Sufyan bin Uzayr, Freelance Writer, Graphic Artist, Photographer, www.sufyan.co.nr
Joomla is one of the world’s most popular open source CMSs, that can be used to power different categories of websites, including blogs, intranets, e-commerce sites and so on. Recently, Joomla 2.5 was released, with many new additional features. Joomla 2.5 has been hailed as the official successor to Joomla 1.5 — the interim releases such as version 1.7 were short-term ones, paving the way for version 2.5.
Before we plunge in to check Joomla’s usability for organizations’ websites, let’s take a look at some of the major goodies that version 2.5 brings to the fore.
To begin with, Joomla 2.5 comes with multi-database support, including Microsoft SQL server (until now, Joomla was natively compatible only with MySQL databases).
To quote Ryan Ozimek, President of OpenSourceMatters:
“Multi-database support is a huge step forward for Joomla, which is already powering more than 1.6 million websites worldwide. It ensures companies and organizations, both large and small, will save even more money and time by adopting Joomla… No longer will Joomla developers be tied down to a particulardatabase or have to spend more money and time integrating other software to get Joomla to communicate with their database. This enhances Joomla’sscalability immensely.”
Joomla 2.5 also brings automated script updates, improved search and auto-complete functionality within the Article Editor, among others. Some other new additions to theCMS include the Joomla Platform version 11.3, which now offers added support for third party extensions, and new additions to the j* class, as well as enhanced features forthe Offline Mode and CAPTCHA services. And yes, Joomla now comes with better localization both within the CMS and in its core templates.
Joomla 2.5 also brings the security factor with it — as many as 240 major vulnerabilities have been fixed. Further more, support and updates for older versions of Joomla will no longer be available and thus, upgrading is the best way to match pace with the new developments.
Implementing Joomla 2.5
The first thing you’d notice once you login to Joomla 2.5 is the eye-candy element. Even the thumbnails on the main page seem to float as soon as we hover the mouse pointer over them. Doesn’t really contribute much to the productivity factor, but it surely looks good than many CMSs out there!
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Caption: Joomla 2.5 comes with eye-candy thumbnails and icons
The admin panel contains six menus in all, namely:
Site: Just like Joomla 1.7, this section lets you tweak the site-wide settings. You can make global changes, clear the cache, and edit the logged in user’s profile.
Users: Very clearly, this section deals with user management. You can set up user accounts, groups, define access levels and permissions and setup mass mail functionality.
Menus: This section covers the Menu Manager and associated features.
Content: The Article Manager, Category Manager and Media Manager comes under this segment.
Components: A lot many miscellaneous elements, such as banners, news feed, redirects, links, etc. are dumped under Components.
Extensions: Extensions such as modules, plugins, templates and language packs are clubbed in this menu.
Help: This menu contains links to Help files, documentation and wiki pages.
Joomla happens to be one of the most popular CMSs preferred by organizations. While version 2.5 retains much of the interface-level features of version 1.7, it does add certain new elements at much-needed junctions. We shall now take a look at some of the most commonly used areas in the Joomla admin back-end.
Article and Category Management
When you open the Article Manager, the first thing worth noting is that you can now filter sub-categories too (until now, Filtering was limited to Categories only).
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Caption: Joomla now comes with two editors, TinyMCE and Code Mirror. You can choose either of them
Also, Code Mirror has replaced TinyMCE as the default editor. Fear not, if you’d prefer the older Editor, you can still use that instead of Code Mirror. The rest of the functionality of the Article Manager is virtually the same as it was in Joomla 1.7 (it doesn’t really need to change much anyway).
Categories can now have more fluid hierarchy. Also, you can batch process the categories to setup access levels and permissions. For instance, if you’d wish to set access to certain categories as ‘Private’, you need not do that manually for each. Just select the said categories, and under ‘Batch Process’, specify the new permission types.
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Caption: Categories now feature fluid hierarchy and even sub-categories can be filtered
Modules, Extensions, Templates and Other Media
Joomla 2.5 shall be supplemented by newer templates, though at the moment, the newly released templates mostly cater to personal blogs and portfolios. While this seems to be a logical move as Joomla aims to recapture some of the lost usage share from WordPress, organizations will perhaps need to wait a little longer before specialized templates and extensions are made available for them.
In Joomla 2.5, when you create a new menu type, modules will not be automatically created. Instead, a link appears in the Menu Manager that can be used to create a new module, if need be. This has been implemented to avoid over-burdening of system resources, as many a times, users continued with third-party modules instead of standard menu modules, and thus the standard ones were left unused, thereby hogging up resources.
Tweaking the Global Configuration
Global Settings Management is one of the few features of Joomla that haven’t really changed much since version 1.5. You can still specify website details, meta data, email settings, text filters, etc. However, one thing that Joomla 2.5 brings on board is excellent support for Search Engine Optimization. In terms of SEO, Joomla now not only features search-engine friendly URLs, but it can also add/remove suffixes from URLs (and re-write URLs accordingly). Further more, Joomla now comes with support for Unicode Aliases for URLs. This means we can have our website URLs in languages such as Hindi, Arabic, Japanese, among many others. Most other CMSs offer such terrific SEO features only by means of third party plugins or extensions. Joomla, on the other hand, has loaded this SEO goodness natively in the CMS itself. This surely is a wonderful addition to the software.
Joomla 2.5 has taken major leaps in improving Content Management for the web. It has brought features that are the need of the hour — terrific SEO, enhanced article editing and newer templates. With WordPress 3+ riding strong and Drupal 8 in its developmental stages, Joomla surely has stiff competition at hand and the CMS is leaving no stone unturned in its bid to emerge on top.
On the downside, Joomla still lacks proper support for mobile devices. The CMS offers very few tweaks for mobiles/tablets, and the repository too is sparsely populated when it comes to responsive templates for smaller screens. Nonetheless, the latest version seems to have incorporated many new features, and is definitely worth a try!
To upgrade your older installation of Joomla to version 2.5, check out this guide: http://goo.gl/ny4hQ