Joomla – The Real Basics.

Joomla is a web design program, but it was created to allow people with little or no HTML knowledge to have an expansive, sophisticated website.

There are plenty of how-to articles for leaning Joomla, further down are some links to Joomla tutorials that are very helpful. This article is about some of the basics of Joomla that are can be a bit harder to discover. First how Joomla differs from using Dreamweaver and second, some Joomla pointers beyond the basics of using Joomla. Remember to scroll down for a boat load of great links to other Joomla related information.

Joomla requires learning. Yes you do have to learn Joomla, it can not be just be downloaded into your brain, no yet anyway! Learning Joomla is like learning any computer program like Word or Excel, but maybe harder, did I say that? Don’t be scared, I was, but I am going to try and make it easier for you with some basic pointers. This is a bit confusing, but bare with me and it will become crystal clear. And I apologize for the alphabet soup of terms, but they are what they are, I can’t change that.

What do those Joomla! Jargon Terms Mean?

Joomla is a CMS – Content Management System, which means that the content (text and images) are stored in files and a template environment is the basis of the website. From the template code the content is called from it’s file to be displayed. Confused yet? Just accept that you can learn it, you didn’t know how to instantly drive a car, do your job, or operate your computer, you had to learn to do these things. Joomla is not a geek coding, scary nightmare, it’s just a matter of learning to run a program, with a little learning you will be well rewarded with an amazing website.

How Joomla differs from Dreamweaver, oh yes, it is different. Joomla is a whole new world, if you try to compare the two, you will just slow down your learning process, they are not the same. Joomla is like any web page creator, it is based in HTML, and it uses CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) to handle the styling, but that’s about where the similarities end. Joomla also has PHP coding to make it capable of handling many types of data and data handling arrangements. Yes, you can add PHP to a Dreamweaver site, but with Joomla other people have already done the work for you, with thousands of pre-made templates and extensions that can turn your Joomla site into a blog, or shopping cart site or membership site and much more. Yes, you can add shopping cart programs, list programs, forums and such to a Dreamweaver site, but with Joomla, the add on of extensions is more seamless.

Okay, to the point, Joomla is not an HTML editor, although it has an HTML/text editor for writing content/articles, but it is used more like a Microsoft Word type program. Joomla is actually a CMS environment. In an advanced HTML editor, such as Dreamweaver, you are working with HTML pages and you use “site manager” to automatically link pages together to form a cohesive website using a template page(s) as a model for each page. Joomla goes beyond static HTML pages and by incorporating PHP coding it also stores data, therefore the terms and arrangements are a bit different from something like Dreamweaver.

How they differ. In Dreamweaver you create (or buy) a template, then each time you want to add a new page, you create a new page using your template page, the “site manager” links all of your pages to the template so that any changes to the template can be shared across all of the pages in your web site with a simple saving option. With Joomla the template is the site, the center piece, therefore pages (called Articles) are added to the template site. Similar, but different.

Think of a Joomla template as a book cover and that you are inserting pages into the book. But that is the confusing part, because Joomla only creates pages when you create a new “Article” for that page, so they call “Article” pages. So if you want a new page, you create a new “Article”. Are you totally confused yet. You should be, it’s totally un-logical, Spock would be reeling in mental conflict, so it’s okay for your head to spin. But hang in there, learning Joomla will be worth it, it opens a whole world of possibilities.

Oh, but that’s not the end, it takes a CAMM quadtrangle to create and display a single web page. Joomla requires the CAMM quadtrangle to link pages and form a website. The CAMM is: Categories – Articles – Menu – Modules. If you think of a CMS more like a filing system it might help. Because your site will be handling, sorting, and displaying data, it needs a filing system. Think of Joomla as preparing you for the future, by categorizing your data, it can be more easily recalled for other needs later.

So, to start, you need “Category” files to store “Article” pages, categories such as groceries, garden center, clothing, housewares and you can then put “Article” pages into the appropriate categories. Categories can be added as you need them. Then you can create an Article page and add it to a category. Finally, before it will be possible to make an “Article” visible on the web, it must be assigned to a “Menu” (navigation). There are a lot of control choices under each of these CAMM options, but those are covered in many Joomla tutorials.

For the final part of the CAMM, “Modules”. Joomla templates are made up of something like tables and cells (for Dreamweaver users) and these cell-like units are called modules. The main “Article” you create is automatically inserted into the “main article” module of a template, but the remainder of your content has to be assigned to locations on the page called modules, so you need to specify into which “Module” the content should be added.


1. Joomla requries PHP script interpreter and MySQL database at hosting service. Thankfully most hosting services have some type of installer that creates these for you, but if you want to DIY, check out XAMPP.

2. There are better HTML/text editors available than what comes with Joomla.
JCE Editor –
If you are running Mountain Lion on your Mac, the file will probably get unzipped on download, so you will probably have to re-zip it to upload it to your Joomla extensions collection.
Add JCE Editor (Free) – After upload, go into “Global” on your Joomla control panel and change from the TinyMCE editor that comes with Joomla.
With the JCE Editor you can easily work with HTML. To work with HTML, in tiny letters, above the tool bar, is “Toggle Editor” or there is an icon on the tool bar (at this writing, third row down, fifth icon from the left).
There is a “for cost” editor, JCK Editor:

3. When using your text editor to add content, when using copy and paste, be sure to chose the option “Paste as plain text” so that no extra formatting is brought over.

4. Extensions come in various sizes. Component (large) Module (medium) Plugin (small). There are 5 types of extensions: components, modules, plug-ins, templates and languages.

5. Do not use photos on your website that are significantly larger than what you need, while you can size images down, they will still be stored at the original size and slow down your site’s page load speed.

Joomla Tutorials:

I would recommend setting up website and working with the Joomla tutorials as you go through them. If you are not ready to commit to a web hosting service, there are some hosting services that offer a free trial, usually 7 days, so learn fast.

When working with a website, along with a tutorial, have a few pictures available on your computer, anything will do, pet and family pictures, just whatever. And there is a website that has text filler content.

Here are some of my favorite tutorials.

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2013 – v3 – These are each about an hour long. target = blank target = blank – Joomla! 3 Essential Training is a for fee tutorial series; however, there is a free trial period, also there are many excerpt from the Lynda.come video tutorials available for free on youtube.
YouTube Search Results for “Joomla Lynda”.

2012 – v2.5 – These are each about an hour long. target = blank target = blank – Build A Joomla Website

Joomla Template Creators:

For users with a basic understand of HTML and CSS, these programs give the user more control over the design of their website. (No useable Mac version)

Joomla Templates:
Many Joomla template sites offer various other services and extensions.

Joomlart has a super trial program that allows people to practice working with Joomlart templates on their site for free.

JoomlaShine has a free Joomla environment modification extension.

Free Joomla Templates & Other Tutorials:
Many hosting services offer free Joomla templates.

Joomla! for Beginners
Best of Joomla

SiteGround – has free Joomla templates and tutorials.
SiteGround Tutorials
SiteGround Templates

How to Edit Joomla Templates in Dreamweaver:

There are many sources, here are a couple of examples to get you started. Bright Hub
Building Joomla Templates with Dreamweaver

Joomla Extensions Library:

This is on the Joomla site and accessible from any Joomla control panel, but this is a link to the Joomla Extensions Library.

Other sources:
Joomla Website
Compare Joomla v WordPress
Site builder shootout: Drupal vs. Joomla vs. WordPress
CNet – Joomla
Subscribe to the Joomla! Community Magazine
Restoring a Joomla 2.5 Site Using Akeeba Backup
Joomla Tribune
Joomla Books

Website Magazine