The Joomla! Community Magazine™

Review "Joomla! 1.5 Top Extensions Cookbook"

Written by | Sunday, 01 May 2011 00:00 | Published in 2011 May
Like the Joomla! Site Blueprints we reviewed earlier the Joomla! 1.5 Top Extensions Cookbook contains a step-by-step approach. With over 80 recipes for taking control of Joomla! extensions, this is a great book for getting to know many extensions. Again, I do recognize this is about J! 1.5 - 1.6 is out, but even today we see new extensions for 1.5 appearing in the Joomla! Extensions Directory.
Joomla! 1.5 Top Extensions Cookbook Joomla! 1.5 Top Extensions Cookbook

This book is divided into 19 chapters covering extensions that will enhance both the front-end user, as well as the administrator experience and functionality. With the vast amount of extensions available for Joomla! one can always argue why was this extension chosen over another. But for any new or someone how recently have started to use Joomla! this book contains valuable information, as it will certainly take the headache out of adding features and configuring them for a rapid deployment of a Joomla! site.

In my opinion, this book is geared towards people who are new to Joomla! I certainly recommend that you take a look at it, as it covers such a wide range of extensions. I am sure you will find some nuggets that will prove this book to be a resource any Joomla! Administrator or site integrator should not be without. It's not 100% perfect... I can't wrap my head around why an extension like Advanced Module Manager is not covered in this book or the Author chose CKEditor over the JCE editor. But apart from that, it is well worth reading. The author has chosen to work with free extensions, which makes this book a valuable resource for schools, organizations and non-profits who want to extend, or start using, Joomla!

Let's get started...

Chapter 1
Producing and Displaying News and Content, it shows you how to add a blog to your site. Using Smart Blog, QuickContent, Content Slider Module, MiniFrontPage, Hot Newsflash and Lof ArticleSlideShows Module, this chapter shows you how to add a blog to your site. It explains how to add multiple sections, categories, and articles from the same screen, add a content slider, newsflash, and make a featured article sticky on the front page.

Chapter 2
Using External Content - With the extensions Google Maps Plugin, Slick RSS, Ajax RSS Reader, SlideShare plugin, GoogleDocs plugin, Embed PDF, PhocaMap, this chapter guides the user through using external content in the Joomla! based website. You will learn how to add a Google Map inside an article, display RSS feeds from other sites, read RSS feeds using Ajax, display SlideShare documents. Google documents, and PDF documents inside articles, and build a map directory of your Joomla! site.

Chapter 3
Sharing content - with the Sexy Bookmarks, Stalker, AutoTweet NG, Vemod News Mailer, ccNewsletter, Acajoom News and Letterman you will learn how to share content through social networking and bookmarking services. You will learn how to add a "Follow me" badge, send tweets automatically when publishing articles, automatically compile and e-mail selected articles and send a periodical newsletter to subscribers. However, the Letterman extension is mentioned, yet there is no recipe for how to use it. The author did not have to mention the Letterman extension as the chapter is complete as is, but it's nice to see other solutions mentioned. One could argue when you start to go down that road, there are many other extensions available. One omission here is ACY mailing. I would have preferred the author encourage the reader to research the JED, and provide a link to the relevant section on the JED, instead of mentioning a single extension.

Chapter 4
Managing Events and Calendars. Using JEvents, GCalendar and Seminar the author provides recipes for building an event calendar for your site, and how to integrate Google calendar and build an event booking system.

Chapter 5
Using Contacts and Feedback - This chapter contains recipes for using Phoca Guestbook, JoomlaComment, QContacts, aiContactSafe and Fabrik and help you enhance functions of contact and feedback systems in Joomla!. It shows you how to add a guestbook, add commenting, extend the contact form using Ajax, and build a database application with any PHP coding. This was an exciting chapter for me to read. I knew of Fabrik, I have even downloaded and installed it, but never started to use it. But with this book I would have gotten up to speed in a few minutes... I will definitely be looking more into Fabrik.

Chapter 6
Enhancing Communication. Using the jPFChat, Ajax Shoutbox, Agora Forum and udderIM this chapter contains recipes for ways to extend communication with users of the site. It guides you through how to add a chat service, add an Ajax shoutbox, add a forum and a private instant messaging system.

Chapter 7
Using Communities and Groupware. This chapter discusses ways to add community functionalities to your Joomla! site. It shows you how to extend user profiles with custom fields using Community Builder, and add a project management system. Extensions covered: Community Builder and Projectfork.

Chapter 8
Using Photos and Images. This chapter contain recipes using the mavik Thumbnails, sigplus Image Gallery Plus, Phoca Gallery, Expose photo gallery and RokSlideshow extensions. You will be guided through how to build dynamic image galleries using these extensions, add an image slide show, create thumbnails of images used in articles, and display a photo gallery inside an article.

Chapter 9
Enriching your Site with MultiMedia with AllVideos Reloaded, Simple Video Flash Player and the Simple MP3 bar extensions. In this chapter you will find recipes to display multimedia files inside articles, add a flash video player and add a MP3 browser to your Joomla! site. To me this is a somewhat limited chapter as there are so many other ways audio files can be incorporated into a Joomla! site, and PodCasting is completely overlooked in this chapter. Also, being published in late 2010, I would have liked the author to discuss the recipes for iPhone compatibility. For many site owners, I believe iPhone/iPad compatibility should be addressed when adding multimedia capabilities to any website.

Chapter 10
Building a Directory and Documentation. With AlphaContent, SOBI2, DOCman and the Attachment plugin, you will find recipes for building a document repository and directory services. It shows you how to add attachments to an article, create an alphabetical listing of sections, categories and articles, build a directory service like the Yellow Pages, and build a document repository where visitors can download several types of files.

Chapter 11
Using Languages. This chapter focuses on using multiple languages on a Joomla! site. It guides you through how to add a language, translate language files, translate a site's content on the fly using Google Translate and translate your site's content manually. You will learn how to use the extensions: Joom!Fish, Translation Manager and GTranslate.

Chapter 12
Adding Ads, Affiliate System and E-commerce. This chapter shows different ways to improve advertising, how to add an affiliate system and e-commerce functions using: Page Peel Banner, AdsManager, Phoca Google AdSense Easy, SimpleCaddy, it show you how to improve banner ads, show classified ads inside articles, use Google's AdSense and add a simple shopping cart.

Chapter 13
Managing Structure and Navigation. Using the SuperFish, Camp26 FishEyeMenu, Flash Menu, Quick Jump, Extended Menu, Ninja Simple Icons, Camp26 Automatic Slide Menu and Xmap you will find recipes for using these extensions to add different types of menus and generate a site map based on the menu structure. For me, this is a valuable and important chapter, as menus seem to be one of the hard things for users, and even site developers, to understand. Again, I would have liked the author to at least mention the issue of compatibility of some of these extensions with the iPhone/iPad. I won't hold it against the author as this chapter is really great, I just want to mention another menu extension that I think is worth checking into: Maxi Menu CK

Chapter 14
Working with Style and Design. This chapter mainly shows you how to work with the style and design of your site. It will guide you through how to: create reusable content templates, view an external website in a lightbox, publish modules as tabs, and use tabs and slides in content. The extensions covered in this chapter are: Content Templater, Lightbox+, Simple Tab and Slider module and Tabs & Sliders. This chapter will be invaluable to anyone who is new to Joomla!, but I find this possibly the weakest chapter of the book, as it barely covers basic information.

Chapter 15
Managing the site. In this chapter, the author discusses ways to improve site management. You will be guided through how to add Google Analytics, implement search engine friendly URLs, display a visitor counter, view visitor statistics and watch visitor activities in real-time. You will get to know the AG Google Analytics, Artio JoomSEF, Vinaora Visitor Counter, JoomlaStats and JoomlaWatch.

Chapter 16
Enhancing the Core, Search, and Indexing. Using the eXtplorer, Update Manager, PixSearch and Joomla! Tags extensions, you will learn how to browse files on your server from within the Joomla! administration panel, update Joomla! to a newer version, add an Ajax-based search to the site and how to add tags to articles. While a great chapter, and as much I myself have been a very happy user of Sam Moffat's Update Manager, today I will highly encourage you to use Akeeba.com's Administrator Tools to do this job. It adds other important features to your Joomla! install than just the update function. Also, I would have welcomed the addition of a tag cloud module now we have been shown how to add tags.

Chapter 17
Converting, Migrating and Bridging. This chapter will help you get familiar with the Export Content, Migrator, UserPort and jFusion. You will learn how to export a site's content to another site, migrate site contents from Joomla! 1.0 to 1.5, import users from a CSV file and integrate Joomla! with phpBB using jFusion.

Chapter 18
Managing Access and Security. You will find recipes on how to: add Captcha on the contact and password reset forms, implement the access control list (ACL), ad security settings, create a backup of a site and close a site from a backup. The extensions used in this chapter are: AlphaRegistration, Joomla XI Captha, noixACL, Joomla Tools Set, Akeeba Core Backup, Akeeba Kickstart. The problem today with this chapter is the Joomla Tools Set, even as mentioned in the books, runs in Joomla! 1.5 LegacyMode. The book mentions a native version which is under development, but nothing can be found under the url given in the book, nor did a search in the JED find the extension.

Chapter 19
Enhancing Administration and Other. Here the author guides you through using: Better Preview, JCron Scheduler, Custom Icons, JUMI and CKEditor. You will find recipes on how to get a better preview of the site's content, schedule administrative tasks, add and use custom icons in the administrator control panel, add custom code insde an article and add the FCK editor for better WYSIWYG article editing. I was surprised to see the author chose the CKEditor over JCE. I have tried using the CKEditor, but have totally switched to the JCE, as it has far better control capabilities and can be extended to allow for batch upload of images; a feature many users without ftp access are looking for. Also, I would recommend using the nonumnber.nl extensions like Sourcerer over JUMI. Not only because the nonumber.nl extensions are excellent, but also because the author has mentioned other nonumber.nl extensions in other chapters as well. And, nonumber.nl provides a manager for his extension, which helps the user to not only keep the nonumber.nl extensions updated, but the admin can also install some, or all, of the no number.nl extensions with just a few clicks.

One of the things I was most surprised to find in this book is the omission of the nonumber.nl extension Advanced Module Manager. In my opinion, absolutely no Joomla! install should be without this extension, as it provides critical control over module placement on the site.

Any book has to make a cap on what can go into it, but I would have liked to have seen recipes on how to use Advanced Module Manager and other extensions like MetaMod and MetaTemplate.

I like this book, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is not only new to Joomla!, but also to anyone who is assigned the task of managing a Joomla! site. Even if you are not the one who is going to implement these extensions, this book can certainly be useful as an inspiration for not only what can be expected from, and accomplished with, Joomla!, but also show that many features are easily implemented. This book is a great testimony to how flexible Joomla! is and how fast Joomla! can give added functionality to tailor the site to a specific need. This book is a great companion on the Joomla! journey.

The Facts...

  • Paperback: 460 pages
  • Publisher: Packt Publishing (October 18, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1849511802
  • ISBN-13: 978-1849511803
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 7.5 x 1.3 inches
  • Available at: publishers website at packtpub.com, major bookstores and online retailers like Amazon.

About the author

Suhreed Sarkar — IT consultant, trainer, and technical writer — studied Marine Engineering, served onboard a ship for two years, then switched to the computer world with MCSE in Windows NT 4.0 track, late in 2000. His latest field of study is business management, and he has earned an MBA from the University of Dhaka. He has a bunch of BrainBench certifications, including PHP4, Project Management, RDBMS Concepts, E-Commerce, Web Server Administration, Internet Security, Training Development, Delivery and Evaluation, and Technical Writing.

As a trainer, he has taught courses on web design, development, and e-commerce. He also delivers lectures on MIS and e-business in public and private universities in Bangladesh. Being passionate about learning and teaching new skills, he prefers hacking and teaching, to actual coding for clients.

As a consultant and trainer, he has experience in consulting for some international organizations including the United Nations, where he helped clients in building and adopting their enterprise portals, large scale databases, and management information systems. He is a best-selling technical author in Bengali — having a dozen books published on topics covering web development, LAMP, networking, and system administration. As an open-source enthusiast, he is active in different forums and takes every chance to promote open-source CMSs and shopping carts including Joomla, Mambo, Moodle, WordPress, osCommerce, Zen Cart, etc.

While not busy with hacking some apps, blogging, reading the philosophy of Bertrand Russell or the management thought of Peter F. Drucker — he likes to spend some special moments with his wife, son and daughter. Suhreed lives in Dhaka, Bangladesh with his family.

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