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Experts sharing their tips to master Joomla (and their favorite Joomla development tools too)

Experts sharing their tips to master Joomla (and their favorite Joomla development tools too)

I remember reading somewhere: Getting advice from the experts is like finding money in your pants on wash day. Well, I guess the feeling is pretty much the same, do you agree?

Joomla has been improved to become more and more easy to use (many are nodding reading this). However, it would be much easier if you have advice from the gurus to learn and tweak the best out of Joomla – or in other words, work with Joomla more effectively, right?

That’ why this time I knocked on Joomla experts’ door to collect their best Joomla tips and daily tools they work with to build things with Joomla for you. Sending my biggest thanks to all Joomla superstars in this article for your helpful tips ;)

Soren Beck Jensen: “If it can be done with Joomla core do it with Joomla core”

Joomla tips from experts

"What I mean is that sometimes we think we have to install Joomla extensions for everything and sometimes we do not need to. Joomla is capable of quite a lot of things in the core and it is a lot easier to only have to upgrade and maintain Joomla when new versions come out. So check if it might be possible to do what you need with Joomla, if not, then go look for an extension or build your own.

As for favourite Joomla development tool, then I might be a bit biased but it really is my favourite development tool. Component Creator allows you to develop a custom Joomla component in minutes.

So if the functionality is not available in the core of Joomla then you can often build it using Component Creator. We use it ourselves all the time and it really saved us many hours of development time.

I am not saying that you should re-invent the wheel every time you need something that goes beyond the Joomla core, there are also many times that we use a 3rd party extension that fits the needs we have. But if we cannot find something that does what we need (or if they are of too poor quality) we typically develop our own component using Component Creator."

Peter Martin: “Experiment [Joomla] with different settings”

Joomla tips from experts

"To learn Joomla properly, install Joomla on a local PC (e.g. using XAMPP) with example content (e.g. Learn Joomla English) and experiment with different settings. When it's installed locally, you can easily add images to the /images/ folder, and look at files/directory structures.

When developing a new website, install it without any content and alongside an example website.

IMHO it's easier to add only the content (categories + articles + menu items) that you need, then to remove all example content. You can use the example website to look at how components/modules are used and settings have been configured."

Here are the tools Peter uses with Joomla:

"Akeeba backup: A great backup component that I use to move the websites that I develop locally to my client’s web server.

A browser like Chrome or FireFox with Inspector to inspect the HTML/CSS of your website. If you want to make small changes in the layout of your website, you've to know what to edit. A HTML inspector is very useful for that.

An Integrated Development Environment (IDE) to inspect the HTML/CSS/PHP code of Joomla. When you develop extensions or want to tweak templates, a good editor is essential. Netbeans is a decent free IDE available for Apple, Linux & Windows. I use PHPStorm (paid IDE) available for Apple, Linux & Windows.

db8 Site Dev (blatant self-promotion, I've released this free component 2 weeks ago :-): A free Joomla 3 component for web developers to improve their workflow. You can create your own checklist of all the things that you have to do for your website. Also, it helps import/export your checklists to your other websites.

The extension includes a default "Website Check List" that you can import to have a checklist with everything that you'll need to do before launching your Joomla website."

Cliff Pfeifer: “The best way to use Joomla is to take full advantage of the core features first”

Joomla tips from experts

"Taking the time to learn how to use Joomla properly is critical, especially for new users. The Joomla core is very powerful and it can do more than even many experienced users believe. Too often, I see people installing unnecessary extensions to add functionality that Joomla already offers simply because they don’t understand how to use Joomla.

This creates security and maintenance issues, it also adds more learning curves and creates complications that may have serious consequences later on, particularly during updates. In my opinion, the best way to use Joomla is to take full advantage of the core features first and then add extensions when they become necessary.

A good exercise is to build a Joomla website with no extensions and see how much you can do with a core installation - you might be surprised at how much Joomla can do by itself in display content or SEO performance. You’ll learn about what it can do and what it can’t do, what it’s good at and what it’s not good at.

This is valuable knowledge. Most Joomla installations will always need at least a few extensions, and the Joomla extension community offers many amazing products and solutions, but extensions always do more for you when understanding why you need them and how they work within Joomla. This approach also keeps your website more secure and makes updates easier, which are two important aspects of Joomla that many of our current users struggle with.

[About my favourite tools], being an advocate of using Joomla core features, I try to keep my tools and extensions to a minimum. There are a handful of them that I always use, such as Akeeba Backup and Admin Tools, those two alone provide an indispensable set of tools for administration, security and maintenance.

I primarily use Gantry 5 framework to build my templates, often through custom implementations of the base Hydrogen template that’s included. Most everything I do is custom and the integration of a SCSS processor and TWIG/YAML templating provides a lot of flexibility and customization options that are second to none in my opinion.

It has a big learning curve, but it’s worth the time to learn. The speed is incredible and the interface is slick. It is built to operate as a stand-alone and cross-platform solution, which is also great, but I don’t feel the integrated content features are an ideal solution for the Joomla core. Purely in terms of front-end design and template functionality, I can never say enough good things about it.

I use a few other RocketTheme extensions, such as the RokPad code editor. However, I generally try to teach my clients how to use the core Joomla editor which has improved significantly over the past few years. I always encourage Joomla users to give it chance before installing 3rd party WYSIWYG editors.

I’ve been through many form components over the years and right now I’m using RSForms for forms.

Recently I’ve found Seblod to be extremely valuable, particularly on websites that need advanced CCK features with front end content entry and searches - such as directories and listing websites. Seblod adds many powerful features to Joomla by building on top of the Joomla core which an approach that I love.

It’s not something I always need to use but it is very useful in certain scenarios. It is complex and has a big learning curve, but that’s true with any powerful tool. I’ve built some incredibly complex websites in Joomla that wouldn’t have been possible without it in a relatively easy way.

Other than that I try to stick to the Joomla core as much as possible. I use various desktop and internet tools for many different tasks every day.  While my toolset is always changing, I cover some of them in more detail during my JCW 2015 presentation. The video and more information are found on my website".

Now, your turn

What tools have you been using with your Joomla website development? Do you have any other tips to work with Joomla more comfortable? Share with other fellow Joomlers here!

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Don’t forget that you can always ask us to write about Joomla topics which you like too. Just leave us some words in the comment section below! Or tweet me @vivianjsn any time.

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