One of the most time consuming tasks when developing a web site on Joomla is choosing which extensions to use.  The Joomla Extension directory is full of helpful plugins, which ones are the best to use?

Below are my top ten extensions to use with a Joomla site on the 3.4 version.

 

1. Template from Joostrap

Before Joomla switched to the Bootstrap framework for the stock front end and administration templates in version 3, Joostrap published Boostrap based templates for version 2.5 (you can read more on mobile site options here).  They are my go-to for a starting template.  I usually start with a simple theme with no styling and create the design for the site from there.

They also publish several extensions that are compatible with their Bootstrap templates.  This is an important feature, as I mentioned previously, the most frequent issue I’ve run into while developing sites in the past year on Joomla have been conflicts between jquery and css in different extensions and Bootstrap.

If you are looking for responsive themes that have specific styles, Bow Themes and Theme Forest are both good places to start.  I haven’t used a theme from Bow Themes; ; however, I have used several of their extensions which they often incorporate with their themes.  Theme Forest is part of the Envato marketplace that connects developers and users across the world.  There is a wide selection of responsive themes for Joomla designed, both generic and those designed for specific industries.

 

2. JCE Editor for Joomla

This is an absolute must have for every Joomla web site.  JCE is an extension that adds a WYSIWYG editor that is highly configurable.  There are two main features that make this editor stand out above the rest.

The first is the ease of linking to other content within your Joomla site.  If you’ve worked for any amount of time with a Joomla site without it, you know exactly how tedious this can be.  The standard editor will insert hyperlinks, but doesn’t have an easy way to link between content.  Inserting a link as it displays on your site with the SEF url is doable, but an extra step.  Also, if for any reason you change the format of your url, you will have to go back and manually change every occurrence in your site that is linking to it.

JCE Editor stands out by allowing you to link to content on your site by searching for and article (helpful in large site) or listing content sections with categories and then the articles beneath it.  It also lists menu items that you can link to from within your articles.  There are a number of extensions that are compatible with JCE; however, if one is not, you can still make frequently used content within it easily accessible from within JCE by creating menu items which will display in the link selection dialogue box.

The other helpful feature in JCE is the ability to allow different options in the WYSIWYG  editor based on the user group or role.  Read more on how to configure user groups in JCE here.

 

3. sh404SEF

Back in the day, Joomla did not have a native option for configuring search engine friendly urls (something like: yoursite.com/category/your-article-title/.)  and a third party extension was needed to add this functionality.  Joomla soon made SEF urls part of the core platform; however, at this point there were several third party extensions that had not only gained a following, but added options to the SEF components beyond url rewriting.

sh404SEF was one of these components and this, along with JCE, are absolute must-haves for any Joomla site I develop.  If an extension is not compatible with either one, it is not even up for consideration.

What sh404SEF does beyond url rewriting:

  • Allows for highly custom configuration of the structure of the urls, including making it compatible for submission to Google News
  • Allows the customization of urls
  • Generates short urls
  • Generates 404 reports and allows you to specify existing content for those 404’s to be redirected to
  • Allows you to set the meta description and keywords for each page on the entire site from one screen.
  • Integrates with Google Analytics
  • Allows you to custom urls for components and items such as web links
  • Has an option to manage template switching for mobile (this isn’t necessary if the site is responsive)
  • Social SEO options with configuration for Google authorship, Twitter cards, Opengraph, and social sharing
  • Multiple security features

For years, the sales and support of the extension were handled by Anything Digital.  However rhe original developer recently moved the support and download page to his own site at Weeblr.

 

4. Akeeba Backup

Akeeba Backup is another absolute must-have extension.  This extension allows one click backups of your entire Joomla site or you can create profiles to only back up specific areas.  In addition to backing up the site, the Kickstart program allows you to easily reinstall, clone or move a web site to another server.

 

5. Sitemap Extension

This is one that is currently up in the air.   For years, the defacto extension for generating XML sitemaps on Joomla was Xmap.   It wasn’t updated all that often, but it wasn’t really necessary either.  The end of last year, Xmap was discontinued and the project taken down.  You can read more about the saga here.

However, the extension still worked through Joomla 3.3.6.  Taking the jump to 3.4.1 was a problem.  So far, I’ve tried mapX, which picks up Xmap where it left off, and OSmap, another Xmap derivative.  The problem is OSmap doesn’t generate an HTML site map, at all.  Both extensions have to be excluded from sh404SEF to work.  MapX will generate an HTML site, although occasionally it will run into a PHP memory issue.  It will also create an XML sitemap; however, some of the plugins that added the urls for particular components doesn’t work with MapX.  The sitemap for Google News doesn’t work on either of them.


 

The five above are extensions I use regardless of the type of site.  Since migrating to Joomla 3, I find that much fewer third party extensions are needed.  The next five extensions are handy to have in the day to day use of your site.


 

6. Page Preview from NoNumber

The one basic feature that WordPress has that is not part of the Joomla core is a preview function for articles.  For business web sites that have set company information, this isn’t an issue.  For news portals or active blogs where content is published on a continual basis, this is a critical feature.  At least for me anyway, I want to see what it looks like before it goes live.

Page Preview is a plugin that adds a preview button to the article publishing screen that is accessible after the article is saved.  Either save the article as “unpublished” or schedule it for a future date as published and then view.

 

7. Mini Frontpage

What can you do with this module?  Pretty much whatever you want.  It allows you to specify which content you want to display and how and place it wherever you want.  This page is an example.

 

8. Snippets from NoNumber

This is extension is a component and plugin.  It allows you to create text, html, or scripts identified by a snippet label.  That content can then be displayed in any article by placing {snippet label} where you would like it display.  Need to change it?  Just update the content in the Snippet component and it will be changed sitewide.

 

9. Related Items Extended

Joomla has a core feature that will display related items to the current article; however, this module offers a little more control over the display.

 

10. Improved Ajax Login and Register

Every stock Joomla site has a login module.  It has always been part of the core since the days of Mambo.  However, it’s a little boring and sometimes you don’t want a huge block taking up space in your page layout.  This extension has several display options as well as integration with social media logins.

 

Pin It on Pinterest