My top 12 Favorite and Most Used Joomla! Components and Plug-ins

There are so many excellent Joomla! add-ons available that it is almost impossible to make a “top ten” list. One can only make a list based on their experiences and specific needs. In this case, I have come up with a list of my top 12 most frequently used Joomla! add-ons or “enhancers” that make my life a whole lot easier and my sites that much better.

Essentials for every Joomla website

The set of components/plug-ins below are usually the first items installed after creating a fresh Joomla site.

AdminPraise Lite – admin theme

AdminPraise Lite is probably the easiest to use and most optimized admin template available. I prefer it over the heavily featured AdminPraise1 and 2. The default Joomla admin template requires extensive hacking in order to hide specific menu items of components from lower user groups. Now this can be done in a few simple clicks under the template settings. No matter where you are in the administrator section, you have direct access to all available components.

Zen Grid – Front-end Template

We always design custom templates for our customers and have learned that it is best to have a starter theme with most of the module positions and code available. Most template club themes are too bloated to use as a base theme. I spend as much time searching for and delete unnecessary PHP and CSS code as I do adding my own. In addition, the module positions are only ideal if you use the template as is. This meant I had to come up with my own template from scratch and modify it for each of our sites. That was until Joomla Bamboo came out with the Zen Grid theme. The framework of this template is amazing and the grid system has proven perfect for ANY custom layout and there is no code bloat whatsoever. There are many templates made for the everyday Joomla! user, but this one was made for the custom template designer.

JCE (Joomla! Content Editor)

JCE has all of the features I could ask for in a WYSIWYG. I personally don’t need a rich text editor as I usually have [show/hide] enabled and set as HTML, but this is heaven for client training. Things that are made dramatically easier by JCE:

  • Uploading Images, Resize Images, Create Thumbnails
  • Uploading and linking to files
  • Linking to Content (Even K2) or Menu Items
  • Inserting HTML code snippets and  Content Templates

I frequently use it to paste Microsoft Word formatted content using the “paste from word” feature before editing the HTML in my local HTML editor. This effectively strips all of the ugly Microsoft HTML.

JoomlaPack – Site and Database backups for Joomla!

JoomlaPack makes it simple to back your Joomla website, database or both in about two clicks. The project is now called akeebackup and the code has been updated, but I still use the good old JoomlaPack since it has never given me any problems.

Website Name plugin

This is a simple plug-in that allows you to display your website name before or after the page title with a separator of your choice. If I do not plan to use an SEF component, I will use this to at least ensure the site title is included on every page.

CacheCleaner – Clean your Joomla cache quickly

Anybody who has enabled the system cache plug-in knows that it is easy to forget to clear the cache after making an edit. You refresh the page a few times and scratch your head. When you finally figure it out, you have to go through a few steps to get to the cache setting, select all and delete. This plug-in appears at the top of your admin theme as a link. One click and all of your cache is cleared. Peter has even customized it to ensure proper compatibility with APLite and other admin themes. NoNumber makes a long list of great tools, 5 of which are included in this post!

Tier2 Essentials

These items depend on the size of the site or specific needs, but are still used for more than 80% of my sites.

K2 CCK for Joomla

With all of these great extensions, it is impossible to pick a favorite because they are all my favorite in their individual category, but K2 has probably had the most significant affect on the quality of my Joomla websites. This component is so versatile, that you can use it for almost anything. Of course there are a few things that I wish could be changed, but when somebody gives you an excellent tool, you can always find a way that could make it better for you. Take the iPhone as an example… I plan to post tons if tips and tricks to help take advantage of the power of K2 with examples, but for now, take a look at JoomlaBamboo, JoomlaPraise, AdminPraise and ProjectFork. They have all converted to K2 for their website content.

Simple Image Gallery Pro by Joomla Works

This is a great solution for multiple small photo galleries; By far the easiest to train a customer to update. If you want to take advantage of the photo gallery functionality of K2, this plug-in is required.

Artio JoomSEF

While more people seem to lean towards the free SH404 SEF, I prefer to pay for Artio JoomSEF (pay to remove “powered by”). SH404SEF does have some nice security features, but I like the functionality and options available in JoomSEF. I would almost call it a toss up between SH404, aceSEF and Artio. My last two sites used aceSEF and the only problem that I have with it is the way the K2 plug-in handles URLs and categories by default. The problem only arises when creating static pages using K2. I usually place it in a category called content and the URL includes the category. This can easily be alleviated by manually modifying the SEF URL’s and is not a daunting task as long as the site is small.

Add To Menu

Easily add a menu item while adding or editing a content item without leaving the edit screen. This makes it easy for me to teach my customers how to create a direct link to a new content item without fiddling with the menu manager.

Advanced Module Manager

I still like using MetaMod for my advanced module placement, but this is not about what I like. This is about what is easy for my client to modify and keep updated. Unfortunately, none of my customers know PHP or understand code logic, so this is the best alternative. This plug-in allows you to specify where a module should appear. You can select a component, a menu item and children, mimic the settings of a different module (for grouping) and determine whether or not to show to logged in users or the public.

ReReplacer

This component is amazing and can do a lot including remove component footers for users who don’t know how to edit the code, but I generally use it for a very simple purpose. Some of our sites have HTML separators that usually consist of a div with a css class to include a background image or border and spacing or a float clear. I setup a replace item so that all my client has to do is type {spacer} wherever they would like this complicated container to appear. I also use it to place flash headers in HTML modules so that the user does not accidentally edit the module with the WYSIWYG enabled. This will remove all javascript from the code, break the flash header, and result in a phone call or email that starts with “I don’t know what I did wrong, but…”

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Tarik Assagai
Tarik (@tarik916) is a web developer and owner of ACS Digital Media, a Sacramento based web development agency specializing in open source CMS systems. If you are looking for support for your current or upcoming projects, visit www.acs-digital.com.

10 Comments

  1. kalqlate /

    Nice list! Thanks!

    Regarding CCKs: I know you’re much to invested now to consider a different CCK, but… I started out with K2. I was three or four days into the excitement when I discovered that more and more of the plugins that I wanted to use were not compatible because K2 does not use Joomla’s core article, but instead has rolled their own for which plugin, component, and module components have to write custom code to make their products compatible. Even within the K2 support forums, when a few users have asked, “What can we do to get this or that plugin compatible with K2?”, the response from K2 was, and I quote, “the best we can advise is that you request the author to make it compatible with K2″. This solution would be fine in a world where there is not a great alternative, but this is not that world. My CCK of choice:

    jSeblod

    See a comparison chart here:

    http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=0AgzjuzpOC8AqdEdWSE54Y2VxLV9xbWxDclZfU3lrQ1E&hl=en_GB&single=true&gid=0&output=html

    Yes, K2 is a bit easier to use, but I would rather invest my time learning in the early getting-to-know-you phase rather than meet frustration with incompatibility somewhere down the road.

    ??? The following comment is easy for someone to misconstrue: “…ake a look at JoomlaBamboo, JoomlaPraise, AdminPraise and ProjectFork. All of their content and layouts are handled through K2″

    It would be clearer if you had added “.com” to each of those names while further stating, “All of their contents and layouts OF THEIR WEBSITES are handled through K2.” Otherwise, it might be misinterpreted at first, like by me, to mean that these projects are BASED ON K2.

    http://twitter.com/projectfork/status/11225619719266304

  2. tarik916 /

    Thank you for your input and the link to your spreadsheet. jSeblod CCK looks very flexible and I will have to revisit their component. I have corrected my statement about the template companies use of K2. :)

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