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Book Review: Joomla! A User’s Guide By Barrie M. North

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So what is Joomla!? Joomla! is a an open source content management systems (CMS) that allows end users to easily publish content on the internet. It is a derivation of the CMS Mambo and came about after a disagreement by the developers on the direction to take the product going forward. Joomla! is written in PHP and by default uses the MySQL database system, but to use it, no programming is required.

Joomla!: A User's Guide is geared for those who wish to use Joomla 1.5 to create a website for either themselves or for clients. It does not assume that you know PHP, CSS or any other acronym's that float around the web development world. Joomla!: A User's Guide is 480 pages divided into 12 chapters and three appendixes.

Chapter 1, "Content Management Systems and an Introduction to Joomla," provides an introduction to what Joomla! is and what a CMS is. Here you will see what the differences are between a CMS and a traditional website, what it takes to run a site, the history of Joomla!, and the basic elements of a Joomla! site. Chapter 2, "Downloading and Installing Joomla," examines what it takes to get Joomla! up and running. Because it is open source, it is free for you to download, install, and begin working with. Here you will learn how to get it running on both a home computer as well as on a real web server with a hosting account.

Chapter 3, "Joomla Administration Basics," describes what day to day tasks are needed to add content, manage users, and, in general, make sure everything is up and running smoothly. With a properly managed site, the administration burden is really low. Explained here is what is the frontend and what is the backend of a Joomla! Website. Chapter 4, "Content is King – Organizing your Content," captures what is, in essence, the whole purpose of a CMS, to manage content. Here you will learn in an in-depth tutorial, how Joomla! displays and organizes content articles, how it generates web pages, and how you can organize the hierarchical structure of your content. You will learn about the two level hierarchies in Joomla! called sections and categories.

Chapter 5, "Creating Menus and Navigation," are essential to your Joomla! site as they not only serve as navigation, but they also determine the layout of what a dynamic page will look like and what content will appear on the page. Here you will learn how to produce a logical navigation system. Chapter 6, "Extending Joomla," describes what you can add to your Joomla! site to provide additional functionality. With both free and commercial add-ons available there is plenty to extend the usefulness of your site. These include components, modules, plugin, templates, and language packs.

Chapter 7, "Expanding Your Content: Articles and Editors," looks at the WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get) editor and how the backend works with the managers, administrators, and super administrators. Then you will learn how writers, editors and publishers can be allowed add content through the front end. Chapter 8, "Getting Traffic to Your Joomla Site," is all about search engine optimization (SEO) and how best to bring traffic to your site.

Chapter 9, "Creating a Pure CSS Joomla 1.5 Template," will take you through the steps to create a Joomla! template that uses cascading style sheets (CSS) to produce a layout without the use of tables. This will help produce a fast loading site that will perform will in the search engines. This chapter is more for the technically minded user, but nothing too hard to learn.

Chapter 10, "Creating a School Site with Joomla 1.5," is all about building a medium to large website. This shows the power and flexibility of a Joomla! as opposed to a traditional site. This chapter defines the need for a school site and the fact that there is a defined body of content and the different groups that you have to get the information to

Chapter 11, "Creating a Restaurant Site with Joomla 1.5," is really about creating a small business web site. It begins with a needs analysis and how to organize content including adding photos and what further extensions could be used. This kind of site represents a site that needs fixed content but yet wants to add interactivity to make the site interesting enough to come back to regularly. Some of the features here include an image gallery, calendar, newsletters, and the use of Google maps.

Chapter 12, "Creating a Blog Site with Joomla 1.5," examines how blogs today are much different than they were when they were created as a personal diary. Now, instead of being devoted to an entire website, many times they are part of a website. While being a communications medium that contain brief posts about a particular subject, they are also a medium in which the author(s) communicate in the first person, on a one-on-one level with the visitor allowing the user to relate to the writer on a familiar basis.

Joomla!: A User's Guide is written for those who are on a beginner to intermediate level with Joomla! and CMS in general. It provides an excellent introduction and will get you up and running in no time. I really liked the way it thoroughly explains the lay out of the content and how to organize a site. I also like how you are taken through three different types of sites and shown how to develop each type. These are not just a couple of pages on each, development of the three sites encompasses over 90 pages of the book.

Joomla!: A User's Guide is logically organized and will lead you from the basic concepts to running a Joomla! site in no time. I think that Joomla!: A User's Guide will find a place on many a shelf as not only is it a good guide, but serves as is a great reference book to building and maintaining a Joomla! web site.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.