Joomla is one of the more popular open-source content management systems available. For a long time work has been going into the Joomla 1.5 code base, which promises a bunch of new features. Joomla 1.5 beta 2 was released a while ago, but I haven’t had a chance to try it out until now. So I grabbed the packages, created a virtual host on localhost and began testing.
The installer looks familiar but with a few additional steps. That is good. The Joomla installer has always been simple. It is one of those things that new Joomla users (and I have met several) always mention: how nice the installer is.
The major new things in the installer is the option to choose which language to use (step 1) and FTP configuration (step 5). There are also a few new options in the configuration step (step 6), among them the ability to load a migration script. Once Joomla 1.5 finally gets released there will be many sites having to do a migration from 1.0 to 1.5. This option might come in handy by that time.
After having gone through the Joomla installer you will be taken to a page where you can either view the site or go to the administration area. The administration area looks familiar, which again, is a good thing. There are a number of new features under the administration menus, however.
If you select the “Extensions” menu you will find a new item called “Plugin Manager”. It seems the plug-in system replaces the old “Mambots”. There are plugins related to things like authentication, search, WYSIWYG editor selection etc.
Joomla 1.5 has allows you to choose how you want your users to authenticate. There are plug-ins for LDAP, OpenID and Gmail, in addition to the default Joomla authenticator. Expect more of authentication back-ends to be released by third-party developers.
One interesting plug-in I found was “Code highlighter” which does syntax highlighting of source code in articles. I will have to try that out to see how well it works. I suspect this could be neat for sites dedicated to programming.
Another thing is that there is an XML-RPC plug-in. This would allow people to develop non-web applications for Joomla. There is already a plug-in that supports the Blogger API, so you could use an application like Drivel to write your blog entries. There are more possibilities with the XML-RPC API. Hopefully it will one day be possible to write articles in OpenOffice, select a “Publish” menu item, and the article gets uploaded to a Joomla site.
While going through the administration area, I did come across one bug. Item list navigation has some problems. For example, clicking ‘next’ on a list disables all the navigation buttons. You can overcome this by setting the “Display” combo to a large value so that all items are visible on a single page. I am sure this is something that will be fixed soon.
If you choose to view the site you will see something that looks like a typical Joomla site. The default template is rhuk_milkyway which looks decent, but if you don’t like it you can try the other alternative in the default package called beez.
There has been much work done on internationalization (i18n) as well as accessibility (a11y). These two should help to extend Joomla to new categories of users for whom Joomla previously was not an option. Otherwise I think that many of the changes to Joomla are “under the hood” making it easier for component developers.
All in all, I’m quite happy. I have developed a few sites using Joomla, and I think Joomla 1.5 is looking good. I have only begun playing around with it, so I’m sure I have still to find a few quirks. But that’s okay, it’s beta.
For those of you who are using Joomla today and wonder how the new Joomla looks like, download it and install it on localhost. It’s not worth trying to use it on production sites quite yet (unless you are adventurous), but you should definitely try it out at home so that you get familiar with it before it gets released.
The next thing I’m going to do is look at the API and start figuring out how to write components and modules for this thing. Expect a few more posts related to Joomla 1.5 as I learn more.