Turbocharge Your Joomla Admin

This tutorial is brought to you courtesy of Andria Duncan from Crypticsites.com

A new Joomla! installation is fun, though challenging, maybe even intimidating if you haven’t done it before – freshly installed, Joomla! is a blank canvas, a frame on which you hang your content, but there’s just so much OF Joomla!, it can seem quite daunting.  In over six years of setting up quite a few Joomla! sites from the ground up, I’ve learned how to do it quickly and effectively, and which extensions – components, modules, plugins, and templates – will easily and efficiently both a) get the site up and running, and b) keep it that way.

This article assumes you understand how to install extensions via the Extension Manager. Unless otherwise noted, all extensions mentioned in this article are free joomla extensions, and with one exception, all the URLs point to that extension's page in the Joomla! Extensions Directory, a/k/a the JED. If you like any of these extensions, be sure to rate it at the JED, maybe leave some positive feedback – authors love that. ;)

Ease of Use Joomla Extensions

turbocharge-your-joomla-administration1) Admin Forever

After installation, once you’re done with the basic Global Configuration, the very first thing you should install is a plugin to keep the back-end session handler from logging you out – which can happen at the most inopportune times, like when you’re composing a long article, it takes longer than the session lifetime, and you hit “Save” only to be logged out without any saving taking place – oops, there went your article, and it’s infuriating; to stop it, install Admin Forever (J!2.5/J!3). Once it’s installed, visit Plugin Manager and enable it.

2) Admin Bar Unlocker

Next, install the plugin Admin Bar Unlocker (J!2.5/J!3), because if your site has more than one page, there will undoubtedly come a time when you need to look at some portion of the site besides the one you’re currently working on, and Joomla!’s default is to lock the Admin Bar menu once you’re actually editing something.  Actually you can install this plugin at the same time you install Admin Forever and then visit the Plugin Manager to enable them both at the same time – more efficient.

3) VTEM Admin Template

Now, for a huge time-saver: install the admin template VTEM (J!2.5 only as of Oct 18, ’13), which is faster and far more intuitive to use than any of the pre-installed admin templates, in fact a much better Joomla! admin template than any I have ever used. If you’re already using Joomla! 3.x, you’ll have to be patient, as the author hasn’t yet released a version of this template for J!3 (but the J!3 default admin template (Isis) isn’t too bad – in fact, if you’re using a Warp Framework template in J!3 (like mine), Isis is the only template that will show the back-end template config properly – Hathor won’t show it at all – so we’ll hope that when VTEM is finally released for J!3, it will handle the back-end template config for Warp templates). vtem admin template

4) Joomla Content Editor

The next time-saving, labor-saving extension to be installed is JCE (Joomla! Content Editor) (J!2.5/J!3) -- it is simply the best text editor available for Joomla!, bar none – it has a built-in file manager, which makes adding images and links a BREEZE – I could not run any kind of Joomla! site without this editor.

After installing it, go back to Site/Global Configuration, and the first tab, “Site,” and in the selectbox for default editor, set it to JCE– that way all places in your site that use a text editor – articles, HTML modules, and everything else – will use JCE instead of the default TinyMCE.

Once you have JCE enabled site-wide, go back to Components/JCE Editor/Global Configuration, and in the second section, “Formatting and Display,” change “Reset Editor Styling” to YES, and in the next box, “Editor Style,” change it to DEFAULT – this way, the editor will always appear with black text on white background – otherwise, the editor will use the site’s template’s colors, and that’s usually not advantageous in the back-end, especially if your site has a dark background.

Joomla Security Extensions

5) Admin Tools

It’s time now to consider your site’s security, and I can tell you from personal experience that Joomla! sites do get hacked – Joomla! is so popular, it’s easy for hackers and spam-vandals to find them, and if you’re not right on top of updates for Joomla! and ALL your extensions (and sometimes even when you are!), you’re a sitting duck without Admin Tools (J!2.5/J!3) -- that link is for the free “core” version of Admin Tools, and it protects pretty darn well.

6) Admin Tools Pro

There is also a “Premium,” subscriber’s version, Admin Tools Pro, which protects a great deal more thoroughly, AND gives you access to the support forum for the period of your subscription.  I very,very seldom ever pay for Joomla! extensions, there are just so many good free extensions, but I have to say that the cost for a year’s subscription is a) very reasonable (20 Euros, about $25 US), and b) MORE than worth it, given 1) the frequency that hacks are attempted on Joomla! sites, and 2) this program’s efficacy in repelling would-be hackers. I have no stake in it, but if ever a program was worth paying for, this is it! Not only is the Pro version more detailed and thorough in what and how it protects, the support forum is excellent. Both versions have full, clear docs for setting up this very comprehensive program.

Joomla akeeba admin tools

7) Akeeba Backup

Of course, there’s no such thing as perfect security – at some point, someone will get through even the most stringent security measures, or there will be some other catastrophe that will wipeout your site – a host/server gets hacked, or you install some extension that completely wrecks your site – it’s happened to me more than once! So, to guard against those FUBAR events, you really need Akeeba Backup (J!2.5/J!3).   That’s the free, “core” version; there is a subscriber’s version, but I’m not sure what the benefits are, to subscribing for that – front-end/scheduled backups, maybe, and/or being able to bend the developer’s ear in his forum – so far, the free version has been all that I require.

Akeeba Backup also supports another function: site transfers, and does it seamlessly with its ability to exclude database tables – like, the user tables. What this means is that if you need to do a full re-design of your site, or you’re installing some new template or other extension and want all the setup for it to be “behind the scenes,” you can 1) do a full backup of your real site, excluding the user tables; 2) use Kickstart, Akeeba’s restoration program, to restore the site on a different (sub)domain; 3) do whatever you need to do to the site on that different (sub)domain, then 4) do a full backup of it, minus the user tables, and 5) use Kickstart to restore the updated/amended site to your real domain – all without disturbing any of your user data.  Akeeba/Kickstart’s author has a detailed walkthrough of this process on his site, so it’s really easy, and keeps your development efforts out of the public eye until the process is complete.

Miscellaneous Joomla Extensions

There are a few other Joomla extensions which, for various reasons, are much better than either the Joomla! default, or any other available extension.

8) Fox Contact Form

The first of these is the Fox Contact Form (J!2.5/J!3). This is apparently a great deal more secure than the default Joomla! Contacts system – with the default Contacts system, I have received ungodly amounts of spam, and, once, was hacked so severely that someone was able to send out massive amounts of spam with MY email address as the origin. Imagine my delight when my host shut me down.

Fox offers you the choice between a normal captcha box (its own, built-in), or a box which presents a simple math problem, which seems more impervious to bots than normal. Available as both component and module, though the component must be installed to use the module.  I like the module, since you can have a regular, Public page with your remarks pertinent to contacting you, and everyone will be able to see it – but have the contact form as a module just below, with its security set to “Registered,” and folks will have to be registered just to see the form – cuts down on a great deal of spam, when folks know that you know both their email and IP addresses.

A further point about Fox: it’s a lot more than just a Contact Form; in fact it’s a form generator, allowing you to create pretty much any form you can imagine – easy to use, and handy!

9) Joomla Paypal Module

Next, a simple PayPal module, for donations, or whatever; Easy Joomla Paypal (J!2.5/J!3), which may be the simplest-to-setup Joomla PayPal module I’ve ever found.  It’s not fancy, but what it does (accept donations or other payments via PayPal), it does perfectly.

10) Google AdSense Module

For your AdSense javascript, Phoca Google Adsense Easy, or Phoca GAE (J!2.5/J!3); unlike other extensions which purport to let you add this to your pages, this one actually works, and its “module suffix” code also works properly, allowing you to style it to match your other modules.

11) Google AdSense Plugin

For those who'd rather have ads in their content than in a module (or perhaps, both ways!), there is DC Google Ads (J!2.5/J!3), which lets you display your Adsense ads right in your articles.  It's a plugin, in which you specify your client ID, ad slot, height and width of the ad to be shown, and even "channel," though I've yet to figure out exactly what that 'channel' business signifies -- at least, the option is available, if you know enough about Google Adsense to use it.

Now, several extensions primarily to do with the presentation of your site and/or content:

12) Web Fonts

Web Fonts (J!2.5), allows you to use any Google Font your heart desires, if that feature isn’t built-in to your site’s template.

13) Accordian FAQ

Accordion FAQ (J!2.5/J!3), which is by far the easiest way I’ve ever seen to create a FAQ on your site.

14) Remository

Remository (J!2.5 only, as of Oct 18, ‘13), by far the best extension for providing downloadable files on your Joomla website. So far there is no news on when or if this extension will be updated for J!3, so let’s keep our fingers crossed.

15) Quick Cache Cleaning

And one last extension for the road -- Quick Cache Cleaning (J!2.5/J!3), which can be really helpful in any number of situations in which you really need to clear your cache, but it's being stubborn: editing CSS or other base files for your site, installing an update to an extension you already have, and more.  This extension can deliver you from the hair-pulling frustration of a site that seems unable to grasp that you've just updated something!

ExtensionJoomla! VersionType
Admin Forever J2.5 & J3 plugin
Admin Bar Unlocker J2.5 & J3 plugin
VTEM Admin Template J2.5 (as of Oct '13) admin template
JCE J2.5 & J3 component
Admin Tools (core) J2.5 & J3 component
Admin Tools Pro J2.5 & J3 component
Akeeba Backup J2.5 & J3 component
Fox Contact Form J2.5 & J3 component + module
Easy Joomla Paypal J2.5 & J3 module
Phoca GAE J2.5 & J3 module
DC Google Ads J2.5 & J3 plugin
Web Fonts J2.5 (as of Oct '13) component + plugin
Accordion FAQ J2.5 & J3 module + plugin
Remository J2.5 (as of Oct '13) component, asstd. modules
Quick Cache Cleaning J2.5 & J3 module



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