Quick Tip: Buy this book

As you may know, I have been working with Joomlashack for close to a year now. Before I started working with Joomlashack, I knew about Barrie North from CompassDesigns.net and Joomlashack. I knew about him because he has provided loads of free tutorials for the Joomla! community on his website. I learned much of what I know about template development from his Joomla! template tutorial.

Barrie is selling his 100+ page e-book, The Joomla! Admin Manual, at his website for $27. If you're like me, and you know the high quality of the tutorials produced by Barrie, then you know that $27 for a 100+ page e-book written by Barrie is a real bargain. I strongly encourage you to take a look at his site and decide whether or not this book is for you.

Quick Tip: Do not use the template chooser module (unless you have a very good reason)

Almost four years ago was the first time I ever used Mambo (the predecessor to Joomla!). As I played around with my newfound toy, I thought the template chooser was one of the coolest modules available. I could just imagine the possibilities. Users could customize the look of my site for how they wanted to view it. I could install 100 templates and let the visitor choose which one he or she liked best.

However, over time I came to realize that the template chooser module was a relatively useless feature that was very difficult to manage. Sure, I could install 100 templates and give users a choice, but those 100 templates would likely have very different layouts and include different sets of module positions. For example, one template might put the "left" module position in the left column while another template would place it at the bottom of the layout while yet another template might not include the left module position at all. You can imagine the headaches this type of situation might cause.

When developing your site, you should give careful consideration to where you want your modules positioned on the page and how you want your site to flow. It's difficult enough to accomplish this with one template, much less several templates. Also, your site's brand identity is dependent upon the design of the site. Giving your user multiple layout options only dilutes your brand and sends mixed messages to the end user.

You might have a valid reason to use the template chooser module, although at the moment I cannot think of an example of a good reason. If you do not have a specific reason to use the template chooser module (other than the "hey, that's neat" factor), my advice to you is not to use it.

Quick Tip: Use JoomlaXplorer to modify your template.

Quick Tip: Use JoomlaXplorer to modify your template.

I often find that the template manager is not very useful in terms of making modifications to a template. When you click "Save" in the template manager after editing the template HTML (index.php) or CSS (template_css.css) file, the manager takes you back to the list of installed templates. If you need to make another change, you have to re-open the Edit CSS or Edit HTML screen, which adds an extra step.

Another drawback of the template manager (in Joomla! 1.0.x) is that it only allows you to edit the "index.php" and "template_css.css" files. For some of the more advanced templates, there are more files that you may need to modify. You might also need to upload some more images for your modification.

That's where JoomlaXplorer comes in. It is a file manager that enables you to upload, modify, and delete files from your Joomla! installation via the administrator control panel. I use it every time I want to make a change to a template. For one thing, when I make a change to the HTML or CSS, it stays on the editor page. That way, I can check to see if the change I made produced the desired outcome or if I need to make more changes, and I can quickly go back and make more changes if necessary. It also allows me to edit any file in the template's folder and not just "index.php" and "template_css.css". Finally, it gives me the opportunity to replace images by uploading or deleting images based on my requirements.

So, if you haven't done so already, head over to the Joomla! Extensions Directory and get yourself a copy of JoomlaXplorer. It is the most useful component for web administrators available for Joomla!, and it will help you make changes to your site's template.

How to add a widget to a module

Wikipedia defines a widget like this:

A web widget is a portable chunk of code that can be installed and executed within any separate HTML-based web page by an end user without requiring additional compilation. They are akin to plugins or extensions in desktop applications. Other terms used to describe a Web Widget include Gadget, Badge, Module, Capsule, Snippet, Mini and Flake. Web Widgets often but not always use Adobe Flash or JavaScript programming languages.

For example, the "Help Azaria" module in the left column of this site uses a widget from ChipIn.com (to test it, make a donation to Azaria's Dolphin Therapy fund to see the progress bar go up - wink wink). Many "web 2.0" sites offer widgets for blogs and other sites to display their content or tools for performing a specific task (like raising money via the ChipIn widget). It is a great way to add content or functionality to your site with very little effort. The process for embedding a widget to your site is usually just copying and pasting a snippet of code into the appropriate location.

The problem is, Joomla!'s built-in WYSIWYG editors strip out parts of the widget's code causing it to work improperly. With this article, I will explain how to work around that problem and get the widget embedded into a user module without stripping out code.

Read more: How to add a widget to a module

Joomla! CSS Guide

I just read about the Joomla! CSS Guide over at Joomla.org. It is a new website that spells out all of the CSS classes and id's used in the core Joomla! HTML output. This is a great resource for template designers. Check it out.

How to make your site more secure

I am not a security expert, so I am always on the lookout for information that will help me keep my site more secure. Today, I came across a couple of great tutorials from Joomla-Addons.org that explain ways to make your site more secure. Check them out.

While you're there, check out some of the many extensions that they have created. Thanks for all of your hard work, Joomla-Addons.org!

How to turn on SEF URL's

SEF URL's are just a way to make your URL's look nice. The default SEF URL functionality in Joomla! takes URL's that look like this:

"index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=40&itemid=29"

and makes them look like this:

"content/view/40/29/"

This article will show you how to turn on the basic SEF URL functionality built into Joomla!, and it will also provide a list of SEF URL extensions that you can use to gain further control over your URL's. For this article, I am assuming that you are running your website on an Apache web server.

Read more: How to turn on SEF URL's

Joomla! Jargon

Dictionary.com defines jargon like this:

1. jargon: -noun, the language, esp. the vocabulary, peculiar to a particular trade, profession, or group: medical jargon.

It also defines jargon like this:

2. jargon: -noun, unintelligible or meaningless talk or writing; gibberish.

Joomla!'s roots go back a few years, and it definitely has a language all its own. Seasoned veterans are fluent in Joomla! jargon, but for "newbies", that second definition is probably the most appropriate definition for what Joomla! jargon really is. For that reason, I have decided to attempt to compile a list of the most commonly used words and/or phrases in Joomla!, and give them a definition that actually means something to a non-veteran Joomla! user.

Read more: Joomla! Jargon

How to use the syndicate (RSS) component in Joomla!

Website content syndication has been around for a while in the form of RSS, or "Really Simple Syndication." If you want to know more about RSS, you can either ask the source of all knowledge (search for "RSS"), or read about it at Wikipedia. For the sake of brevity, I will only discuss how to use Joomla!'s Syndicate component and third-party RSS services, and I will try to provide a list of other RSS components for Joomla!

NOTE: This "How-to" only applies to Joomla! 1.0. It does not apply to Joomla! 1.5.

Read more: How to use the syndicate (RSS) component in Joomla!

How to find the right tool for the job

One of the most common questions I see in the forums is, "Is there a component/module/mambot/plugin that does (insert your function of choice here)?" Whenever I see a question like that, I head over to the Joomla! Extensions Directory (JED), perform a quick search, and find a list of components that either meet the person's need, or come really close to what the person wants. At the time I am writing this, the JED lists 947 Joomla! extensions.

My point is, if you ever find yourself needing a specific function, head over to the JED and do a quick search. Chances are, if you can't find it there, you can't find it anywhere.