Ability to reorder categories in the sidebar

Lots of thoughtful responses I love in this post from @LeoDavidson , but especially this:

I would really appreciate this. Some indication of nesting for subcategories would be great too, if they were listed under their parent and indented slightly it would help navigation tremendously! Even better if they could roll up under user control.

I recognize the “already tried that” from comment 11, but… tried that on a site with on the order of 100 categories and lots of subcategories? It’ll be a mess for me. Alphabetical would create jumbled nonsense for my users.

Using the site ordering as an option would be great. Like @knewt, it’s hard for me to imagine voluntarily turning on this menu on my site without being able to do that.


You are wrong. It will be a mess for users. Do a mockup where you have 100+ categories in any order in the sidebar. It is just unusable. But that’s why we have a page for cahtegories.

Sidebar instead, it is for few really important categories choosen by an user, not by admin.


Thanks for being so clear that I am wrong. :roll_eyes:

I’m not suggesting that users will want to have all 100+ categories in their sidebars. But users often engage across a wide variety of categories and the names of the sub-categories are relative to the parent category and don’t make as much sense out of context.

So using site ordering for each user’s chosen categories will be the difference between usable and unusable for my site’s users.

Yes, we’re also working on reducing the number of categories; but even a sane-for-site-purpose number of categories would be many dozens, so the core problem remains.


You are very wellcome.

But still — you are basically asking ability to dumb categories page and move it to the sidebar.

What if you or any other user wants to do same with tags? It just doesn’t matter what is the order there. It is still unusable.

The best choise would be keep same order than a forum uses, AND let an user drag & drop everything in wanted order.

Actually the biggest issue of the sidebar is overlapping with other navigation and structures. And if an user, or an admin, has tools to move practically everything to sidebar then there is just no point. Let’s move whole forum to the sidebar :wink:


I am emphatically and absolutely not asking that.

I am asking that (possibly optionally) chosen categories sort contextually, not alphabetically.

OK, D&D would be fine, but what I’m asking for is exactly the first part of your suggestion: Default to the same order that a forum users, at least as one option if not as the Discourse default.


I agree that the default ordering of categories should match that of the /categories page, which is determined by the fixed category positions setting. It does seem odd to me to use a different sorting mechanism for the sidebar, which currently always sorts alphabetically.

@mcwumbly is this already on your radar and what do you think?


There’s some discussion about this over here if you want to dive deeper on this particular issue: Nest subcategories under their parent categories in the sidebar

I do think the fact that what is in the sidebar is a subset chosen by the user matters, and makes it likely in appropriate to use the site-wide chosen sorting.

I suspect that for the kind of problem we’re discussing here, it’s going to be more important to allow users to have multiple sections so they can group things in a way that matters to them, rather than giving them too much fine grained control over how they are sorted.


Why would it be odd? Wasn’t the main idea give ability to get notifications of new posts from important categories? And that importance is a decision of an user, not from an admin or software.

So… is the sidebar partial copy of e.g. category page or tool to user? That is the question here.


I think the above assumption may be the crux of the disagreement. For some this will simply be for quick access to the categories they watch/participate in most, for others it may be to track activity on a per-category basis. You’re thinking along the lines of the latter but many users won’t be, and even those who do may not want the categories with the most change at the top of the list.

I for one want the order to be static, and if it matches the existing category order that’s absolutely fine. It’s definitely simpler in this first iteration to adopt the existing sort order, than to expect every user to go in and configure category ordering.


Actually the two of my ground assumptions are:

  • the sidebar is made for an user, not for an admin
  • the sidebar is not replacement for list pages

Has any way to sort the sidebar categories been implemented? This is critical for my implementation.


Nope, there’s no built-in way to sort categories currently. Can you share more details about your particular scenario and why that’s critical?


I have two main categories that house the bulk of posts. And then 3-4 special categories that need to be referenced.

Right now, the 3-4 special categories start with a number (a year) so they automatically go first. I want the two main ones first and the numbered ones last in this case.


If you turn on fixed_category_positions then you can put them in whatever order you want (rather than most-recent-post order, which is default). I can’t remember what the interface looks like now, but you can either drag them around or give them numbers for the sort order.


Oh. Sorry. I guess I should pay more attention to the title. :person_shrugging:


No, this is not the case. In the sidebar currently, categories are always sorted alphabetically. I agree we should change this to match the categories sort order if fixed_category_positions is enabled.

There are more changes coming to the sidebar to make stuff like this configurable by the user, but the site default should be settable by the admin and it makes sense to have it just follow the fixed_category_positions setting rather than just arbitrarily sorting alphabetically.


I think there are three scenarios to consider:

  1. Categories page that lists all categories
  2. Subset of categories that admins set to be in the sidebar
  3. Subset of categories that users choose to add in their sidebar

It’s not obvious to me that the ordering chosen for (1) should apply to (2) or (3), especially since we currently flatten the list and don’t nest subcategories in the sidebar.

On meta, currently, I have this in my sidebar:

  • announcements
  • community
  • documentation
  • ux

If we applied this logic today on meta, my sidebar would be:

  • documentation
  • ux
  • announcements
  • community

I feel like I’d look at that, and just think… hmm… why?

And if the list gets longer, scanning it quickly to find the one I’m looking for will be more difficult. When it’s alphabetical, I know which direction to look for the thing I’m trying to find.

On the categories page, it’s different - we’re trying to present everything, in context with descriptions.

It’s clear there’s a desire for additional configuration here for admins, and maybe users too, but I’m not yet sure that applying fixed_category_positions is what we want to do here.


That’s funny because when I look at that I think :+1: yes that’s the way the site owner has decided to order the categories. It makes more sense to me to have it ordered the way the site owners envision it rather than an arbitrary alphabetical list.

I guess I am also used to it because I have been using Discourse for Teams for the last two years, which does follow the ordering I am suggesting. Here’s a screenshot. Note they are not in alphabetical order but in a sensible order, and the “Photos” subcategories are all directly below the Photos item in the sidebar, and are in the order I (the site owner) chose.

Screen Shot 2022-10-12 at 1.44.45 PM


In my case, there’s a clear ranking or hierarchy of important categories. For example: Michigan Basketball (the main focus), then Michigan Basketball Recruiting (more specific sub category) then College Basketball (more broad), then Off Topic (always want it last).


It feels like this broken-out subthread (suddenly I’m the OP…) has gone in a lot of different directions.

The title as chosen in breaking them out leaves some things out. Like ability for whom, and in what context?

This feels a bit backwards to me. I’ve been pondering why. :smiley:

There’s no particular reason for an alphabetical sort to be meaningful. I mean, the point of categories is to categorize, which implies semantics, and alphabetic sort order obscures the semantics inherent in the whole point of categorization.

I’m more surprised that “announcements” is buried as a subcategory of a category that isn’t near the top of the list.

I would expect announcements to sort around the top of the all categories view, and additionally don’t understand at all why announcements aren’t seen as a form of documentation. Making is a sub-category of discussion of features is not a choice that I understand. That’s what I look at, “and just think… hmm… why?” :relaxed:

Now, I’m in the middle of work that will eventually cut down the number of categories on my site to less than half of the current set, but no matter what it’s a rich set of content that will make the sidebar a jumble sorted alphabetically.


If anything I would say this highlights the possibility that the category ordering here on Meta requires some degree of review :wink: