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Joomla Basics


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On this week's podcast which was recorded at the Bibletech 2009 Conference, Rob is joined by Gabe Taviano from the God's Mac podcast. We start by talking all about the work that Gabe is doing in the realm of Christian tech, including a focus on his new meetups called Digital Disciples. After that we talk about the role of technology in our lives as believers. Finally, the bulk of the episode is Rob's intro to the Joomla! CMS with Gabe as his tour guide. We talk about installing and building sites, the difference between a component and a module, and give some "must have" functionality for churches and ministries.

Cost of extensions

So, Joomla has this "pay for extension" model, where really powerful extensions must be purchased for $50 to $200 or so. I'm wondering how many people find paying for extensions to be a barrier to adopting and using Joomla?

The best Joomla extensions are generally free!

Although I haven't yet listened to this episode (I'm just cueing up iTunes...), I disagree that Joomla has a pay-model where the best extensions *must* be purchased. Check out the Joomla extensions gallery (http://extensions.joomla.org/) - there are way more free extensions than commercial.

We make (part of) our living from the creation of Joomla sites for clients, but there's probably only one or two extensions so far (of about 50 we use/have tried in several years) that are commercial and we've actually decided to buy, since we were so impressed with them and wanted to support them. And my favourite extension right now is also free and open source! (Joomlapack - zip up a whole site + db and copy it anywhere).

The vast majority of Joomla extensions are entirely open source (GPL) and free, with many discretely allowing donations to be made to the authors. Open source add-ins are, of course, by far the most popular, and probably always will be. However, it is true to say that Joomla's licensing terms do allow/encourage templates and components to be offered commercially (more so than Drupal's or Wordpress's), so there is a fairly large Joomla component/template cottage industry (and the Joomla extensions gallery makes it very clear if something is open source or commercial).

Although some of these pay-for templates and add-ins are really not worth the money, many are excellent, and are the result of hard work, where the money allows the developer(s) to support and improve their products more reliably. That seems fair to me.

So in summary - in virtually all cases, you'll find that for each commercial component, there are probably 3 or 4 open source equivalents, but sometimes the commercial ones do have the edge (particularly in support). I see the Joomla 'cottage industry' for add-ins actually as something very positive and healthy when balanced against the larger open source resources.


Czech Clean Web Design: www.cisty-design.cz (Czech)
** Attractive, editable websites using Joomla CMS (www.joomla.org) **

More to come

Just so you know, there will be more Joomla! to come :).

Sometime this summer http://extensions.joomla.org will stop listing non-GLP extensions. They are moving away from supporting/displaying the pay ones. I imagine this will be hard for the community because it's a financial change and those can be hard to swallow.

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Former Co-Host

Thanks for the heads up - I wasn't aware of that...

Thanks Matt - good to know. I suspect there'll be a backlash of some sort, although it won't quite be the Mambo -> Joomla uprising of a few years back.
Someone will come up with a 3rd party paid extensions catalog, I should think ... but there will be some hurt feelings, particularly in this financial climate.

Anyway guys (Rob especially) - I just wanted to thank you for doing this Joomla episode. It was well presented, fairly covered and I can only feel even more glad to be a small part of the G&G community. There have been some suggestions about doing a small Joomla update once in a while (?), possibly recorded by the more Joomlatite members of this site. I'd be glad to help out with this, but at this point my wife continually reminds me that I'm already stretched - however I will happily support these kind of updates where I can. For my part, I'm also interested in checking out Drupal 6 in more depth, to do my own comparison and see how it might be used in my line of work!


Czech Clean Web Design: www.cisty-design.cz (Czech)
** Attractive, editable websites using Joomla CMS (www.joomla.org) **

Not exactly true...

I just wanted to clarify that the move on e.j.o is by no means away from commercial extensions. Rather it is a move away from extensions that violate Joomla's license.


Just a difference

My opinion, as I was recording this episode was one of surprise at this...I wasn't sure what to think. I always assumed that every community functioned the way Drupal did: requiring any modules made available to the community to be free. To be honest, I'm not sure how I feel about the Joomla model.

Could this be one of the reasons that so many people develop on Joomla (ie. they can make instant money on a product)? Could it be why the Joomla system is more user friendly with it's modules right out of the box? (If people pay for the good ones and don't for the bad ones, it makes the bad go away quicker).

Of course, I will always prefer the 'always free' Drupal model...I think it's better for an open source community...but it does make me wonder how this difference affects the community as a whole and the quality of the software.

-Rob Feature
Geeks and God Co-Host

A correction - Joomla does not have a pay for extensions model

The Joomla team itself does not have a pay for extension model.

Some developers have developed commercial extensions for Joomla, and I really know of no reason why an Open Source project should attempt to dictate that only non-commercial extensions are allowed, nor do I know of any way the Joomla core team could enforce any such provision.

There are commercial modules for Drupal as well, like Magic Zoom, Magic Thumb, and Magic Magnify. Acquia has a commercial version of Drupal with its own modules, so it seems we probably shouldn't criticize Drupal either for failing to have some sort of police force to enforce non-commercial business models.

If you would prefer not to use commercial extensions, that's fine - there are hundreds of non-commercial extensions available. There are also hundreds of extensions that have free and non-free versions available, and I think it's a reasonable way for developers to try to make a living.

Paul the Apostle used tentmaking to finance his missionary ministry - he made money making and repairing tents, though I'm sure he probably gave away some services from time to time. But there is nothing in the Christian ethos that precludes charging reasonable prices for reasonable goods and services. In fact there are specific Scriptural guidelines for business ethics. With this in mind I would suggest that the mere existence of commercial extensions for Joomla in no way constitutes any argument against Joomla.

The core code created by the Joomla organization is all free. If someone wants to charge for an extension, they have every right to do so, and let the marketplace decide if the extension is worth the price or not.

Finally, like Drupal, Joomla is licensed under the GPL. There is nothing in the GPL that prevents charging money for products - the GPL only requires that source code be distributed with any packages so that users have the freedom to modify and redistribute the code. There is no language in the license which prohibits commercialization.

All that being said, Joomla is an incredibly powerful and flexible CMS. It has strengths and weaknesses just like other CMS systems like Drupal, Wordpress, Typo3, or Plone. Each of these are powerful systems, and there are developers for each of them who have free and commercial extensions, versions or models.



Proprietary Extensions

Joomla comes from a history where proprietary extensions were allowed and even listed on e.j.o. There is a difference between proprietary and commercial extensions, or modules in drupals case. Depending on how you do things, proprietary code can, and is often, a violation of the GPL which both drupal and Joomla! are licensed under. These GPL violators are the ones being removed from e.j.o.

I completely agree the people need to make money in order to support their families and do the mission of the church. I just don't want to see anyone do it in an illegal way. Hopefully, next weeks episode with Amy Stephen will clear this up on the podcast.

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Former Co-Host

Rarely use paid extensions

Hey Rob,

I've done over 30 Joomla! sites now. I have only once paid for an extension (and then stopped using it shortly after...). I HAVE paid for support - some of the extensions I've chosen are somewhat complex.

I do agree with you that the paid exts. do cause developers to be more careful... but Joomla! suffers from the same thing that Drupal does in that arena - some really bad ones.

Also, as with most CMS's - its the extensions that usually introduce the security issues (I never install without checking www.milw0rm.com first).

The Joomla! core team has tried to eliminate paid extensions - but I think its too late - the community is willing to pay... therefore the supply/demand model keeps them coming.

Thanks for doing the Joomla! podcast...

How to choose an extension

Thanks for the clarifications about paid extensions in Joomla! It interesting to note that Joomla! will stop listing paid extensions on its website. That may be a good idea, but gives me a bit of a sense that Joomla! may not have a clear strategy for future growth if they are changing their extension development model mid-stream.

By the way, even if an extension is released via GPL, there is always a mechanism to financial support extensions that you find useful -- just send the developers money. Many Drupal modules are supported this way, with appeals for money clearly listed on the module download page. Just because an extension is shared via GPL doesn't remove any ability to support extensions you like.

Another question about extensions: how do you know which extension to use? Many Joomla! users take pride in the enormous number of extensions, yet that shear number of extensions can sometimes work against you. It quickly becomes difficult to know which extensions to use.

Geeks & God has done a nice job outlining the essential Drupal modules that are needed to build a church website. How hard would it be to come up with a similar list of essential extensions for Joomla?


The best thing is to check out the reviews... people are pretty honest there... if its a bad extension - you'll know it. As I mentioned above, I always check http://www.milw0rm.com (search for Joomla - drupal and wp are there too). If the extension has a security hole - it will be listed there.

Since there are so many good extensions - I tend to stick with my favorites...

Standard Joomla extensions:
Editor: JCE
Video (flv/swf local and remote) - AVReloaded
Mass Content
Store - VirtueMart
Forms - Chronoforms
PHP in a content item - directphp
Backup - joomlapack
SEO/SEF - sh404
SiteMap - xmap
Content anywhere- ucd
Keeping it up to date - add software



Essential extensions for Joomla


Agreed - this has been suggested before, but we need to kick start it. I think it might be a little less structured than the Drupal module list, since Joomla is pretty self-sufficient in the basic install - so extensions are often more to personal taste.

I will start off with an extension I mentioned before, probably the best I've seen on any system for site backup:

JoomlaPack: http://www.joomlapack.net/ -- free (GPL open source)
This allows you to create automated or manually run backups via Joomla admin, in a convenient zip type package including the database.
The magic comes with the unzipping though. By simply uploading the zip and a small 'kickstart' php file to an empty site (for example), you can go through a customised version of the Joomla installer for your backup, to install everything on the new site exactly as you saved it in a minute or two. This is cool because if you have a standard list of extensions and templates that you always start with, you can create a backup of this and then in 2 minutes have a new site up and running on any web server (or your local dev server).

We have a lot of other extensions we like too, but I don't have the details with me here.

Perhaps we can start a new thread on this topic?


Czech Clean Web Design: www.cisty-design.cz (Czech)
** Attractive, editable websites using Joomla CMS (www.joomla.org) **

The Future of Joomla!

As we know, Joomla! was originally based on Mambo code. Version 1.5 of Joomla! fixes many of the shortcomings of that original code, but in the process it breaks many of the extensions. Are the critical extensions one needs to build a website compatible with 1.5 yet?

Now, I read that Joomla! plans a complete, top-to-bottom rewrite of Joomla! with version 2.0.

This makes me a little nervous. I want to know if the work I put into building a Joomla! website can be upgraded into future versions of Joomla! The roadmap for Joomla! growth seems a little vague and haphazard. In fact, the roadmap document at http://dev.joomla.org/content/view/23/61/ is now giving a 404 error.

How has the upgrade of 1.0 sites to 1.5 gone? Is it relatively painless to do the upgrade, or has it been a real hassle? 2.0 seems to be an even bigger rewrite than 1.5 was -- is there any assurance that a site built in 1.5 will be upgradable to Joomla! 2.0?

Good Questions

Some good questions. Next time we do a Joomla episode (it's going to be really soon) I'll see if we can get some answers.

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Former Co-Host

Upgrade 1.0 to 1.5

I upgraded our church site from 1.0 to 1.5. I did not want a 1.0 compatible site, but an entire 1.5 native site. This involved waiting for critical third party modules to be updated, and just getting rid of other third party modules. It took most of Thanksgiving weekend for a basic church site. Every article had to be opened and re-saved due to foreign characters. Some menu changes had to be made, I had to re-write portions of my template, and get a re-direct module since the URL changed for my podcast. I have a K-12 client that will be updating their site, and I plan for at least 16 hours for the migration and testing. But then again, I am a hardware guy and not fluent in web.

Review Joomla

I'm not sure how we didn't have any Joomla! review on G&G. So, I started a place to review it over at http://geeksandgod.com/reviews/web/joomla.

If you've used Joomla! please review it for us.

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Former Co-Host

Joomla for Church sites

It's great to hear a podcast on using Joomla! (I just subscribed to Geeks&God via RSS and I am listening to the Joomla cast right now).

We just went to Joomla for our church's new site. I have been looking at it for over a year now and I liked the capabilities. I would say what I liked right off the bat was the ability to "not have to worry about design" as we move things around the site.

It was a bit of a learning curve, but it is something I can teach our ministry departments at our church. Thanks to a great site that sold pre-built Joomla designs very cheap we were able to build a Joomla site for our church. Since our Internet connection is great - we actually host the site on a linux server in my office.

Our church - http://www.woodview.cc
Our template was purchased from - http://www.christiantemplatesonline.com/joomla-cms...

I just noticed you provided a place for reviews. I'll see if I can't give my opinion there.

Respect from the Joomla Community


You might not have noticed that Amy Stephen has put a nice recommendation for this podcast (and site / hosts) on the Joomla Community blog:

Once again - great podcast guys - and this time I'm remembering to add a rating!


Czech Clean Web Design: www.cisty-design.cz (Czech)
** Attractive, editable websites using Joomla CMS (www.joomla.org) **

Amy Stephen on G&G

Funny you should mention it! Amy Stephen will be our guest host on an upcoming episode of G&G (look for it not this week, but next). It'll be totally Joom-tastic!

-Rob Feature
Geeks and God Co-Host

This is the first podcast I

This is the first podcast I actually heard covering Joomla. I enjoyed the lesson in terminology and how Bob drupalized the terms to help us understand it better.

Hierarchy in Drupal

Just came across this Drupal module, which seems to (partly) implement Rob's desire for node hierarchy in Drupal:

Had I known about this, the site I'm launching on Monday almost certainly wouldn't have used Book module.