My Top 10 Joomla 1.5 Extensions

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I’ve done a lot of developing with Joomla. I’ll tell you, I used to be really impressed and pro-Joomla when I started over 4 years ago, but the honeymoon is long since over.

There’s a lot of issues here and from what I’ve seen in the 1.6 Beta, they aren’t addressed. They need to really put some strong functionality in the main core. I hope they’ve got more planned because as it stands now I’m on the lookout to jump to my next CMS.

Oh yeah, WordPress (which I run this site on) so far isn’t impressing me that much.

So with that said, I want to write up what my top 10 Joomla 1.5 extensions are and why. I’ll preface this by saying that these extensions provide some sort of core functionality that I think any site would need, not something specific like an image gallery or e-commerce component (and there are no viable e-commerce extensions for Joomla, anyway).

Anyway on with the show, in no particular order:

1. Akeeba Backup:

This one is a lifesaver. It’s pretty much the easiest, most comprehensive backup solution you’ll need. I use the free version, but there’s a pay version of Akeeba Backup with even more features.

Akeeba backs up your files AND your database, so there’s no worries. It will compress the whole thing into a file (.zip or their own archive format). You’ll also restore from that same backup, Akeeba handles everything, all you have to do is not close your browser window while it works.

I use it all the time to transfer my sites to my local server setup on my own machine for testing. Make sure you put in the right database user/password combo so it can get access to your local database and you’re up and running.

You can use this to transfer your site to another host with no worries. I told someone on the official Joomla forums once to use Akeeba. It seemed a developer had left him high and dry and he had no access via ftp. He did have backend access to the Joomla admin, though.

Then he installed Akeeba (luckily he had admin rights), ran the backup and then downloaded the archive (you can do that right from in the Akeeba interface in the Joomla backend). After that he would just upload to another host and run the installer. All done.

BONUS: Another plugin in the same vein is called Lazy Backup 2. This one backs up your database only at whatever interval you set, then it emails it to you.

Assuming you have all your web content files and they are mostly unchanging this one could be all you need.

Note: As of this time (6-20-2010), this plugin is unpublished from the Joomla Extensions Directory. The only reason given is “GPL issues”.

2. JCE:
This component is literally the first thing I install after I install Joomla itself.

JCE (Joomla Content Editor) is essentially a WYSIWYG editor that you use to write your articles. Meaning the buttons that have the Bold, Italic, Underline and all that stuff.

The default TinyMCE (That JCE is based on) is just too rigid and crappy. It doesn’t have enough options and sometimes stuff just doesn’t work.

With JCE I can show and hide coding or html view, I have a much better image uploader, plus there’s tons of plugins that work with it to make life easier. Trust me, don’t waste time screwing around with the default TinyMCE editer, just get JCE. It’s free and there’s just no reason not to.

Actually maybe one reason. I’ve ran into situations from time to time where a certain template I’ve used doesn’t work with JCE, usually all kinds of errors showing up in the article text and such.

Normally each time this happened, it was when I was trying to get away with using a free template. There are some good ones out there, but it seems like I somehow gravitate towards the bad ones. Needless to say, I ditch the template immediately, since I don’t know what else might be wrong with it.

This one should be included in the Joomla core, they should work out the licensing or whatever and get it done to give their users a break.

3. Update Manager:
This is one you HAVE to use, unless you just like the pain of the usual Joomla update procedure.

For years I would go and download the update package, open up Terminal (on my Mac), then run the unix code for unarchiving to merge the new package into my existing install. It was a pain in the ass and I used to dread it.

It’s not the end of the world, but if you have multiple sites it becomes a huge chore.

I sure wish I would have found Update Manager earlier. Now you just go to the component, tell it to update (it asks you if you want the full package or just the update), then you let it go and that’s it. Two clicks, man.

Again, Joomla needs to have this integrated into the core just like WordPress does. The users don’t need to be hassled by this mundane crap anymore. Also again, from the look of the beta this isn’t in there. There’s still hope, though…

4. Xmap:

I put this one in because I do install it on all my Joomla sites. I think the vast majority of sites could benefit from a Site Map, and this one even generates the XML type sitemap that Google and other search engines are looking for when they crawl your site.

This makes it easy for you to update your site without having to worry about always keeping your sitemap updated for SEO.

HOWEVER, beware that if you start using some random, lesser-known components that generate links that they might not work with Xmap. This has bitten me in the ass a couple of times when I wasn’t thinking.

Always make sure that your extension will work with Xmap or you’ll end up doing a lot of manual work adding links yourself. A huge pain.

Xmap isn’t perfect either. There’s some issues with grouping the Site Map sections that I’d like to see implemented, but I think it’s the best we’ve got on Jooma now.

5. Bigshot Google Analytics:

When I first started using this one, it was pretty much the only one of its kind on the JED. Now there’s quite a few, but I still use this one.

What it does is takes care of adding your Google Analytics tracking code to your template, and thus all of your pages. You just plugin your GA code, and it does the rest.

One thing you have to be careful of with these: Google does update its code from time to time. If the plugins don’t keep pace then you’ll lose out on accurate tracking. You just need to be aware of the current state of GA.

6. ChronoForms:

ChronoForms is a component that lets you plugin your own form code and customize your forms more than you can do with standard Joomla. It also has a forms wizard to help you build forms right within the component.

The main reason I use it is even more basic than that. It lets you specify a redirect page after the form is submitted.

The standard Joomla contact form doesn’t redirect when submitted. All it does is keep you on the same page and it pops up a message on the page in whatever position you have the Joomla “message” code at.

Sometimes this is not an optimal place, and the user may not even see it or realize the form worked. If they get sent to a completely different page then you can put whatever message you want, as well as have other links ready to lead the user once they get there.

There’s a bunch more forms components on the JED now, so pick your poison, as long as it lets you do what you want it to do.

7. Extended Menu:

Extended Menu adds a whole mess o’ features to the traditional main menu. You can add different spacers/separators for horizontal menu, use different templates for different levels of nested menus, there’s a whole bunch in there.

I use it mostly because it adds a simple title attribute to the links. You can’t really customize it but it just repeats the link name in the title attribute. That’s better than what Joomla does, which is nothing. So at least there’s a little nod there to accessibility.

8. Missing Metadata Module (1.5 module is unpublished. try the Missing Metadata Module for Joomla 2.5 on Joomla Extensions Directory, instead):

If you don’t care about SEO then you won’t need this one, but it’s really helped me out since I’m very forgetful.

What Missing Metadata does is simply nags you about adding the metadata into your articles in the main screen of the backend admin interface.

So when you log in or return to the Control Panel screen, it displays a list of all the articles that are, you guessed it, missing metadata.

Like I said, I’m forgetful (did I mention that?), so I appreciate the heads-up on that. In these days of Facebook, you can at least try to put in that Meta Description so it can be picked up if anyone shares the article.

9. Title Manager:

Title Manager affords you more control over the title that appears in the browser of each page on your site.

It’s not too in-depth, but it’s better than what is offered natively. You can add the name of your website in front of or behind the name of the article and also add a custom separator.

It doesn’t seem like much but it sure looks a lot better than just the page name.

NOTE: I found I had to turn this off when testing on my local machine because it used the .htaccess file to adjust the names of the pages. It was screwing up somewhere along the way locally, generating errors and giving me blank pages, so I just disabled it while testing.

10. SH404SEF

Ok this one is a little bit crazy. Because I don’t actually use this extension, or any SEF extension, even though I realize I should.

What this one and others do is to take your url and replace the crappy Joomla standard urls with more simple, user-friendly urls that make sense to humans.

I don’t use these because I’ve read too many horror stories these days. I usually get my sites all set up, then I consider going to get one of these plugins, except I’ve already got it all working. Then I think to myself do I want to possibly screw this all up? What if it doesn’t work with another extension I’m using?

I’m usually fine with the .htaccess Joomla SEF ones, so leave them alone, but I do recognize that there’s a lot of power there for people who need more control, so I went ahead and put this in there. You’ll have to read through the comments and decide for yourself if it’s worth giving it a go.

An alternative to this one is ARTIO JoomSEF that is apparently on-par or better, depending on who you ask.

So anyway that wraps this one up. Hopefully you saw an extension that you didn’t know about before that can make your Joomla life easier. Just hit me up if you have any questions.

Thanks for sharing!

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