- Rating: 8/10
- Release version: 1.5 Beta
- License: GNU/GPL, Open Source
- Homepage: http://www.joomla.org
- OpenSourceCMS.com demo
- CMSMatrix.org listing
Although it is a beta version, I am reviewing Joomla 1.5 because it has many improvements over the 1.0.x versions and even though it may still have some bugs Joomla 1.5 is here to stay!
When I started making sites I (like everybody else) coded them by hand and FTPed them to the server; after a while it started getting tedious and more than anything else, a nightmare to update. This is when I started looking for a CMS and eventually chose Mambo, mostly because I had the feeling that no matter what problem I would have the community would help me. And I was right!
There have been many improvements from the 1.0.x series, many of which are a breath of fresh air to Joomla users:
- built in SEF (search engine urls) support. Previously you could turn urls with variables into static urls, but those looked something like example.com/content/view/12/24; in 1.5 Joomla has the ablility to transform urls into example.com/index.php/products/widgets/green-widgets.
- better caching (really helps with heavy trafficed sites, in case of Digg or Slashdot).
- removed statistics – while it may seem to be a step back for many, that component ate resources like no tomorrow.
- general code improvements.
- PHP 4.3.x (4.4.3 recommended) or above www.php.net
- MySQL 3.23.x or above www.mysql.com
- Apache 1.13.19 or above www.apache.org
Joomla learning curve and usability:
Although it’s easy to use after a little bit of messing around and testing different things at first it’s somewhat confusing. Some of the things that are different from other content management systems:
The content categorization system – you can put articles and content in categories which belong in sections. You can’t put content in sections and you can’t create a category without assigning it to a section; also, you can’t have sub-categories or sub-sections. This is simply unbelievable for such an advanced CMS, and it can be a major limiting factor for some sites.
The Check-in system is a very good idea – when you are configuring a module or a plugin the system denies other users’ access to that component. The thing is, when you don’t know that you need to do a “Mass Check-in” you start losing access and it gets confusing.
Other than that, it’s usually simple for somebody who wants just a simple site: install Joomla, create sections and categories and add content. Of course, there always is a little bit of configuration involved, but that is minimal.
Unfortunately the latest Joomla doesn’t have something that I need from most systems: granular access control. There is a module that gave you more control over the ACL but that only works with Joomla 1.0.x.
Another thing is the server security: you should do anything to improve it, and the first thing is to modify the htaccess.txt file. Joomla actually requires it to be renamed to .htaccess when you want to use mod_rewrite, but it is a smart move to do it anyway.
Also, although the administration folder is protected by Joomla you should password protect it with a .htpasswd file (the same as .htaccess, but for passwords). Get more details about .htpasswd here.
You should also pay attention whether PHP Display Errors are turned on or off – when you are working on a test site it’s perfectly ok (and actually recommended) for the server to show all errors, but when the site is in production state (being visited) you are just inviting trouble in by letting the Display Errors turned on.
Joomla plugins and applications:
The Joomla community is one of the most active and helpful in the content management world, and some members have contributed by writing some great plugins and applications:
- Google Adsense module (Clicksafe edition) – monetization is an important part of many websites and Adsense works very good for a lot of sites. The Clicksafe edition gives you the option to block certain IP addresses that are guilty of suspicious activity (multiple clicks in a short period of time), helping you avoid getting your account disabled. It could be a good idea to block your IP too, if you work a lot on your site.
- Automated cron backup through email – backing up your site is one thing you can’t live without these days; cracking, server outages, unhappy data center employees – make sure you don’t mess with your livelyhood by backing up your site every couple of days.
- JXplorer (File Management And Sharing System) – this component allows you to manage your files without messing with FTP or Cpanel’s File Manager which can be a little annoying at times.
- perForms – allows a Joomla administrator to create forms. The results can be sent to an email address or saved in the database to be viewed or downloaded later. A captcha component can also be integrated for increased security.
- BlogSidebar – this plugin is a very nice addon for those who use Joomla as a blog. It has a configurable calendar, blogroll, latest items (articles), blog view configuration and more.
- J!Tags Plugin – takes the meta keywords you defined and automatically links them to Technorati. You can also use them to just tag your content.
- Jobline – you can turn your Joomla site into a classified ads site for jobs. It has a lot of features: view/post internship or job openings, search ads, submit applications and a lot more. Take it for a spin.
- Joomap – use this component to create a sitemap of your site. You can create both a HTML sitemap (for your visitors) and a XML one, according to Sitemaps.org specifications.
- Joomlaboard – this component creates a forum for Joomla; it isn’t a bridge to other forum scripts, it’s a complete forum solution for Joomla.
Joomla documentation and support:
In my opinion, the Joomla community deserves an A+ for its support! The official forum is great: users get help immediately and it is usually something that solves your problem. Also, the user manual (pdf) is very detailed and will help get a newbie on his way quickly.
Other Joomla sites: