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Our Favorite Joomla! Extensions

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04 November 2009

Joomla! Extensions

We recently had the honor of speaking at the Austin JUG (Joomla! Users Group). Inevitably, when we open up to Q&A after any presentation, one of the first questions is "What Joomla! extensions do you install on every site?".

Here's the list of extension/templates/tools we use and recommend in no particular order.

  • JCE (Free/GPL/Commercial Addons) - Arguably the best Joomla! extension, the JCE wysiwyg text editor is far superior to the default TinyMCE editor that comes with Joomla! A modest subscription is required for members only addons and is a must. With the subscription, you get advanced Image, Document, Media, and Template Managers.
  • NinjaXplorer (Free/GPL) - A file browser admin component, NinjaXplorer allows quick access to your files/directories right in your Joomla! admin. We like NinjaXplorer so much we added special styles in our admin templates to enlarge the code area.
  • AdminPraise Lite (Free/GPL) - We're not alone in the fact that our admin templates (especially our free AdminPraise Lite) are one of the first things installed on a new Joomla! install since they speed up development so much. We always install the following AP Lite modules as well:
    • Activity Log (Free/GPL) - Activity stream for administrator activity. The free version is limited to tracking content. The Pro version tracks all core components.
    • My Editor (Free/GPL) - Quickly change or turn off your editor - huge timesaver
    • Session Bar (Free/GPL) - An animated countdown of your session, which lets you know if it has expired while writing an long article
    • AP Lite Icons (Free/GPL) - Shortcut icons to tons of admin links and the ability to quickly create custom links
  • JoomlaPack (Free/GPL) - Automate site and database backups and easily migrate from one server to another - solid gold.
  • Xmap (Free/GPL) - Still the king of Joomla! sitemap generators. Xmap automates sitemap creation and provides a Google Sitemap xml link.
  • sh404sef (Subscription/GPL) - By far the best and most powerful Joomla! SEF (Search Engine Friendly) url component.
  • PraiseURL (Free/GPL) - If you're using SEF, you still want to create internal links with the original Joomla! url to avoid future broken links. PraiseURL is a handy module to reveal the Joomla! url while SEF is turned on.

Here's our list of recommended Joomla! extensions for specific solutions:
  • K2 (Free/GPL) - The most popular new CCK component for Joomla! K2 eliminates the need for installing specialized components for catalogs, blogs, and any type of content since you can customize the fields/features for each type of content you create.
  • JomSocial (Commercial/Custom License) - The killer Joomla! social network extension.
  • Community ACL by corePHP (Commercial/GPL) - Gives ACL control that Joomla! badly needs.
  • JomComment (Commercial/Custom License) - Still the best Joomla! comments extension, though new entries like the Disqus integration via this free plugin, and built-in comments in CCK like K2 and the upcoming Joomla! 1.6 may change the game.
  • iJoomla SEO (Commercial/Custom License) - An incredible Joomla! SEO tool. Too many features to list here, read our review.
  • jTweet (Free/GPL) - The best module for attractively displaying your latest tweets.
  • Stalker Module (Free/GPL) - Great module for quickly publishing links to all your various social networks.
  • Global News Module (Free/GPL) - Extremely versatile module that allows multiple section/category inclusion, and lots of display options.
  • SuperBlogger Plugin (Commercial/GPL) - If you'd like to use core Joomla! content for your blog, the SuperBlogger Plugin will quickly add some dynamite blog features.
  • Sourcerer (Free/GPL) - Great for including PHP or HTML code in Joomla! content. The developer, NoNumber, has a bunch of really cool Joomla! tools.
  • All Videos (Free/GPL) - Quickly and easily embed videos from any source, local or 3rd party like YouTube, Vimeo, etc.
  • Simple Image Gallery (Free/GPL) - Galleries are no longer a weak spot in Joomla! With SIG you can create a lightbox image gallery in content by simply uploading images into a new directory. Everything's automated. If you need a full blown gallery check out PhocaGallery. Alternatively, there are 2 new very cool commercial galleries, Ignite Gallery & JPhoto.
  • EventList (Free/GPL) - The easiest event manager for Joomla! JCal Pro still reigns the full blow calendar arena.
  • Event Registration Pro (Commercial/GPL) - Currently RegPro is the best option for event registration. The latest release has its own calendar, which is a very necessary and nice addition.
  • JFBConnect (Commercial/GPL) - The most powerful Facebook Connect extension that integrates into JomSocial and Community Builder.

The Joomla! ecosystem is alive and constantly evolving. Here are some new and noteworthy mentions that may change your day to day Joomla! life:
  • Morph - If you follow us on twitter, you know we're big fans of the incredible undertaking by Prothemer (the JoomlaJunkie team). Morph is a framework that helps template devs by providing all the JavaScript, layout, and other goodness which allows the designer to actually focus on the design. Morph helps end users because it provides parameters (options) for just about every detail of the template you can imagine, and probably a lot more.
  • Nooku - If you're a Joomla! programmer, look into the Nooku framework. It's spearheaded by Johan Janssens, the lead architect of Joomla! 1.5, and radically optimizes Joomla! extension development. Many prominent developers have already adopted it.

Joomla! is a fantastic CMS, but we sometimes prefer solutions outside of Joomla! instead of cramming massive systems into Joomla! There are so many fantastic solutions our there these days you'd be foolish to ignore them because they're not Joomla! native.
  • phpBB3 - Arguably the best forum out there. We've used it for our forum for a long time. Use RokBridge to sync your Joomla! users. If you must have a native Joomla! forum, Kunena is the biggest and NinjaBoard is the most promising newcomer.
  • PollDaddy - Incredibly nice polls that are super easy to embed in your Joomla! site. The default Joomla! polls are lacking. PollDaddy also offers surveys, which are perfectly suitable for contact forms. We use both.
  • Magento - By far the best open source ecommerce system. We've never been big fans of VirtueMart. Your store is obviously important for making money, why not use the best system for it?
  • Foxycart - For a simple lightbox cart, check out Foxycart and JoomExtend's integrator.
  • WordPress - No arguement that WordPress is the best blogging solution out there. MyBlog is available if you want Joomla! native multi user blogs, and there's even a WordPress integration for Joomla! if you need integration.
  • Ning - Ning is the total social network solution that's extremely easy to use and quick to deploy. If you don't need to granular control or integration of JomSocial and are tight on a budget, Ning's worth a closer look.

Here's more of our own Joomla! extensions we always install, but I didn't want to make this article all about us :)
  • TPI (Commercial/GPL) - A more sophisticated Template Parameters Interface that's compatible with any frontend OR backend template.
  • PraisePositions (Free/GPL) - Reveal the module positions of the active template without needing to type tp=1

While we're at it, here are some desktop & online applications the team uses on a daily basis:
  • Adobe Fireworks - The quintessential web designer's tool. If you design websites in Photoshop, you're living in the 90s. Tons of software is not moving online in the browser, but this is the one application we must have. That being said, all the online tools from Aviary are looking extremely promising.
  • Adobe Dreamweaver - Gary loves Dreamweaver when chopping up our designs into templates. The Joomla! Dreamweaver code snippets make his life easier.
  • MacRabbit Espresso - Since my Mac migration, I've fallen in love with this undeniably Mac web development app.
  • TweetDeck - If you're using a PC, TweetDeck is the best choice for accessing Twitter.
  • Tweetie - By far the coolest Mac Twitter app.
  • Firefox/Chrome - Firefox is the workhorse browser with all its wonderful addons. When Firefox gets bogged down with addons, we use Google Chrome (I use the Mac developer version) for quick browsing.
  • Google Apps - We've always used Gmail and jumped on Google Apps as soon as it was released.
  • Jing Pro/Screenflow - We use Jing Pro for quick tutorials and Screenflow on the Mac for more control and options.
  • MAMP/XAMPP - Local Joomla! site development is absolutely key for template & extension developers.

When looking for new Joomla! extensions, we use the following:
  • Joomla! Extensions Directory - Obvious choice, but the search isn't so great, so we always do a google search like project manager
  • CMS Market - An emerging directory that features Joomla! extensions and templates, along with those of other CMS's. Disclosure: we were involved in the launch of this site.
  • BestofJoomla - Known for their extensive listing of Joomla! templates, BestofJoomla now also has an extensions directory.
  • iJoomla's Commercial Extension Directory - Many commercial extensions aren't fully GPL (that's another discussion), so it's helpful to find them here.
  • CMS Extensions - has a growing list of Joomla! extensions as well.
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