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Getting extensions ready for Joomla 4 - Jan Pavelka (Phoca)


With Joomla 4 on the horizon, extension developers are working hard to get their extensions compatible with this new major release. Nobody wants to be the developer of an extension that breaks their clients’ websites. So they are all removing outdated code and replacing it with code that is up to the standards of today (and tomorrow). In this issue, Jan Pavelka from Phoca gives us a little insight into how they work, and of course he answers the big question: will Phoca extensions be ready on time?

Could you tell us a little about your extension(s)?

Our extensions all originated in the same way. There was a problem and we wanted to solve it. Some basic extension to solve the current problem was built, and over time new features based on user feedback have been gradually added to this extension.

I'm kind of connected with the restaurant environment, so it all started with the extension for the field of gastronomy. First extension was the Phoca Restaurant Menu.

Because my work revolves around accounting, another extension was the internal extension to support accounting. This was followed by extensions for website needs. Phoca Gallery, Phoca Guestbook, Phoca Favicon, Phoca Font, Phoca PDF... The first extension made because of support for other Phoca extensions was Phoca Download.

Over the years, more and more extensions have emerged on the basis of various subjects. For example, I didn't want to request FTP accounts from users to debug their websites, so I created Phoca Commander, a file manager with the option to edit files directly on the server.

All the extensions have their own story and it would be a long conversation. Together with the community, we've created over a hundred extensions, all created simply because we haven't found another suitable extension.

Currently, we are mainly dealing with ecommerce - with the Phoca Cart extension.

I myself am not a great idealist when it comes to free software, but I must emphasize here that without open source software, without open libraries, without the work of other members of the community, no Phoca extension would have arisen. That's why I really appreciate the Joomla! Project, all the people behind it and especially all the people who help me with extensions today and every day. There are really a huge amount of people, but I would especially like to thank two members of our community, Christine Walk and Benno Mathias. Without them, Phoca extensions today would not be what they are.

What will happen with your extensions when J4 is released? Will they be compatible or will you have to provide complete new versions?

It depends on the extension. Some of our extensions are now only for Joomla! 4, some will work for both Joomla! 3 and Joomla! 4, and some extensions will have two versions. In addition, extensions such as Phoca Gallery will definitely undergo modernization. The plan is to remove many outdated parameters and outdated features, etc. in Phoca Gallery to make the extension meet the new trends and new requirements.

What should users do with your extensions when they migrate to J4? What should they expect from their extension providers in general? And what can they expect from you?

First of all, we have to make sure that the extension is available for the new system. This is a priority, then we can write instructions on how to migrate. It’s hard to say what other developers do. But most have a similar problem. There are a lot of questions - whether to maintain one extension when there will be a lot of different conditions for different versions of the system, or whether to have two different extensions. The migration method is then based on the selected variant or direction. So the method can be a migration for one extension, and two different versions for another extension.

As a developer, would you say it is important to start preparing extensions as soon as possible?

Yes of course. Once Joomla! 4 is there, new users will no longer be interested in Joomla! 3. At the same time: in reality it is different. If you have a lot of existing extensions, it's impossible to just start as soon as possible. You have to take care of the existing ones. And not just Joomla! is changing, versions of e.g. PHP, Javascript libraries, etc. change as well. So in practice you want to start as soon as possible, but the support of the existing system simply has priority.

What impact do the different types of Joomla versions (alpha, beta, RC) have on the update of extensions?

That's a good question I'm thinking about. Whether to do one project with more branches on GitHub, or to do a different project for each version. The problem with multiple branches is that there is always only one default and there cannot be two default branches side by side. The problem with multiple projects is that the whole development system will be fragmented. Therefore, strategically it is a complex issue, but nothing should change for users. They should get the update in the same way as always.

How do you expect the launch of J4 to impact your business?

No impact, my business runs outside of Joomla! The same for other members of the Phoca team.

Is there anything else you would like to advise our readers on regarding extensions and Joomla 4?

Joomla! 4 has been around for a long time and it may take longer for all extensions to work fully with this system. But that's a tribute to the fact that this system is very modern and gives developers unlimited possibilities when creating extensions.

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