Last time I looked at Joomla 1.6 it was still in Alpha, now it's all the way to Beta 7, so time to see what's new in the administrative control panel or ACP.
Here's what I'm covering in this post:
- Interface (e.g., buttons, wording)
- Template Manager
- Extension Manager: Update, Manage, Discover, Warnings
I like it! Overall, the layout is the same as Joomla v1.5, and the Blue Stork template is very easy on the eyes and keeps the visual chatter to a minimum. It's there, but it's not in your face.
Not a ton of changes, but what has changed is welcome.
First and foremost. Gone is the "Apply" button. Now users can choose between "Save" and "Save and Exit" when editing articles or working in the various extension managers. A small but very, very welcome change indeed as the "Save" vs "Apply" was not intuitive at all for new users.
In the Article Manager, the button called "Parameters" has been renamed "Options". Again, a simpler term that is more readily understood by new users. Definitely a change for the better.
The Site Maintenance tools have been moved from their own menu item in the ACP to be a sub-menu item under the Site menu item. This move consolidates the global configuration items with the maintenance items. A good decision.
I covered the ACL in depth back at Alpha 2, and from my cursory overview of what's going on in Beta 7, not a whole lot has changed on the surface that I can see. About the only thing I can see that's new is there is now actual help documentation available via the help button. Some of the help is already outdated in that they speak of the "Park Rangers" group which seems to have gone by the wayside in this latest beta version.
The template manager has a new layout. Even back in Alpha 2, the template manager had two tabs "Site" and "Administrator" just like it is in Joomla 1.5. Now, however, the tabs say "Style" and "Templates". Under the Style tab you can assign which template will be the site default for both the front of the site and the backend admin area. Clicking on the name of the style opens up the templates options.
The Template tab shows a list of all the templates along with a preview image. Clicking on the details link brings up more info about the template and links to all the CSS style sheets used in that template. Click on a CSS style sheet name and you can edit it in the inline editor.
What's puzzling is why would the actual style sheets be accessible from the Templates tab? Shouldn't they be accessible under the Style tab? It seems to me that the tab names should be switched, but that's just me.
There is now a dedicated Redirect component. It is designed to keep track of 404 Page Not Found error pages (from expired or deleted pages) to which you can then apply a new page URL that gives users access to either the original page's new location or a new page with an appropriate explanation for the removal.
To test it out, I typed in a nonsense page URL in my local test install, and sure enough, Joomla 1.6 logged the page in the Redirect component. So, yeah, a very good addition to the suite of features.
On a side note: I thought it might be good for redirecting pages with long URLs to shorter URLs, but it doesn't seem to work that way.
Extensions (i.e., modules, plugins, and templates) are the heart and soul of every Joomla install. In the current v1.5 ACP, the Extensions menu item is where these working bits of every Joomla website live.
Frontend developers, like me, spend a lot of time installing and configuring extensions, but until now, the management of extensions wasn't very well defined within the ACP. About the only "management" of extensions was the ability to list extensions by category within the install/uninstall area. If you wanted to see which of your extensions were out of date, you had to visit each extension maker's website for info.
With v1.6, there is now a dedicated extension manager with tabs for Install, Update, Manage, Discover and Warnings.
Install is nothing new, but just to cover our bases here, it allows you to install an extension.
Update is a welcome addition. Within the update tab is a button to "Find Updates" to your extensions. I assume this means it will visit the extension developers' websites and scan for updates to your installed extensions. There is also a button to purge the extensions cache, which is handier than having it under the separate "Tools" menu item.
Manage allows you to publish, unpublish, and uninstall extensions. It also allows you to refresh the cache. How that's different than the Purge Cache option in the Update tab, I'm not sure yet.
Discover looks for extensions that may not have installed correctly, or that have been uploaded as a zip file to some temporary folder and are awaiting installation.
Warnings. Not sure what this is for. I could list extensions that need updating, or maybe it will list extensions that are not fully installed. Perhaps something else? There's nothing within the help documentation at this time that sheds any light on this.
The inline help which was non-existent in the early Alpha, is now starting to fill in nicely. Not much more to say here.
There's a tantalizing mention of the ability to create custom forms in the sample articles that come with Beta 7. Specifically, it says ...
A new forms library makes creating all kinds of user interaction simple.
Unfortunately, there's nothing in the ACP, like a forms component, that I can find. I searched the web as well, but all I found were questions about the forms component and no answers. Anyone with more info please comment!
If Joomla had a built-in component for creating custom forms, that was also relatively easy-to-use, then I'd be thrilled. My fear, however, is that any forms creation component that tries to cover every possible scenario tends to be a configuration nightmare.
So far so good. I like what I see. There's nothing in this Beta that has me screaming "WHY!?" and that's a good thing :)