Since migrating from Joomla 1.0.x to the 1.5 release, I’ve been very pleased with the changes to the platform.  The backend is more straightforward for the end user.

The challenge is finding the right components and plugins to use with 1.5.  I have been using the platform since 2004, beginning with Mambo before the project forked and Joomla was founded.  I had tested countless add-ons and favorite standbys that I used on all of the sites that I developed.

The release of Joomla 1.5 marked a major update to the platform.  So much so that transitioning a site from 1.0.x to 1.5 requires a migration, not just an upgrade.  In addition, many of the pre 1.5 extensions are not compatible with the new release.  So I have to do all of the research on the extensions for 1.5 again.

A client wanted to add a social bookmarking option to the blog section of her web site running on Joomla 1.5.  Adding that functionality is a simple thing, but again the catch is finding the right plugin out of all of those available.  There are 59 extensions for social bookmarking alone in the Joomla extension gallery. That is a lot to sort through to find just the right extension for your site.

Social Bookmarking Criteria

My client’s needs weren’t elaborate, but there were a few criteria that I was looking for in an extension:

  1. The ability to easily enable and disable the bookmarklets for the different sites.
  2. Bookmarklets displayed in a list.
  3. An “Email to a Friend” option along with the bookmarks.  Joomla does have a built-in “Email to a Friend” feature, but rather than having to style the core option to match the bookmarklets, I preferred that it was a built-in option for the plugin.
  4. Since the site was more than just a blog, I wanted the ability to select which content types the bookmarks would display on.

Below is a comparison of the top rated extensions that I tested

Social Bookmarking Plugins Comparison Chart

Extension Name

VS

Addon Type

Icon Listing

Specify Content Areas

License

Select Services to Display

# of svcs

Bookmarks 1.5 Plugin List No GPL No
Notes: Appears to target Chinese sites.
JX Share Link 1.5 Plugin Can choose between a list or drop down. Can exclude by specific article ID’s, but not by category or section GPL Yes 88
Notes: Option to add additional bookmarking sites.   With 88 services listed in the default plugin, one thing I thought was odd was that Twitter wasn’t included.
Sexy Bookmarks 1.5 Plugin List Sort of.  You can’t specify by section or category; however, it does give you the option to choose to display on the front page, articles, and blog layouts GPL Yes.  (One bug with vs 1.05 is that the Linked In and Newsvine options are switched. 23
Notes: The reason these bookmarks are “sexy” is the rollover effects and the option to use either a “Sharing is Caring,” Sharing is Sexy” backgrounds or no background at all.
Joomla Add This 1.5 Module Dropdown Yes, through core Joomla module settings GPL Yes 63
Notes: As the extension is a module instead of a plugin, it requires a module position in the location you would like the share button to display.  The default setting uses the author’s AddThis account and also includes a keyword link back to their site.  If you use this plugin, be sure to set up your own account on AddThis so you can track the analytics.
JBookmarks 1.5 Module List Yes, by selecting the module menu assignment. GPL Yes.  Has an easy radio selection. 54
Notes: Has quite a few German social networking sites.
Ultimate Social Bookmarking Plugin 1.0/1.5 Plugin List Yes.  The plugin has an option for listing categories that you don’t want the bookmarks to display on. GPL Not in the plugin management area.  You have to edit the XML file to change it. 10
Notes: You can add to the list of available bookmarking sites by editing the XML file.

Module vs Plugin

There are two different approaches that the extension developers could take for the social bookmarking functionality: developing the extension as a module or as a plugin.

If you are not that familiar with Joomla, the difference between the two can be a little confusing.

A plugin performs an action on content items.  A module displays existing information.

A plugin’s output is displayed within the content item itself.  A module is displayed in a module location in the template and is assigned by menu items.

So in reference to the social bookmarking extensions, a plugin would display the bookmarks at the bottom of the content.  One developed as a module would display the bookmarks in a module position on the page.

Extension Selected:  Sexy Bookmarks

I chose the Sexy Bookmarks plugin because it met three of the four of my criteria out of the box, and I could make the fourth work with a little CSS manipulation.

  1. Bookmark Selection: Bookmarking services are easily enabled or disabled with radio selectors.
  2. Bookmarklets Displayed in a List:  Not only do they display in a list, but they have cool rollover effects as well.
  3. Email to a Friend:  This was the only extension that I tested that had this feature.
  4. Specify Categories to Display: This was the one criteria that I had to fiddle with to get it to do what I wanted.  The plugin does offer the option to specify the display on the homepage, category lists, or articles; however, it doesn’t give you the option to limit it by category or section.

Fine Tuning the Plugin Display

I got around the inability to specify the display by category or section with CSS.  In Joomla, the displaying of information is controlled by the menu items.  When you set up a menu link, you specify what the name of the link will be, what type of information it will display, and how it will display it.

A cascading  stylesheet  (CSS) basically tells your HTML page how to display specific information.  For example, you could specify in a stylesheet that all heading 2’s (h2) would be 15 points, in the Georgia font, and the color blue.  You could further specify that h2’s with a class of “school” would be orange and those with a class of “work” would be green. (Visit CSS Zen Garden for a vivid illustration of the power of CSS.)

The Joomla menu manager provides the option to specify a page class suffix for each menu item.  Even though the option for a unique ID for each menu item is built in, it isn’t hugely useful in a stock Joomla implementation.  The only place it is output on a page is in the content heading and content page classes, which doesn’t do much for you if you want to style each page differently.

However, there is a way to make that page class suffix more useful.  When designing the client’s site, I coded the body tag to display the page class suffix if one was specified.  This allows for every single page to have a unique ID and to be styled differently.

Since this was already built in to the template, in order to set the bookmarks to only display in the blog section, I set up each menu item related to the blog with the same page class suffix.  Then I set the first CSS definition for the division containing the bookmarks not to display.  The second definiton set the bookmarks to display on any page that had the blog page class suffix.

.sexy-bookmarks {
display: none;
}
body.blog .sexy-bookmarks {
display: block;
}

I know . . . a little convoluted, but it does what I needed it to do.

I hope this review saves someone else time narrowing down extensions.  Which social bookmarketing plugin is your favorite?

 

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