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Five Tips to Help You Get Started with Joomla

Joomla Tips

Joomla is a powerful open source content management system that powers millions of websites from around the world.

Joomla sits apart from just about every other CMS (content management system) out there. It's as versatile as it is powerful, and with just about everyone making the jump to Joomla 3.x, it's also becoming simpler, and increasingly user friendly.

We work with Joomla every day at RocketTheme, and most of our customers do too. While there are plenty of alternative CMS options out there to choose from, Joomla remains a popular choice for developers and designers.

It is an excellent platform of choice for a wide variety of sites from complex corporate sites to simple, one-page profiles.

Don't Be Afraid of the Learning Curve

Joomla is very different from just about any other comparable CMS out there. It is capable of being as simple or as complex as the user needs it to be.

There is a bit of a learning curve if you aren't familiar with using a CMS or any other advanced site platform. Even if you are, there are a few areas it might handle common processes differently.

For example: It handles module positioning in a different way than WordPress, but the concept behind them remains pretty much the same. Where WordPress treats widget positions as a shelf you place objects on next to or stacked on top of each other, Joomla treats each horizontal position as a pigeon hole you can place the modules into.

Joomla is built from the ground up as an open source CMS made by users for users. It's because of its open nature that Joomla has a thriving third-party extensions and template library supported by some of the best organizations in the industry.

This means that you have a lot of options as to how you can make your site look and what you can get it to do, even if you have no coding experience, at all.

With a little patience, and some perseverance, you can make Joomla do pretty much anything you want to do. If you want it to serve blogs a bit more like WordPress does, you can do it. If you want to have content displayed in a multitude of different ways, you can do that too.

If all Else Fails, Check out the Documentation

If playing around in the backend doesn't yield the results you're looking for, you can usually find the answer you need in documentation. Joomla has some fairly extensive documentation available for the platform, and you can usually find docs and guides for doing just about anything you want to do with a simple Google search.

RocketTheme has even provided its own library of documentation supporting its products, as well as providing simple guides for the Joomla platform.

Access Your Module Settings from the Frontend

Joomla 3.2+

If you are logged in to the front end of Joomla, you can quickly access and edit a module's settings by clicking the little edit button that appears as you move your cursor over the module.

This is a new feature that was introduced with Joomla 3.2 and can save you a lot of time and effort when it comes to editing pre-existing content.

If you then hover over the edit icon, it will show you a tooltip of what is what and you can click it to get into the right location in your admin (either the article or the module manager) to edit that specific item. The tooltip includes both the title of the module, and its assigned position.

Always Test in a Sandbox

Because Joomla can be a bit complex, you are far better off using a sandbox, or a locally accessible private server to test any changes to your site before moving them to your live site.

Joomla is free, and you can find a lot of great utilities to help you quickly set up and host a local sandbox of your own.

Some suggested utilities include:

  • MAMP - A single application for OS X (and soon Windows) that enables the user to quickly and easily set up and manage testing servers on the fly.

  • WampServer - A single-application solution, much like MAMP, that is built for the Windows platform, specifically.

  • AMPPS - Includes Apache, Mysql, PHP, Perl, Python, and Softaculous auto-installer that can be used on Desktops.

  • Bitnami's MAMP Stack - Another bundled server stack that has a multitude of options and alternatives for Linux, Windows, and OS X.

  • XAMPP - A cross-platform development environment that is made available completely free of charge.

Change the Default Text Editor

The default text editor in Joomla isn't terrible, but it can be limiting when compared to its many alternatives. WYSIWYG text editors have habit of stripping out code and making things appear differently than the user intended, especially if they are using a lot of HTML and other code in their articles and modules.

The RocketTheme team created RokPad as an alternative geared towards developers that want the power of a more robust code editor available in the backend of Joomla.

There are dozens of other great editors available to try on the Joomla Extensions Directory.

Joomla Editor

Changing the editor once you have one of these alternatives installed is pretty easy. Just navigate to Admin > System > Global Configuration and change the setting next to Default Editor.

Whatever your experience level or goals, it's important to remember that just about every platform out there has a learning curve.

Joomla's can be pretty daunting at first, but once you give it a little time, there really isn't much you can't do with it.

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