Joomla 5 Alpha - First experiences
Yes, sometimes I'm curious. So, when I read in the Joomla Facebook group that Joomla 5 Alpha1 was out, I decided to give it a try.
I had experienced pretty hard work when updating my websites from Joomla 3 to Joomla 4. Joomla 3 had been out for –too– many years, and Joomla 4 was late. Things became more complicated, because PHP 8 was released as well, forcing webmasters to update Joomla and PHP more or less at the same time. Many templates and other extensions required major modifications to survive the migrations. Quite a number of extension developers gave up. The latter forced webmasters to either give up some functionality or to select other extensions.
The Joomla team had promised that the upgrade to Joomla 5 would be much smoother than the previous one. To test that claim at the earliest possible point in time, I started my testing with J5alpha1. I admit that my tests are by no means comprehensive or representative for all Joomla installations. Instead, I did something that IT people call "monkey testing": Selectively testing features I need for my websites.
I installed the first alpha version on a shared webspace with PHP 8.2 running. This worked without any issues.
Next step was to install two of my favorite extensions: Akeeba Backup and JCE, using the "Install from Web" plugin. Both extensions installed without any issues. I was able to configure them to my needs.
I took a backup using Akeeba Backup and successfully restored with the kickstart.php utility. This was a first real asset! Now I knew that I could back up my site at any time and restore that state in case of a fatal failure, which is unavoidable in such an early alpha state.
My very first days with Joomla 1.0 in late 2007 came into my mind: The first extension I was looking for, was a tool to backup my new website. I ran into JoomlaPack, which later became Akeeba Backup (did anyone ask himself why the extension for the backup files is .JPA?).
Let's come back into 2023! With JCE, I was able to edit a new article just as in J4. Everything perfect? Not quite. Trying to install the Advanced Module Manager and Cache Cleaner, both from Regularlabs, failed.
But my favorite template, Skylar from joomla51.com, installed. I successfully used a function of the template to load a preset from a J4 installation and the corresponding custom.css file. After adding my choice of Google fonts (which I deliver from my own webspace because of GDPR compliance), the site looked as expected.
Switching between templates, in my case between Cassiopeia and Skylar, usually is a tedious and time-consuming task, because the module positions are hard-coded in the modules table. A little plugin from my fellow German Martina Scholz helped: It allows position aliases. With that, it is possible to map Cassiopeia's module positions to suitable positions in a second template. Thanks, Martina!
In the meantime, Joomla 5 Alpha 2 had been released. The update did not show up in my site, but I was able to run it by manually uploading the ZIP file and use that for the update.
With Joomla 4, I have become a fan of multi-factor authentication. Therefore, I successfully switched on authentication using TOTP verification code. Using WebAuthn failed, but as of today, a patch is available and will most probably be part of the next alpha release.
Installation of another two extensions gave opposite results:
I installed Phoca Maps and the additional plugin. I was able to create an OpenStreetMap with a marker and display the map in an article. Configuring a Google map worked as well, but without providing an API key, the result is frustrating. But nothing to do with Joomla 5!
On most of my sites, I use sigplus to display image galleries. The most recent version of the package installed, but trying to activate the content plugin crashed my site. Good to have a backup!
The preliminary result of my testing is positive, given such a very early alpha state. I'm convinced that we can expect a relatively smooth update to Joomla 5 when it will be released in autumn 2023.
Btw: This article was written with JCE in my J5 alpha installation.
I've been in the IT throughout all my business life, starting with my first programming lessons (does anybody remember FORTRAN?) at Frankfurt University in the summer of 1969. Later I worked for IT companies as well as for a major German bank until I retired. I held a broad variety of job descriptions, including, but not limited to Professional Services, Systems Programming, Sales Support, Marketing, Project Management and Business Analysis.
In spite of my IT background, I was a complete newbie in website creation and maintenance, when I started by first Joomla site for a local non-profit organization –as said above– in late 2007. Slowly I got some experience and developed better knowledge in HTML, CSS and Joomla; PHP and JS have not yet been on my agenda. Although I'm still a hobbyist and don't create websites commercially, I follow German and English Joomla groups on Facebook and Mattermost, where I try to share my experiences with the Joomla community.
In my article above, I mentioned that the gallery extension sigplus crashed my site. We have found out the reason: I tried to install the extension via "Install from Web". I didn't notice that the version offered here was from the stone-age.
Now I tried the most recent version from the developer's site. This works like a charm.