Introduction To The Joomla Content Management System

Joomla! is one of the most powerful Content Management Systems on the planet. It is used all over the world for everything from simple websites to complex corporate applications. Joomla is easy to install, simple to manage, and reliable, and offers the perfect balance of power, flexibility and ease of use. It is Open Source and free. In this, the first in a series of introductory articles we try to answer some of the most Frequently Asked Questions we get asked when we first tell people about Joomla.

What is a Content Management System - How will it help me?

A Content Management System is a system through which you build and manage your website. Rather cleverly, you use your website to build your website.

A Content Management System separates the design and management of your website and site navigation from the process of entering (and displaying) your content. If you have ever built a website manually, that ran to more than 10 pages, you have probably run into the problems associated with adding new pages, or groups of new pages. It becomes difficult to add your new pages to the menu of every existing page. A Content Management System handles the Menu's, breadcrumbs and any other navigational aids for you. This leaves you (and your team) free to concentrate on your writing.

If you ever decide to change the look and feel of an entire site that was built manually - then you have a really large job on your hands. With a Content Management System or CMS the site is driven by templates into which your content is inserted on the fly. In this way the entire look of your site can be changed with the press of a button.

Other reasons to use a Content Management System like Joomla?

Because a CMS works in a dynamic manner, retrieving your writing from a database and incorporating it into your current template to build your page, there are other things it can do while it is at it. Your main content is integrated into the 'central' part of the page but around the periphery of the page other 'modules' can be carrying out related tasks. Lists of 'most popular', 'most recent' or 'related' articles can be integrated into your page, polls allowing people to vote on issues, newsletter sign-up can be integrated. There are modules for PayPal donations, etc.

How much will Joomla cost me?

Prior toa CMS like this would have cost you or your organisation thousands of pounds. Thanks to the Open Source movement, and to the hard work of committed volunteer developers at Joomla you can now make use of a fully functioning CMS for FREE. Of course it will cost you if you pay someone else to build a Joomla powered site, but like most other designers, we are quite reasonably priced.

My organisation wouldn't dream of using a free product - how can we expect support when we experience problems with Joomla?

This is a legitimate business concern. Unlike individuals, who generally prefer low cost but can spare their own time to trouble-shoot problems, we understand that businesses need support services that are reliable, and offer speedy response times. If you are interested in trying out Joomla, but need to know that there is help available then we can help. We offer a number of service contracts that will aim to keep you on top. Our staff are well known on the Joomla forums - offering free assistance where we can, and building up a reputation for respectful co-operation and friendly assistance. Many of the FAQs were either written by us or contain contributions by us, and we participate in testing new Joomla releases as well as developing components and modules that extend the functionality of Joomla.

Whether you are trying out Joomla with a view to using it for a corporate site or for your own one man website you will be amazed at the flexibility and control that Joomla affords. Of course with such power comes a little complexity. People who have never created a website before, or who have never installed scripts on a server before may find the learning curve is steep.

Can I still use Joomla if I don't know about HTML, CSS, Javascript, PHP?

Yes, you don't need to all of the above to try the Joomla CMS, below you will find details about Joomla's own demo area where you are able to 'play' around with the Joomla CMS.

Can I try it out? Where can I 'play' with Joomla?

There is a demonstration installation that can be 'played' with (username: admin - password: admin). Of course the extent to which you can tweak someone else's installation is very limited. To truly explore Joomla you would need to install your own copy and take full control.

Okay, you've got my interest - what is my next step?

Download the latest version of Joomla - from here:

Now find the full package marked as stable that is the version you made a note of a moment ago. Click to download in your preferred format - .zip, .gz or .bz2 - most users will want the .zip package. Congratulations you have now downloaded Joomla.

Install Joomla in your web space

Before you begin you will need to ensure that you have access to the PHP programming language and MySQL database support on your web server.

  • Unpack the Joomla zip file you downloaded above to an easy to find folder on your PC.
  • Using an FTP program, transfer ALL of the unpacked files and folders to your web space.
  • You may need to create a new database and database user using your web space hosting control panel - consult your hosts help pages if you need help with this.
  • Make a note of the database host, database name, database username and database password.
  • Now access your web space and the installation routine should guide you through the setup process.
  • You will see a pre-installation check detailing the results of some basic pre-requisites needed for optimal running of Joomla.
  • The most likely scenario is that you will be required to change a few folder permissions - use your FTP program for this.
  • You will then be asked for the database information obtained above.
  • At the end of the process - you will be prompted to remove the folder named /installation/

Congratulations, your Joomla installation is now complete.

For a more detailed 'installation guide' read our article on 'How To Install Joomla'.

Running Joomla on your own PC

Your next step is to get yourself a web server that runs on your own PC. There are a number of so called WAMP stacks to choose from. A WAMP stack is a Windows based Apache, MySQL and PHP server package. These are three separate packages that are essential to many modern dynamic database driven sites. Unfortunately installing these separately and getting them to work together in the way you require is often a nightmare. A WAMP stack contains these applications packaged specifically to work together.

Download and install the WAMP software - but try not to run the software straight away. If prompted to run the software now, choose not to. You can download a WAMP application from /en/xampp-windows.html.

Once XAMPP is installed you will want to start all of the services related to XAMPP, click on the XAMPP shortcut that is on your desktop and click on the 'Start' buttons related to 'Apache' and 'MySQL'.

The web server is started which creates a 'pretend' web site on your own computer - its address is //localhost/

You will then need to move all of the files related to Joomla that you downloaded earlier to the 'htdocs' folder within XAMPP.

Now follow the Joomla Installation Wizard - as described earlier. After the installation of the script is complete you will be prompted to delete the /installation/ folder. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do NOT delete the folder where you installed your Stand Alone Server software. This instruction refers to the folder named /installation/ within the 'htdocs' folder related to XAMPP.