler access to the registry service.
  • The Devblocks registry service now supports JSON as an object type. This can be used to store complex nested objects with automatic JSON encoding and decoding.

Dependencies

  • Patched the S3 library to support infrequent access (IA) objects and security tokens for temporary credentials.
  • Added the jquery.visible plugin to the platform. This detects whether a UI element is visible within the browser viewport or not.
  • Added the FineDiff library (by Raymond Hill, MIT license) to the platform. This makes it easy to create "diffs" for comparing historical revisions to blocks of text (like knowledgebase articles).

Import/Export

  • Added a new ImpEx (Import/Export) tool to install/extras/impex/. The previous ImpEx tool was a separate project written in Java. This is written in PHP and is used from the command line. This makes the contribution of new export drivers much simpler.


Maintenance updates

7.2.1

Cerb (7.2.1) is a maintenance update released on August 15, 2016; it contains 12 features, fixes, and usability enhancements from community feedback covering the recent 7.2 update. You can follow these instructions to upgrade.

  • [Cards/Delete] Fixed an issue with some card popups not refreshing their underlying worklist after deleting a record.
  • [CHD-4417] [Cards/Opportunities] Implemented card popups for opportunity records.
  • [CHD-4344] [Setup/Workers/Usability] Added quick search to the worklist on Setup->Workers.
  • [CHD-4420] [Setup/Cards] In Setup->Configure->Cards, there's now a 'Save Changes' button, since the auto-save was confusing users and leading them to believe nothing was happening.
  • [CHD-4427] [Platform/Maint] Completed bulk update batch records are now removed after 1 week during nightly maintenance.
  • [CHD-1801] [Worklists/Orgs/Bulk] Multiple organization records may be deleted using bulk update.
  • [CHD-4275] [Worklists/Contacts/Bulk] Multiple contact records may be deleted by admins using bulk update.
  • [Worklists/Tasks/Bulk/Usability] When using bulk update on a task worklist, the desired actions are now selected with a checkbox before their options display. This simplifies the form and also allows for actions that don't have a 'blank' state (like a slider).
  • [CHD-4426] [Worklists/Tasks/Bulk] When using bulk update on a task worklist, the 'importance' field can now be set.
  • [Worklists/Tickets/Bulk/Usability] When using bulk update on a ticket worklist, the desired actions are now selected with a checkbox before their options display. This simplifies the form and also allows for actions that don't have a 'blank' state (like a slider).
  • [CHD-4426] [Worklists/Tickets/Bulk] When using bulk update on a ticket worklist, the 'importance' field can now be set.
  • [Cards/Group/Bucket] Fixed an issue on group and bucket cards where the ticket count buttons didn't filter their searches properly.

7.2.2

Cerb (7.2.2) is a maintenance update released on August 26, 2016; it contains 18 fixes and minor features from community feedback covering the recent 7.2 update. You can follow these instructions to upgrade.

  • [CHD-4434] [Setup/Portals] Fixed an issue where the community portal cache wasn't refreshing after a new portal was created.
  • [CHD-4433] [Mail/Attachments] Fixed an issue where non-members couldn't view the attachments of a public group.
  • [CHD-4435] [Profiles/Links/Buckets] Fixed an issue on the 'Links' tab of a profile. If specific buckets were linked to a record, the worklist didn't filter to only those linked buckets.
  • [Platform] Fixed some compatibility issues with the latest versions of PHP7.
  • [Bots/Variables] Fixed an issue in Virtual Attendants with the 'Set variable' action when using the quick search option. Editing the action wasn't showing the current value.
  • [Worklists/Tickets/Bulk] Fixed an issue with bulk update on ticket worklists where the 'Move' option was being ignored.
  • [CHD-4440] [Placeholders/Menus] Fixed an issue with placeholder chooser menus where some custom field placeholders weren't listed. This occurred when a shorter placeholder wholly existed in the path of a longer placeholder. For instance: "IT -> Department" and "IT -> Department -> Priority". In this situation, the shorter placeholder was treated as only an expansion submenu for the longer placeholder. Now the shorter placeholder is both clickable and a submenu. The fact it is clickable is denoted by a bold label.
  • [CHD-4437] [Worklists/Ticket] Added a 'worker.replied:' quick search filter to ticket worklists. This returns tickets where any of the given workers wrote at least one outgoing message on the conversation.
  • [Worklists/Ticket] Added a 'worker.commented:' quick search filter to ticket worklists. This returns tickets where any of the given workers wrote at least one comment on the conversation.
  • [Worklists/Messages] Implemented the 'Ticket ID' filter on message worklists. This previously showed up in the filter list but didn't provide any options.
  • [CHD-4436] [Worklists/Messages] Message worklists can now be subtotaled by ticket ID or mask.
  • [CHD-4442] [API/Comments] Fixed a bug that prevented comments from being created properly through the REST API.
  • [CHD-4432] [Worklists/Export] When exporting a worklist, the configured fields on that record's card will be automatically selected as the defaults.
  • [CHD-4377] [Web-API/Comments/Attachments] In the REST API, 'expand=attachments' will return an array of attachments for comment objects.
  • [CHD-4377] [Web-API/Messages/Attachments] In the REST API, 'expand=attachments' will return an array of attachments for message objects.
  • [CHD-4428] [Bots/Outcomes/Usability] When editing a Virtual Attendant behavior outcome, the available conditions are now displayed in nested menus rather than a huge list. This makes it much faster and simpler to work with.
  • [CHD-4428] [Bots/Actions/Usability] When editing a Virtual Attendant behavior action, the available actions are now displayed in nested menus rather than a huge list. This makes it much faster and simpler to work with.
  • [Bots] Fixed an issue where some custom field based outcomes weren't being tested properly if they were deeply nested.

7.2.3

Cerb (7.2.3) is a maintenance update released on October 28, 2016; it contains 18 fixes and minor features from community feedback covering the recent 7.2 update. You can follow these instructions to upgrade.

  • [Platform/OAuth] Added an OAuth service to the Devblocks platform to remove the 'oauth' PHP extension requirement in many plugins. Additionally, PHP's oauth extension doesn't support proxies for outgoing connections, and our library does.
  • [Search/Elasticsearch/Performance] When using Elasticsearch for search, the 'filter_path' optional parameter is now used to reduce the size of the JSON response. This uses fewer resources (including bandwidth) and provides a minor performance improvement.
  • [Records/Owners] Fixed an issue where some task and ticket records could be left owned by a previously deleted worker.
  • [Mail/Reply] Fixed an issue when replying to a ticket with an invalid owner. This caused the 'waiting' spinner to display indefinitely.
  • [Platform/Seats] When an idle worker session is logged out to free up a seat for a new login, its idle time is now recorded along with the activity log entry for later analysis. This is helpful for tuning the seat count on large environments with many more workers than seats.
  • [Code Cleanup] Fixed a PHP7 error in widgets. The 'continue' keyword was being used rather than 'return'.
  • [Mail/Usability] The compose popup now uses 75% screen width when opened from an address, contact, or organization card.
  • [CHD-4482] [Dashboards/Widgets/Charts] Fixed an issue on chart widgets where worklist-derived results could be truncated when using the 'count' function on the y-axis. This happened on record types where the first numeric column was a custom field. The custom field was improperly being added as a filter to the results (which would be proper for sum/average/min/max/etc), so only records with a value for that field were returned.
  • [CHD-4474] [API/Tickets] In the REST API, using /tickets/compose, the 'to' parameter is now optional. It's acceptable in Cerb to create an internal ticket with no recipients.
  • [CHD-4481] [Mail/Parser] Added more error checking to the email parser to verify that each MIME part is properly formed. This may address some segfaults in PHP7 w/ Mailparse 3.0.1.
  • [Virtual Attendants] Fixed an issue with the 'dict_set' function in Virtual Attendant scripts. This was always converting arrays into objects. Arrays are properly handled now.
  • [Maintenance/Attachments] Fixed a very rare issue in the maintenance scheduler for attachments. If the database rejected DELETE queries but allowed CREATE TEMPORARY TABLE and SELECT, it was possible for maintenance to delete way more attachments from storage than it should have.
  • [Developers/Platform] The DevblocksPlatform::strToRegExp() helper now accepts arguments for $escape and $wrap. Escape specifies whether the given argument should be auto-escaped. Wrap specifies whether the returned regexp should have pattern delimiters automatically added. These options both default to true (the previous behavior).
  • [CHD-4484] [Support Center/History] Fixed an issue in the Support Center portal. The filters on the ticket history worklist weren't displaying properly.
  • [Scheduler/Import] Fixed an issue with imports in XML format. If there was extra whitespace in the <headers> element then Cerb returned an error about not being able to find the sender address.
  • [CHD-4456] [Cards/Custom Fields] When displaying a worker-based custom field on a card (e.g. "Account Rep" on org records), the worker's name is now properly displayed and clicking it opens their card. Previously, this was unhelpfully only displaying the worker's ID.
  • [CHD-4466] [Setup/Snippets] Added back the Setup->Configure->Snippets page for administrators. This allows the management of all snippets regardless of owner (including private worker-owned snippets).
  • [Snippets] When deleting a record, their snippets are now properly removed as well.

7.2.4

Cerb (7.2.4) is a maintenance update released on December 5, 2016; it contains 11 fixes and minor features from community feedback covering the recent 7.2 update. You can follow these instructions to upgrade.

  • [CHD-4373] [Bots/Scripts] Added a 'parse_emails' filter to bot scripts. This takes a delimited string of email addresses in RFC-5322/2822 format (e.g. from a 'To:' header) and converts them into a validated array of objects. Each object has members for: full_email, email, mailbox, host, and personal.
  • [Worklists/Tickets/Performance] When using the 'participants:' and 'sender:' quick search filters, the default is now an exact match rather than a wildcard suffix. This should improve performance in the most common use case.
  • [Platform/Update] Fixed an issue in some environments that prevented /update from redirecting back to Cerb when finished. This had to do with PHP7 functionality changes.
  • [Platform/Hostname] Added an APP_HOSTNAME option to framework.config.php which controls the hostname used for all generated URLs. Normally the hostname is automatically detected from the server environment, but in some situations (e.g. proxies and load balancers) an administrator may want to override this. In Cerb Cloud, all instances are hosted as *.cerb.me subdomains, and many clients have CNAMEs for custom URLs. When the scheduler runs, the *.cerb.me domain is used for URLs in placeholders and notifications, and a cookie session often doesn't exist for that hostname. This option allows URLs to be generated using a CNAME regardless of the hostname used to access the site.
  • [PHP7] Fixed an issue with PHP7 and the mailparse extension in Setup->Mail->Failed.
  • [MySQL] Fixed an issue in the /update patcher with MySQL 5.7+ when 'only_full_group_by' is in the sql_mode. Prior to MySQL 5.7.5, the alias of an aggregated column can't appear in a HAVING statement. On fresh installations, this was causing a blank page in the middle of the installer that required a page refresh to continue.
  • [CHD-4476] [Portals/Templates] Fixed an issue with community portals where changes to custom templates weren't reflected in real-time. The cached template wasn't invalidating properly in some environments.
  • [MySQL] Fixed more issues with MySQL 5.7 due to the new 'only_full_group_by' default in the 'sql_mode' option. This was causing some reports, subtotals, and dashboard widgets to break.
  • [Calendars/Events] Fixed an issue on calendars where some zero duration events weren't displayed properly.
  • [Worklists/Search/MySQL] Increased the maximum results in MySQL Fulltext searches to 10,000 (from 1,000).

7.2.5

Cerb (7.2.5) is a maintenance update released on January 9, 2017; it contains 26 fixes and minor features from community feedback covering the 7.2 update. You can follow these instructions to upgrade.

  • [Worklists/Search] Fixed an issue with searching message content from ticket worklists. A ticket could be duplicated in the search results for as many of its messages matched the search term. Due to paging in the worklist, this could lead to far fewer matches being displayed than were actually returned.
  • [Worklists/Search] Fixed an issue that prevented the 'msgs.notes:' quick search filter from returning results on ticket worklists.
  • [Worklists/Search/Elasticsearch] Fixed an issue with Elasticsearch integration where cached results were always treated as a large collection (using a less efficient "JOIN") even if they contained a small number of IDs that could be handled more efficiently with a "WHERE id IN(...)".
  • [Worklists/Search] Added an 'id:' quick search filter to bucket worklists.
  • [Worklists/Search] Added an 'id:' quick search filter to calendar event worklists.
  • [Worklists/Search] Added an 'id:' quick search filter to task worklists.
  • [Setup/Bots] Fixed an issue in Setup where Bots->Search wouldn't be remembered as the last viewed page when clicking the 'Setup' link again.
  • [Worklists/Search] Added an 'id:' quick search filter to activity log worklists.
  • [Worklists/Search] Added an 'id:' quick search filter to worker worklists.
  • [Worklists/Search] Added an 'id:' quick search filter to contact worklists.
  • [Worklists/Search] Added an 'id:' quick search filter to organization worklists.
  • [Worklists/Search] Added an 'id:' quick search filter to custom fieldset worklists.
  • [Worklists/Search] Added an 'id:' quick search filter to file bundle worklists.
  • [Worklists/Search] Added an 'id:' quick search filter to message worklists.
  • [Worklists/Search] Added a 'worker.id:' quick search filter to message worklists.
  • [Worklists/Search] Added a 'group.id:' quick search filter to message worklists.
  • [Worklists/Search] Added an 'id:' quick search filter to snippet worklists.
  • [Worklists/Search] Added an 'id:' quick search filter to opportunity worklists.
  • [Worklists/Search] Added an 'id:' quick search filter to feedback worklists.
  • [Worklists/Search] Added an 'id:' quick search filter to knowledgebase article worklists.
  • [Worklists/Search/Workers] Fixed an issue that prevented worker full names from search indexing properly.
  • [CHD-4513] [Mail/Usability] When writing email in Markdown mode, clicking the 'Link' button now prompts for a URL rather than inserting "example.com" placeholder text.
  • [Bots/Simulator] Fixed an issue in the bot behavior simulator where the decision tree wasn't rendered properly after backporting a fix to 7.2.x from 7.3.
  • [Cards/Groups] Fixed an issue on group cards where the counts were displayed incorrectly on the search buttons for open, waiting, and closed tickets.
  • [Worklists/Quick Search] Fixed an issue with quick search on worklists where a fulltext filter didn't always work if it was the last term following at least one field.
  • [Search/Messages] Fixed an issue with permissions on message worklists.


Changelog
  5.0
  5.1
  5.2
  5.3
  5.4
  5.5
  5.6
  5.7
  6.0
  6.1
  6.2
  6.3
  6.4
  6.5
  6.6
  6.7
  6.8
  6.9
  7.0
  7.1
  7.2
  7.3