The Joomla! Template Kit is a Dreamweaver extension that is aimed at making the creation of Joomla! templates much easier than coding them by hand. At its heart, it is a couple of panels that you add in to the Dreamweaver CSS layout panel. These, in turn, centralize all of the functionality that you need to create your templates.
Not familiar with Joomla!? Well Joomla! is an award-winning content management system (CMS) that makes it easy for you to build Web sites and powerful online applications. Its ease-of-use and extensibility have made it one of the most popular Web site software packages available. Best of all, it is an open source solution that is freely available to everyone.
A CMS is a Web application that keeps track of every piece of content on your Web site. It works kind of like your local public library which keeps track of books and stores them until someone calls them up to request some information. The content can be simple text, photos, music, video, documents, or just about anything you can think of. One of the major advantages of using a CMS is that it requires almost no technical skill or knowledge to manage.
One of the cool things about Joomla! is that it uses a form of skinning technology that allows you to change your site by just changing the template. You do not have to do any additional coding or Web work. You simply select the preinstalled template and make it the default. When you refresh your browser, your site has changed, and incorporated your content.
Joomla! comes with a couple of installed templates, and with such a large community out there you can get templates from a growing number of sites. Some of these are free, but most of them are available for purchase. Sure you can create your own, but it can be time consuming and at times tedious.
The Joomla! Template Kit is a Dreamweaver add-on that allows you to develop templates for your Joomla! site much faster and easier than you could by hand. It has all of the things that you need built right in and it simply plugs into Adobe Dreamweaver, and will have you off and running.
What do you need to run the Joomla! Template Kit? Windows or Mac OS X or above, Dreamweaver 8 or above, Joomla! 1.5.X or above, a Web browser with Flash plug-in 8 or above, and computer speakers for audio/video. Some knowledge about Joomla!, Dreamweaver, HTML, and CSS is required as well. You will want to install a local Web server on your computer so that you can work locally before uploading to your site. All of this is explained in detail when you get the kit.
One of the best things about this product is the quality of support that you have with working with the Joomla! Template Kit. The manual is online and is very complete. You are shown the recommended steps for installing a local Web Server. You can install your own setup if you have a different preference, but if you are unsure, the recommended XAMPP install was a breeze.
Next you are shown how to install Joomla!. Again, nothing is left to chance and you are guided through the install. The same thing goes for the Joomla! Template Kit extension. What is also great about this kit is that along with the written document, there are over two and one-half hours of videos to show you how to set up and work with the product. The downside here is that you have to have a pretty good internet connection since it is over 400 MB in the download.
Once you have the Joomla! Template Kit set up and have run through the videos, it is really straightforward to use. Sure, there is some learning curve if you want to get fancy, but for the basic implementation of a new template is almost a no-brainer.
You set up your system. Then you create the base template files which also creates the template directory and all of the files that you will need. You then open up the index.php file and the J_CSS_Designer.html file. You have to run some set up for working with locally, but that is just the push of a button on each file. The J_CSS_Designer.html file is a special tool that maps out Joomla's CSS in Dreamweaver. This way you can ID the CSS class, and you will be able to see which parts are affected by changes in the CSS.
From there you set up your index.php and set up your template areas. In a simple case, you have a header, footer, and a center area that is made up of a right, center, and left section. Using the Joomla! Template Kit, you drop modules and the main component on to the page and you can render your template.
Keep in mind that, while this is easy to use, you really need some skills with Dreamweaver, CSS, HTML, and PHP to take advantage of all the Joomla! Template Kit has to offer. If you want to get a brief look at what it feels like to work with the kit, there is a demo video on the Media 65 site.
While this demo video shows you how to convert a standard Web template to a Joomla! template, many of the steps are the same. You just have to add the graphic content and formulate the layouts.
Overall I was very highly impressed with the quality of the Joomla! Template Kit and with the quality of the video training. There were times where the instructor would go off topic, showing you additional features that were handy to know, but the videos really make using this product much easier. In fact, I hope that he will continue to create videos on more advanced uses of this product.
The Joomla! Template Kit costs $99.00 USD and comes with one year of support. Additional support is available by subscription at $35.00 USD. Keep in mind that the download is over 400 MB and is only available via download, so unless you have a fast connection, you probably should not order it.
If you work with Joomla! and use Dreamweaver, then you owe it to your self to check into this product. Unfortunately, because of the nature of this type of product, there is no demo version, but I think that the demo video really shows you what you can do with it. I very highly recommend this product.