Title: Building Websites with Joomla! 1.5
Subtitle: “From Technologies to Solutions”
Author: Hagen Graf
Publisher: Packt Publishing
Date: March 2008
Price: $27.99 – $44.99
The book is a tutorial guide to Joomla! 1.5 and was already written and published during the development of Joomla! 1.5. This is the final version and it aims for “web developers, designers, webmasters, content editors and marketing professionals” and is suitable for anyone starting out with Joomla! 1.5, for people who upgrade to Joomla 1.5 and for those who just want a good printed guide/manual at hand.
The first chapter called Terms, Concepts, and Deliberations lays the foundation for the rest of the book. I think this chapter clearly shows the author’s fine teaching skills. Without realising it, the reader will be handed all the important basics and principles behind Joomla!. Here you will find an answer to questions about the history an structure of a great CMS. Among other things there is a great almost rant like comparison between the business models of Microsoft and Sun Microsystems. You can read about the spin-off from Mambo and the structure of a CMS. The chapter end’s with an appetizer, showing off some web pages made in Joomla!.
Chapter two steps you through the installation of Joomla!. In only 20 pages, you will be shown what you need to install, run and manage Joomla. And then it steps you through several kind of installations on either Windows, several flavors of Linux and even a VPS. You will be shown how to setup a testing system or a production system and the differences between them. Installing Joomla! is a piece of cake, grab a bite.
Chapter three will then show you around through your newly installed system. It is a quick tour that is supposed to get you acquainted with the basic structure of the system. Joomla! tends to be a bit confusing in it’s initial state because the sample data was meant to show off as many aspects as possible. Therefore it sometimes is a bit overwhelming. This chapter helps you to understand what you are actually seeing.
Chapter four to eleven give you a clear and understandable breakdown of all the features Joomla! has to offer you in it’s basic state. Starting with the handling of several languages and the exterior look that can be changed by templates. Then the introduction to the administration interface. Once that has been covered , the book will guide you through the many setting that can be altered in the site menu. This is a typical ‘must’ read section as a lot of these settings will also influence the security of your system. Don’t start without reading and understanding this. The following chapters explain how to create menus and content, and how to use some of the pre-installed components. Chapter ten will then show you how to use the extension menu. It’s a considerably important chapter as it offers you the power to create the sites shown at the end of the first chapter, by extending and changing the default capabilities of Joomla.
Up to this point Hagen has given you a full manual to Joomla! 1.5. But the book doesn’t stop here. In chapter 12 Hagen shows you how to use a few extensions that, not only show you once more, how to incorporate third party extensions in your website, but also gives you a few fine examples to add to your site. Fireboard is the more or less recognised standard for a forum extension. If you build a community site with forums this is the way you want to go. DOCman is an extension that will make your content management even better. DOCman enables you to work with remotely stored documents and enables an access control system. Expose Flash Gallery will render images and video with the so called ‘ahhhh’ effect. It is based on Adobe’s flash format and has many different options to present your images or videos. Now you don’t have to install these to use Joomla!, but I can assure you from experience that it will make your Joomla! live much easier and interesting if you do.
Chapter 13 goes to the inner works of Joomla. The templates. These are made of a mixture of HTML, PHP and Joomla! tags to construct the final display of your site. This chapter shows you how to change or even create a template. This chapter is completed by chapter 14 that was actually written by Angie Radtke who created the Beez template. The chapter discusses the so called Barrier Freedom and demonstrates it use in the Beez template. To cut things short, it shows you how to NOT exclude people with a disability from your website, which is in some (civilized) countries indeed a legal requirement. I can only hope that Google uses these standard guidelines in it’s web ranking system. The nice thing about this chapter is that it will show you how to change the Beez template by its own author. And before you ask, making the Beez re-size dynamically you just edit position.css where it says max-width: 1000px; to max-width: 100%; and deal with the pain If you want to make a serious template please do consider reading this chapter.
Chapter 15 shows you basically how to create your own extensions. It covers a complete framework that can get you started and shows you the basics of MVC programming in php. If you want do do some serious extensions you are better off with one of the other Joomla books available that cover the subject explicitly, like Mastering Joomla! 1.5 Extension and framework development from the same publisher by James Kennard. Never the less this chapter gives a good impression of the work involved by stepping you through every aspect in the making of a real usable component.
Chapter 16 and 17 form the grand finale. Here the author takes you through a step by step approach to develop a website with Joomla! 1.5. All the experience from prior chapters will be applied in a practical experience. In fact in a merely 30 pages, you will be building a website for a fictional family business site. After this building your own site will/should prove as easy as Joomla!.
The book is very complete. It is a real beginning to end piece that has great instructional value. I can see it easily implemented in workshops etc. Up to chapter 13 not much knowledge is needed. Chapter 13 to 15 require some experience with php/html to be completely understandable. The only thing I really miss is a chapter about security. A lot of sites get hacked because of the behaviour of beginning developers. Some simple guidelines would have made a great addition especially for the beginning administrator. Hagen Graf was able to transfer his knowledge of the subject, combined with his teaching knowledge, in a way that organises the book into a complete tutoring and reference document. He is not just listing features and their use but also explains very clearly how Joomla! happened, what technology was used and how everything evolved. He is clearly very passionate about Joomla! which shows already in the preface starting of with “Joomla! is life!”. But anyone that ever worked with Joomla! will easily forgive him and might be equally enthusiastic or become it after reading this book.