I have been using a proxy for direct evaluation and reviews of Open Source CMS software – its the Google Trick. See how many good books and articles point to a particular Web CMS – and use those as an indicator of the quality of the the software. Then got to Opensorcecms and actually try out the software very quickly. Finally top that off with a download and trial of the software on a real application.
Well here is one of the books that convinced me I wanted to take a more serious look at Joomla 1.5.
Building Websites with Joomla! 1.5 by Hagen Graf, Packt Publishing March 2008, $45US – 363 pages
First and foremost this is a book about installing, configuring and then customizing a Joomla! 1.5 website. Now, Joomla can be many things a Bulletin Board, Web Blog, Gallery site, Articles+Newsfeed source right out of the Winzip/Tar.GZ download. With Joomlas 3rd party extensions it can become a wiki, a project collaboration site, a multimedia meeting place, a Commerce site, etc.
Joomla is both versatile yet easy to configure and that is why it has in the past 3-4 years garnered over 5 million installations. It also now has the largest number of books among Web CMS – and this is one of the best at describing how to use Joomla for your particular website project.
Joomla for Your CMS!
The great thing about this book is that it gives not just the history behind Joomla but also all the detail and options for setting up and using Joomla ( with great screenshots of some creative Joomla websites). Since Joomla is primarily LAMP enabled that means setting up for Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP. But the author also covers in detail how to make that WIMP – Windows, IIS, MySQL, PHP or MAMP – MacOS, Apache , MySQL, PHP. Once those details are done, the author says it best – “From now on, everything is going to go lightning fast because the Joomla! web installer is taking command”. And he is right at he guides users screen by screen through the 7 steps of installation.
Next, users are taken on a tour of their new website – element by element all of the featuresof the sample Joomla website are discussed in detail including screen shots. This is important because Joomla is a rich environ even without the help of third party extensions and templates, so users will find out which features are important, wher they are located by default and an idea of how they will be able to customize and change those settings. This Chapter 3 is tour is essential.
The next two chapters get users used to using the backend administration right away showing how to customize language used, layout templates, and the basics of configuring your website. Again the author consistently shows the relevant dialogs and screenshots as well as providing tips on what to choose from among the many Joomla options. This is followed by 80 pages on menus, components and extensions clearly defining the relationship among them and how they determine the content and lyout of your Joomla site.
This is topped with the discussion of three popular 3rd party extensions from installation through configuration to layout styling – Fireboard for an advanced Forum, DOCman for document management (a frequent Joomla use) and Expose for doing pictures and video galleries. These are great examples of 3rd party extensions; nd the author is evry explicit about some of the trade-off problems – security and updates being the most prevalent.
The final thre chapters discuss writing your own templates, using higher accessibility templates and extensions, and finally how to approach writing your own extensions, modules and extensions. The latter tasks get users well started and point to Joomla and other sources of documentation on how those savvy in PHP, HTML, and CSS might want to tackle the tasks of doing it yourself.
In sum, this book is great for getting developers well-launched into using Joomla! managers will find it more than approachable and can use the book to give a sounding on the types of projects and extensions they may want to take with Joomla. Finally, basic users will get a clear idea of what Joomla can do for them – and a good gauge for how easy (or taxing) various configurations and customizations are going to be. In short, this is a book not just for getting started but also fully utilizing Joomla – top marks to Hagen Graf and Packt Publishing for this book.