Joomla Administration Explained: A Joomla! 1.5 Admin Tutorial

This is the second in our series of tutorials and guides for how to use Joomla! 1.5. In the previous tutorial, we covered how to install Joomla 1.5. In this tutorial, I'm going to teach you the basic concepts behind the Joomla administration section.

Joomla's admin interface can be overwhelming at times. To be honest, the way some things are organized can be confusing for beginners and may take a while to get used to. I'm going to attempt to help minimize the confusion by guiding you through some of the common tasks you'll face when creating a website.

If you've never logged into the administration section of Joomla, you can find it by typing the URL of your root Joomla directory and then adding administrator/. The login page should appear and you should login using the username and password chosen during installation.

How To Publish Content In Joomla

At its heart, Joomla is a content management system. In most cases, content will refer to individual web pages, though it can also include images, videos, and other types of media. For now, we're just going to focus on written content.

Written content is managed through the content menu in the Joomla. If you hover over the content button in the administration section, you'll see the following menu:

  • Article Manager
  • Article Trash
  • Section Manager
  • Category Manager
  • Front Page Manager

Each article, section, or category will create an individual page on the front end of your website. The beauty of using a CMS is that the program will create each page for you, so no coding experience is necessary. In fact, if you can use Microsoft Word, chances are you won't have a difficult time with Joomla once you learn how to navigate the administration section.

Most of your pages containing written content within Joomla are going to be Articles, but it's important to understand how Joomla organizes the content. Joomla follows a very rigid organizational structure: each article must have a Section and a Category, and each Category must belong to a Section. Visualized in a different way, the content hierarchy is Section->Category->Article.

Sections

Joomla new section

To manage your Sections, use the Content Menu and click on Section Manager. In the upper-right, you'll notice an icon menu of different tasks you can perform on each Section. Below that, you'll see a table listing existing Sections. Most of the columns should be self-explanatory, but let me touch on just a few quick notes.

  • Any section can be edited by simply clicking on the title.
  • You can change the publication status of any section by clicking on the icon in the Published column.
  • The access level can also be changed by clicking on the text in the Access Level column.
  • Filters above the table will allow you to sort by title or publication state.
  • You can perform bulk operations by marking the checkbox next to each Section title and then using one of the icons in the icon menu.
  • Most columns can be sorted by clicking on the column heading text.

Let's create a new section. Click on the icon marked New. On the subsequent page, you'll see that the icon menu has changed. The Save button will save the Section and return to the Section Manager, the Apply button will save the Section and allow you to continue working, and the Cancel button will return to the Section Manager without saving.

The Section Title will be the name of the Section and will also double as the page title. The Alias controls the URL of the Section page and if left blank, will just use the title in lowercase and with hyphens instead of spaces. You can choose your access level, meaning who is able to view your page. You can also select an image to accompany your section.

The description below the section will contain the actual text of your page. You can use the WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor to style your text and insert images and links, much like you would use Microsoft Word.

Again, once you've created and saved a new section, you can edit it at any time through the Section Manager.

Categories

Categories function much the same way as Sections, with only two real differences. First, you access them through the Category Manager instead of the Section Manager. Second, when you create a new Category, you must assign it to a Section. You won't be able to create a Category if you don't have any Sections.

If you find that you want to change the Section a Category has been assigned to, you can always edit the Category and change the Section later.

Articles

Articles are similar in function to the Sections and Categories, but you can think of them as content pages as there won't be any subpages for individual articles. Again, you must assign each Article to both a Section and a Category otherwise it won't be saved.

There are a few options that Articles have that the Sections and Categories don't and you can find those options in the parameters boxes on the right-hand side of a New or Edit Article page.

A few highlights:

  • You can choose the publication start and end dates.
  • Metadata can be customized.
  • Many of the settings in the Advanced Parameters box affect how the Article will display on a Section or Category page.

The Front Page Manager

The front page is like a special section or category that can display articles that are also present in other categories. You can control which articles appear on your front page in the editing screen for each article, or by using the Front Page Manager, which can be accessed in the Content menu in your administration.

Modules And Positions

Joomla modules

Now that you know how to create and organize content, it's important to get an understanding of how content and other important websites pieces are displayed on the public face of your website. We'll cover how to change templates a little later, but for now, what you need to understand that each page on your website is divided into different areas, each corresponding to a page position.

Joomla allows you to publish different content blocks, which Joomla calls modules, to different places on the page. Examples of modules are menus, a latest blog posts widget, a banner ad, a list of articles - almost everything that isn't considered the main content of your page is a module. You can move modules from one position to another and even have multiple modules in the same position.

To access modules, hover over the 'Extensions' button in your main administration menu and click on the 'Module Manager' link. Each module can be edited by clicking on its title or you can create a new module by clicking on the 'New' icon in the icon menu.

When creating a new module, you'll be required to select what kind of module you want to create. Most modules names should be self-explanatory, but some might require a little more investigation.

Every module will have some common settings that will allow you to assign it to a page position, set an access level, and choose which pages the module will appear on (done through the menu assignment box). Some modules will also have custom settings that will allow you to adjust how the module looks and behaves. These settings can be found in the parameters box.

Menus

Menus are one type of module and because a menu will appear on almost every type of website, menus are given special treatment in Joomla. You can access menus through the main administration menu.

It can be a little tricky when you're trying to edit or create menus at first, mainly because the Menu Manager only allows you to edit the name, title, and description of a menu. Other menu settings can be accessed by finding the name of the menu you want to edit in the Module Manager and then clicking on the name.

If you actually want to add, edit, or delete menu items, you'll have to do that through the link labeled with that specific menu's name, which should appear beneath the Menu Manager in the main administration menu. The resulting screen is the Menu Item Manager for that menu.

When you create a new link, you'll be given several options as to the type of link that you want to create. Internal links will allow you to link to other pages within your website and External links let you list any URL that you want as a menu item, whether it's your website or someone else's. The Separator adds a special separator between links and choosing Alias allows you to create another link to an existing menu item, which can be useful for SEO purposes.

Once you've selected your link type, you'll be prompted to enter a title (which is the link text), choose which menu you want it added to, select a parent item, and set an access level. Some link types will also require you to provide additional information in the parameters boxes, like choosing an article or menu item.

Joomla Extensions

Much of the power of Joomla lies in its extensions. What you've installed so far is called the Joomla Core, but you can expand what your website can do far beyond the abilities of the Core through various extensions.

Joomla has 5 types of extensions: Components, Modules, Plugins, Languages, and Templates. You're already familiar with modules, so in this section, I'll briefly explain what each type of extension is and how to use them.

Installing And Uninstalling Extensions

Joomla extensions

Before I do that, however, let me explain how to install extensions. The Extension Manager can be accessed through the Install/Uninstall Extensions link in the Extensions menu.

The easiest way to install extensions is to upload a package file. No matter what kind of extension you're installing, the package file will be a .zip file, which is a compressed file format. You should not unzip this file on your own. The one exception to this is that some extensions will place multiple .zip files into a single .zip file. In this case, you will first have to unzip the master .zip file and then upload each of the contained .zip files separately.

There are two alternate ways to install an extension: from a directory on your server or from an alternate URL. In either case, you will have to supply the full directory or URL path.

To see a list of all installed extensions of a certain type, use the tabs in the extension manager. If you want to uninstall a specific extension, select it and click on the uninstall menu item in the icon menu. Not all extensions will be able to be uninstalled if they are part of the Joomla Core.

Finding Extensions

I would be remiss if I didn't also mention where you can find Joomla extensions. You can find all types of extensions, with the exception of templates, in the Joomla Extension Directory, which has over 3500 commercial and free extensions, all with the GPL open source license. There are also other extension directories on the web, though the extensions found in them may not necessarily feature the same licensing.

If you're looking for Joomla templates, there are many template galleries, template clubs, and template directories; but you won't find any of them on the official Joomla site. There are quite a number of free templates, but if you can't find what you're looking for, there are also many commercial templates available for purchase. A quick search for Joomla templates on Google will reveal more templates than you'll probably want to look at.

Components

Components are like modules in some ways, but they are usually larger and allow you to do more things. Components generally allow you to add and manage similar items to the database, much like you add and manage articles. Some components come packaged with modules so that they can display the information created by the component on the public part of the website.

Joomla comes with some components pre-installed. I won't go into detail about how to use each one, but they should be similar to what you've already done so far, so the learning curve won't be too hard. I will, however, touch briefly on what each one does.

  • Banner - A banner management system for keeping track of your advertisements or similar banners.
  • Contacts - A simple contact management system that allows for multiple contacts in multiple categories. Great for if you have a larger business or organization.
  • News Feeds - Allows you to integrate RSS and Atom feeds from external sites into your site.
  • Polls - The Polls Manager allows you to add polls to your website. Must be used in conjunction with a module.
  • Search - Shows statistics for searches performed on your website. You must have a search box enabled for this to work.
  • Web Links - Basically another form of a menu, but used to list links in a blog-roll type of list.

There are so many components listed in Joomla's Extension Directory that it would be impossible to list them all here. There are shopping carts, slideshows, video directories, classified ad directories, and almost anything else that you can think of. If you're looking for a specific type of component, you should be able to it quickly by browsing through the extension categories.

Modules

Since we've already covered modules, I'll only share a few notes in this section. Many of the components listed above have a corresponding module, which can be created through the new modules screen.

As a quick tip, if you want to add a block of HTML somewhere on the page, you can do so easily by creating a new Custom HTML module. However, if you want to add PHP, you'll have to code your own module from scratch as the Custom HTML option doesn't allow PHP code.

Templates

Joomla templates

Templates will change the look and feel of your website. It's easy to switch between templates and you can even apply different templates to different pages on your website. You can access your templates through the Extensions menu by clicking on Template Manager.

In the Template Manager, you'll see a list of installed site and admin templates and one will be marked as default. The default template will be applied automatically to all pages on your site unless you specifically set another template to a page.

To change the default template, simply select which template you want and click on the Default icon in the icon menu. If you want to apply a template other than the default template to certain pages, click on the name of the template and select which pages you would like to apply it to in the menu selection box.

Unfortunately, if a page does not exist in one of the menus, you cannot apply a template to it other than the default template. There is no option in the Edit Article screen to select a template. The workaround for this problem is to create a menu in your Menu Manager that is not published and to add menu items to it for the pages you wish to have a different template.

Some template will have parameters that will allow you to change the look or behavior of the template, though not every template will. You can access these parameter through the Edit Template screen. If you know CSS or HTML, you can also edit the template files directly from the administration. Personally, however, I find it much easier to use my code editor.

As a final word about templates: unless you find a template that is exactly what you want, you will probably have to make some changes to the template files. The files will be located in the templates directory in the root folder of your Joomla installation. You'll want to edit index.php to make changes to the HTML and the CSS files will be in the CSS subdirectory.

Plugins

Plugins provide additional bits of functionality for your Joomla website. You can think of them as little robots (they used to be called mambots) or scripts that don't do much by themselves, but when they are integrated into the system, they make it run all that much better. You can view a list of your plugins, edit them, and enable or disable them through the Plugin Manager, which is accessible through the Extensions menu. For the most part, however, you shouldn't need to worry too much about your plugins unless you install a component or module that also requires a plugin to function.

Languages

Joomla languages

Joomla has over 50 language translations for its administration and front-end. You can set the default admin and site language in the Language Manager. It's important to note that while a translation may exist for the Joomla Core and the default extensions, it may not exist for every extension you have installed. Some extensions come with additional translations, but many do not and you will have to adjust your site accordingly.

Additional Joomla 1.5 Tips And Tricks

I'll close this tutorial with a few additional things you'll probably want to know about the administration section of Joomla.

  • You can change the meta data for the front page by going to Site->Global Configuration. The site tab will contain the defaults.
  • If you're tired of getting logged out of the admin section every 15 minutes, change the session lifetime in the Session Settings box in the System tab, available through the Global Configuration.
  • Make your site a little faster by enabling GZIP compression in the Server tab in the Global Configuration. Your server must support this feature.
  • Additional administrators and other types of users can be added through the User Manager in the Site menu.
  • If you want to change your Joomla admin password (or any user's password), you can do so by editing the user in the User Manager. If you need to reset your super administrator password, this thread explains how to do so.
  • To add images to your articles, upload them through the Media Manager in the Site menu. Once uploaded, they should be available within the article.
  • You can preview the front end of your website at any time by clicking on the preview button in the upper right hand of the admin section.

Up Next

In the next Joomla tutorial, I'll teach you how to create your own Joomla template using CSS, HTML, XML, and a dash of PHP. If you'd like to be notified when future tutorials are published and also receive other Joomla-related news (hint: we'll be releasing some extensions and templates), please sign up for our Joomla newsletter in the sidebar.

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  • Benjamin Kuker

    Benjamin Kuker

    Benjamin Kuker is the co-founder of Virtuosi Media and is married to his beautiful wife, Johanna. He is responsible for the design and maintenance of this website. He enjoys reading, writing, programming, business, sports, and traveling.

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