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While Joomla is the best Web Building Tool available today (free or otherwise), it still suffers from a few shortcomings. Thankfully, nearly all of these can be overcome by adding Extensions from the Joomla Extension Directory. Below is a summary of how to evaluate Joomla extensions followed by a list of my ten favorite extensions – all of which we describe in detail in later articles on this website.
The Joomla Extension Directory
There are over 8,500 extensions available – divided into dozens of categories, with thousands of reviews and comments: http://extensions.joomla.org/extensions
Types of Extensions
There are three main types of Joomla extensions
Plug Ins are reached and configured via the Plug In Manager. These are very small bits of code typically inserted into articles. They are indicated by a purple P next to the extension name in the Joomla Extension Directory.
Modulesare larger programs controlling Joomla boxes or modules on your website. They are indicated with a Red M next to the Extension name in the Joomla Extension Directory.
Components are often very large programs which often include plugins and modules and may in fact be sub-directories of Joomla adding several pages of options and parameters. These are indicated by a green C in the Joomla Extension Directory. After uploading, all components are reached from the Top Menu Components Icon.
The final type of extensions are Combinations of the above. Typically, they are Components which may also come with associated Modules and/or Plug Ins. They will have a combination of icons next to their name. It may require more than one download to make these work.
While templates are also Extensions, they are not posted in the Joomla Extension Directory. You will also see some extensions listed with an S. This means they are Stand Alone extensions and may work even on websites that are not Joomla websites.
There are many websites which rate Joomla Extensions. However, because new extensions are released all the time, it is a wise practice to go directly to the Joomla Extension Directory and read about all of the available options. Some of the more important criteria to look for include:
Number of Reviews and Review Ratings
The extensions with the highest ratings and most reviews are listed first. These are usually, but not always, your best choice. It is important to read the actual reviews.
Free or Commercial?
Free options can sometimes be better than commercial options. Because the whole point of Joomla is to offer a free open source web building tool, all of the extensions I recommend below are free. Free Extensions are listed as Non-Commercial:
Popular and Editors Pick
These are also good signs. But again, it is important to read the reviews as you will learn not only which extensions have the fewest problems, but also tips for using the extensions.
It is important to read the comments submitted on several options before making your final choice as these may alert you to potential problems. You can have a lot more confidence in an extension with hundreds of reviews than one that has only five reviews. However, newer extensions may still be excellent even though they only have a couple of reviews. It generally does not hurt to download an extension and try it out to see if it solves your problems.
Documentation, Demos and Forums
Extensions which have extensive documentation, demos and forums available are much easier to work with than those who do not.
Top Ten Extensions
Some extensions, like a text editor and file manager, need to be installed right away. Others can be installed as you need them. Below are the ten most important extensions discussed in the order in which we cover them in this website. So below are the ten top extensions we will be discussing on this website – along with a brief description about each. All of these can be found quickly on the Joomla Extension Directory by entering their name in the JED Search Engine.
Number One: JCK Editor
The most highly rated Text Editor is JCK Editor. However, it does not have a SOURCE code button. Quite often below, we will describe making minor modifications to the SOURCE code. We therefore use and recommend the JCK as it has the needed SOURCE button.
Number Two: Extplorer File Manager
Joomla offers several good file managers. This is one of the simplest and most reliable. We will use it mainly for uploading multiple images. These days a common website can have over 100 pages and 1,000 images. You would not want to load them one at a time – which is what you would have to do without a file manager.
Number Three: JoomGallery Slide Show Extension
The problem with most slide show extensions is the difficulty for adding text over images. This extension is one of the best at accomplishing this goal.
Number Four: Q Tube Video Linker
This is one of the simplest extensions for adding videos. It is limited to just loading you tube videos. But this is actually a benefit because You tube pre-screen and optimizes videos. You don’t have to worry about a video crashing your entire website.
Number Five: Breezin Forms – Old Version
Forms are an essential part of an interactive website. Sadly, many Joomla form extensions are either commercial or do not work very well. The old version of Breezin Forms is capable of creating excellent forms and petitions which can transport data directly to the Joomla data base and/or be transported out of Joomla to an Excel spreadsheet.
Number Six: Acymailing Starter
An Email Newsletter is also very important in building a social network. Acymailing has all the advantages of programs like Constant Contact – only it is free! It allows you to create newsletters in minutes and send them to your user groups in seconds.
Number Seven: Kunena Forum
Kunena is an easy to set up and easy to use Joomla Forum. This is particularly important if you want to have an area on your website for folks to ask questions and for others to read. Another aspect of a modern interactive website.
Number 8: Attachments for Joomla
It is important to have a section of your website where folks can go to download PDF’s of your newsletter or other important files. There are more complex and fully featured downloaders available for Joomla – downloaders which allow you to control every aspect of the download page. The best of these is JDownload which we describe elsewhere. But many websites only require a simple PDF downloader. We will therefore cover how to add one of the simplest downloaders to your website. It is called Attachments for Joomla
Number 9: JEvents
If you are with a social organization that has monthly events, this extension can help your members keep track of when and where these events will be.
Number 10: Akeeba Backup
Akeeba Backup is a back-up component for Joomla!. It creates a full backup of a site in a single archive and can be restored by any Joomla! capable server. If your website ever gets hacked and taken down, you will be glad you took the time to create a backup copy of your website.