Author: Barrie M. North
Publisher: Prentice Hall, 2011
Aimed at: Joomla! users familiar with HTML/CSS and PHP
Pros: Good introduction and grounding in CMS and Joomla!
Cons: Not for beginners and not deep enough for experts
Reviewed by: Ian Elliot
This is the up-date of a previous edition dealing with Joomla! 1.5. It is important to know that the latest version of Joomla!, i.e. 1.6, is very different to 1.5. If you are wanting to get to grips with 1.5 then the original edition is worth considering: Joomla! 1.5: A User's Guide.
The new edition follow the style and structure of the original. There are one or two places where it is obvious the new edition has been derived from the old, but this isn't a big problem. The first few chapters take you through the basics - what is a CMS, what is Joomla! and installing Joomla!.
Chapter 3 is were we get started on actually using Joomla! and it deals with some common admin tasks. It does take you through the menus but it manages to avoid just providing lists of menu option with pointless obvious descriptions. Even so this is a lightening view of a lot of options and if you are new to Joomla then it might be best to skip large sections until you need to know about the topic they cover.
Chapter 4 starts the explanation of how menus and categories work together to organize your site. It also gives an outline of the various standard modules used to do common tasks in Joomla!. Chapter 5 takes up the thread with a closer look at menus and navigation in general.
By the time you reach the end of Chapter 5 you should have a good grasp of the basic workings of Joomla! - how to create a site with content, menus and structure. Chapter 6 moves us on to consider extending Joomla! This isn't about programming but about installing the range of optional modules, plug-ins and templates. Chapter 7 is all about working with articles using any of a number of possible WYSIWYG editors. It also has some useful advice about content creation in different off line editors.
Chapter 8 could probably be moved further on in the book. It is about getting traffic to your site and is a simple SEO primer. It is no that his is unwelcome information it is just that there is still so much to learn about using Joomla! that details such as SEO could be left until later or possibly omitted.
Chapter 9 gets us back onto the topic of using Joomla! to build a web site. In this case the topic is working with the CSS template to customize the look. In fact it does rather more in explaining the wider issues of creating a template for Joomla!. It mostly explains how all this works using a small example. At this point you need to be happy about HTML, CSS and a little bit of PHP.
The last few chapters in the book show how to create sites of various types using what you already know. Chapter 10 attempts to put the whole thing together with a bigger example - a school site. Chapter 11 does a restaurant site and chapter 12 explains how to create a blog.
The book stops short of showing you how to do anything clever with custom modules or components and this is probably reasonable. However, a more systematic approach to explaining how to create a template would be a better approach than providing the explanation mixed in with case studies. The book also doesn't deal with some very important management topics such as security and backup. The chapter on SEO could easily be dropped and replaced by these more directly Joomla! topics. There is also the issue of the change in level at chapter 9. Up to this point you are simply using Joomla!. After this point you need to know HTML/CSS and a small amount of PHP and yes it is more difficult.
It is clear that this book has attempted to be the first out on Joomla! 1.6 and it suffers from this haste. The main 1.6 documentation isn't even completely prepared yet and so it is still early days. My guess is that the next edition will do the job much better and the author really does need to give it a radical makeover.
Until then if you need a medium level introduction to Joomla! 1.6 this is currently your only choice.