Joomla 1.6 review

Dynamic content management systems (CMS) are increasingly taking over from static page-based web authoring, and the three biggest open-source CMS options are scrapping for market share. Well placed between the simplest option, WordPress 3, and the most advanced, Drupal 7, is Joomla.

Like its rivals, the latest Joomla release updates its server requirements and now demands PHP 5.24 and MySQL 5.04 at a minimum. Neither requirement is likely to prove a problem, and many web hosts now provide single-click Joomla installs.

Once set up, Joomla makes a strict division between the front-end site that visitors see and the back-end site where all administrative tasks are undertaken. With 1.6, the themes for both have been refreshed and the underlying page structure is now based on XHTML, which is cleaner, easier to control and more search engine friendly.

When you log in to your back-end site you’re presented with Joomla 1.6’s main Control Panel. Here the menu system has been rationalised and redesigned, as has the graphical, icon-based access to Joomla’s key managers: Article, Categories, Menu, User, Extensions and so on.

Each of these managers has also been reworked, most obviously with the addition of new tabs. Click on the main content-based Articles Manager, for example, and you’ll find that the former Front Page Manager is now handled as a Featured Articles tab. The command menus have been made more consistent and user-friendly. When adding multiple items, you’ll find the new Save and New command very handy; when deleting items, Trash-based storage provides a welcome safety net.

One of the biggest changes in Joomla 1.6 is the merger of the Sections Manager and Categories Manager – not just a cosmetic exercise but a complete reworking of how Joomla handles categories. Before, you chose one section and one category; now, you select a single category that can be nested to any depth, such as “products>indoor>kitchen>tables”. This category tree approach is more powerful than it was, but it’s still limited compared to Drupal’s taxonomy system, where you can select multiple terms from multiple vocabularies.

Categories tend to be used as the basis of site navigation in rival systems, but in Joomla this is handled independently via the Menu Manager. Again, this has been streamlined, with the Menu Item Manager now incorporated as a tab. The handling of menu item types has been improved, though it’s still not exactly child’s play.


Software subcategory Web development

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