Integrated Plugins: Visual Composer

This article was last updated on the January 2, 2017.

Occasionally we will receive questions from users about the version of Visual Composer that comes bundled with the theme. We’ve put this article together in hopes that it answers many of the most commonly asked questions by our users so that they can have a better understanding of how this version of Visual Composer is supposed to work within the X ecosystem.

How Visual Composer is Used Within X

X provides a curated Visual Composer experience by removing certain elements that we feel our better handled in the theme. We don’t modify the plugin directly, but accomplish this via APIs recommended by the Visual Composer developers. From time to time we have requests from people about using a vanilla version of Visual Composer, or asking to at least use their elements. You can restore any of Visual Composer’s features that are removed by going to Settings > Visual Composer in your dashboard and switching to the X Integration tab. Here you’ll find toggles for everything we switch off by default.



We feel that we’ve provided the best Visual Composer experience out of the box, but understand if you feel like certain excluded features are necessary for your project.



One thing worth noting is that the frontend editor works with the Visual Composer native elements. The front end editor is tailored to Visual Composer, and as such we’re unable to provide in depth support for it. Most themes that offer extensive Visual Composer integration disable this, as it increases complexity for how shortcodes are handled. It also forces the theme to use a particular grid system that we feel is not ideal.

All modifications are handled through the provided plugin API and are grouped together in the following file:

/x/framework/functions/global/admin/visual-composer.php

Included Shortcodes

Visual Composer essentially provides two main pieces of functionality to users: a visual, drag and drop interface to make page and post composition simpler along with a set of predefined shortcodes for users to take advantage of this drag and drop interface. While these default shortcodes are a great for users wanting to utilize Visual Composer in a theme that does not provide its own shortcodes, they are unnecessary in a theme like X for numerous reasons.

  • Code Bloat – To use Visual Composer’s native set of shortcodes in addition to X’s shortcodes means that you’d have roughly double the output of JavaScript and CSS in your theme, much of which you likely wouldn’t be taking advantage of on any given page.
  • Performance – With the latest version of X, we’ve continued to make performance improvements to the theme such as minifying and concatenating all scripts and styles into the smallest size possible and as few files as possible in an effort to reduce download times and HTTP requests, all of which are very important in overall site speed. We don’t have any control over how Visual Composer outputs their code to the theme, which might not be in line with our present performance standards.
  • Duplicate Content – X provides its own theme-specific version of many similar shortcodes included with Visual Composer. Ultimately, there is no added utility for having these duplicate shortcodes and when taking advantage of the theme-specific versions of these shortcodes you can rest assured that they will be styled to match your design and fit within the parameters of the theme without any issues.

Because of these reasons (along with many others), X does not support Visual Composer’s native shortcodes. While you can turn on these shortcodes if desired as mentioned in the previous section, it is recommended that you utilize X’s native shortcodes for a streamlined experience in using the theme.

Bundled Version

Users will frequently inquire about the version of Visual Composer being utilized within X. Because of the way that we are utilizing the plugin with in X, it should be noted that the version of Visual Composer included with the theme is made intentionally for numerous reasons. The following is just a few of the reasons why we do not always utilize the latest version of the Visual Composer plugin:

  • Stability – Newer versions of software do not always equal greater stability. Oftentimes there are undiscovered bugs that are introduced with certain versions and are unknown until the product has been released to the public for some time. The version of the plugin that we bundle with the theme is more or less guaranteed to work without any issues as we take a great deal of time to test all functionality thoroughly before releasing it along with the theme.
  • Bundled Fixes – Every time that we update the plugin bundled within the theme we do a thorough sweep through everything as previously mentioned to ensure that features are in working order. Unfortunately, Visual Composer’s release cycles have oftentimes proven to include many significant bugs that affect the core functionality of the plugin. Just in the very recent v4.1.3 release, we noticed that the “clone” button had become broken and was unresponsive. Our team took the time to go through the core files of Visual Composer, locate the bug, and fix it. This patched up version of Visual Composer was then included with X as our bundled version, which meant that our users upgrading to “our version” of v4.1.3 did not experience the same bug users of the regular plugin experienced, which ultimately took the Visual Composer team three days to fix in their own official release.
  • Not Always Necessary – A good deal of Visual Composer’s updates include minor fixes or alterations to the backend that do not effect usage in X as our version is modified to suit our needs. Additionally, updates sometimes are simply related to fixes with the shortcodes provided with Visual Composer, and since we do not utilize any of Visual Composer’s provided shortcodes in X, these updates are not needed.

Due to the items listed above, X will not always include the latest version of the Visual Composer plugin with the theme. The bundled version of Visual Composer with X is intentional and will be updated when we find it prudent to do so.

Conclusion

Hopefully the information provided above has helped you to gain a better understanding of what to expect from utilizing Visual Composer within X. Ultimately, there are a few things to take away from this article:

  • The version of Visual Composer included with X should be thought of as a drag and drop framework to support our shortcodes, not a standalone plugin with its own independent feature-set and functionality. While you can easily turn on native features of the plugin should you desire them, it is recommended that you use our defaults as we have tailored the experience of using the plugin to suit X.
  • X does not support Visual Composer’s native shortcodes for the reasons listed in the “Included Shortcodes” section above, which includes code bloat, performance, and duplicate content. However, you can turn Visual Composer’s native shortcodes back on as mentioned previously.
  • X will not always include the latest version of Visual Composer for the reasons listed in the “Bundled Version” section above, which includes stability, bundled fixes, and the fact that not all updates are necessary.