(Ping! Zine Issue 60) – Joomla is a free and open source content management system, which uses PHP and an SQL database. All Linux servers and many Windows servers will run Joomla, and several web hosts offer free automated Joomla installation, along with many other scripts.
One of the benefits of Joomla is its extensibility. Like web browsers, such as Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome, Joomla allows users to easily install add-on extensions, which include modules, components, and templates. Add-ons are packaged in zip files, and users can upload them directly into the administration interface, without having to use FTP.
Anyone with PHP programming experience can create Joomla extensions, so you can find them all over the web. Additionally, Joomla’s website has a convenient extension directory, which nearly all extension developers use to distribute their extensions. The site currently lists over 5,000 extensions.
Each extension listed on the website displays information regarding compatibility (support for 1.0 or 1.5), type (commercial or non-commercial), and license (such as GPL). All extensions also include ratings from the user community. Additionally, many of the extensions provide live demos, support links, and documentation.
To download a non-commercial extension, click the “Download” button and follow whatever necessary steps the developer requires. Non-commercial downloads are free but may require registration on the developer’s website.
Joomla extensions should come in ready-to-install ZIP files, unless otherwise specified by the developer. To install an extension:
1. Open the administrator page in your web browser: http://www.yoursite.tld/administrator
2. Hover your mouse pointer over the “Extensions” menu item.
3. Select “Install/Uninstall” from the menu.
4. In the first section labeled “Upload Package File”, click “browse” or “choose file” and find the file on your computer.
5. Once you have selected the file, click “Upload File & Install”
Modules and Components
Joomla extensions may take the form of modules or extensions. Modules are blocks of content displayed on your site in one of Joomla’s module content sections, which vary in placement according to your template structure.
To configure modules, select the “Extensions” menu, and click “Module Manager”. From there you can reorder modules, or edit a specific module by clicking on the module’s name.
Components are add-ons that add some type of functionality to Joomla. For example, a forms component gives the user the ability to create custom content forms for applications, contact, etc. The usage and configuration of components varies greatly depending on the developer’s setup. To configure components, hover over “Components” in the menu and select the component you want to configure.
Add-on developers may include several extensions as part of their software packages. For example, a component may be accompanied by a module and language file, making a total of three extensions that you need to install. Those extensions will then interact with each other.
Another powerful feature in Joomla is the ability to install templates. The template used by your Joomla installation determines how your site looks and, in some cases, can even add functionality. Because of Joomla’s popularity, there are thousands of commercial and free templates available on the web. You can also customize templates or even build your own using only HTML and CSS skills.
Installing a downloaded template is the same as installing extensions. Navigate to the Extension Manager and browse for the zip file. Once you find it, upload the template as you normally would. To select a template as your new default:
1. Hover “Extensions” in the Joomla menu.
2. Click “Template Manager”
3. Check the radio next to the template you want to choose.
4. Click “Default”
Creating Your Own
Creating Joomla extensions normally involves a combination of PHP, HTML, and XML coding, and you can create templates with simple HTML and CSS.
For more information, see the Joomla documentation on creating modules, components, and templates.
1. Hover your mouse pointer over “Extensions”
2. Click “Module Manager”
3. At the top right, select “New”
4. Select “Custom HTML”
The new module page will present you with an editor similar to the Article Manager WYSIWYG editor. You can also click the “HTML” button on the editor to paste code directly into it. The “Module Class Suffix” allows you to assign a specific CSS class to the module, so that you can change the style of it in your CSS file.
Extending Joomla is fast and usually painless. Whether you need a free basic lightbox image component or a commercial shopping cart, you will probably find it in the Joomla extension directory. With support for custom extensions and templates, you can customize your Joomla site to be unique and captivating.