Joomla! 1.6: Organizing and Managing Content

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Joomla! 1.6 First Look

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A concise guide to everything that's new in Joomla! 1.6.

£14.99    £7.50
by Eric Tiggeler | April 2011 | Open Source

Joomla! 1.6 makes creating, managing, and organizing content easier in many respects. One of the main improvements is that Joomla! now allows you to categorize articles any way you like. The rigid old section and category system has been replaced by a more powerful content categorization system, called "nested categories". But there are many more improvements in the backend, making it easier to create and organize articles.

In this article by Eric Tiggeler, author of Joomla! 1.6 First Look, you'll learn about the benefits of Joomla!'s new content management features. We'll cover the following topics:

  • Organizing content using nested categories
  • Adding category notes and category metadata
  • New ways to display category contents on the site

 

Joomla! 1.6 First Look

Joomla! 1.6 First Look

A concise guide to everything that's new in Joomla! 1.6.

        Read more about this book      

(For more resources on Joomla!, see here.)

Anyone who's used to working with the previous versions of Joomla! knows the old section—category—article drill. Articles had to be part of a category and categories had to be part of a section. There were no workarounds for this rigid three-level content organization scheme. Sometimes, this required Joomla! users to adapt their content to the system's limitations (or extend Joomla!'s functionality by using more powerful content management extensions, so-called Content Construction Kits or CCKs).

In Joomla! 1.6, the rigid old system has finally been replaced. Sections have gone; there are now only categories, and any category can hold as many levels of subcategories as you need. In the backend, instead of both a Section Manager and a Category Manager, you'll now find only a Category Manager. You can forget the concept of sections altogether; in Joomla!! 1.6 there's no need for them anymore, as they're no longer needed as 'containers' to hold categories.

Improvement #1: categories can now be one level deep

Sometimes, you'll want to organize articles in just one category. Let's say you want to add a few articles about your organization: who you are, where to reach you, and so on. You don't need any subcategories. You'd need a structure like this:

Joomla! 1.6 First Look

In Joomla! 1.5, this simple setup of a "sectionless" category holding articles wasn't possible. You'd have to organize content in sections and categories—which implied that any group of articles would be stored two levels deep, even if you didn't need this. The only alternative was not to organize content, using uncategorized articles.

In Joomla! 1.6, you can put content in just one category if you want to. Just go to Content | Category Manager | Add New Category to create a new category. In the Parent drop down box, select No parent:

Joomla! 1.6 First Look

As this category has "No parent", it becomes a top-level or "parent" category. It's as simple as that; now you can do something that wasn't possible in Joomla! 1.5, by assigning articles directly to this category.

Improvement #2: creating multiple category levels

Joomla!'s old section—category—article approach didn't allow you to create categories within categories ( "nested categories"). However, on content-rich sites, you might need more than two levels of content organization and use a few subcategories. Here's an example from a site featuring product reviews. It uses several levels to organize the main category of "reviews" in subcategories of product types, brands, and models:

Joomla! 1.6 First Look

A great advantage of being able to create such a structure is that it allows for very specific searches (that is, within categories) and multiple ways of navigation. Another example is if you are creating a catalog that you want to be searchable with multiple filters such as manufacturer, price, general item type, or a specific product name.

Creating a set of 'nested' categories

Let's find out how you can quickly set up a few nested categories like the ones shown in the illustration above:

  1. Go to Content | Category Manager | Add New Category.
  2. In the Title field, enter Reviews.
  3. In the Parent field, make sure that the default option No parent is selected. The screen should look like this:

    Joomla! 1.6 First Look

  4. Click on Save & New. A message appears to confirm your action: Category successfully saved. At the same time, all the fields in the Add New Category are emptied.
  5. To create a subcategory, enter the subcategory name Cameras in the Title field.
  6. In the Parent drop-down box, select Reviews:

    Joomla! 1.6 First Look

  7. Click on Save & New to store the subcategory.
  8. Repeat the previous three steps to create more subcategories. For each new category, first enter a title, then select the appropriate parent category and save it by clicking on Save & New.
  9. When you're done with creating subcategories, click on Save & Close to view the results in the Category Manager. In the example below, the Cameras category is parent to a subcategory Compact Cameras. The Compact Cameras category is parent to a subcategory called Canon.

If you've followed the above example, you'll find the following set of categories in the Category Manager. They are displayed as shown below:

Joomla! 1.6 First Look

The Reviews name isn't indented, as it is a top-level category. Cameras, Compact Cameras, and Canon are displayed indented as they are subcategories.

When you create articles, you can now assign them to the new categories. The same category hierarchy as you've just seen in the Category Manager is displayed in the Category drop-down box:

Joomla! 1.6 First Look

Using nested categories in the sample data

You've just set up a few categories and subcategories yourself. On a complex site, you can have a far more complex structure. Don't worry, I won't ask you to create dozens of nested categories right now—but it's a good idea to learn from the example set by the Joomla! Developers. Let's have a look at the categories and articles that come with Joomla! when it is installed with sample data. The way things are organized there will give you some idea of how you can deploy nested categories and get the most out of the new system.

Exploring the sample data

  1. On the frontend, click on the Sample sites link in the This Site menu.
  2. On the Sample Sites page, a new menu appears. This menu gives access to both sample sites—Australian Parks and Fruit Shop:

    Joomla! 1.6 First Look

Have a look around at both example sites. They appear to be separate websites, but they're not. Here the Joomla! developers have cunningly deployed the possibilities of the new category system and have organized all content for the three sites (the main site and two example sites) within one big website. To find out how this is done, let's have a look at the categories in the backend:

  1. Go to Content | Category Manager to see how the sample content is organized. The screenshot below shows an overview:

Joomla! 1.6 First Look

As you can see in the screenshot above, there's one top-level category, Sample Data-Articles. All other articles are contained in the subcategories of this main level category. Apart from the top level category, there are three main categories:

  • The Joomla! category. It has three sublevels.
  • The Park Site category. It has two sublevels.
  • The Fruit Shop category. It has one sublevel.

Finally, there's a group of articles that's not in any category; it's a bunch of leftovers all marked as Uncategorized.

How can different categories look like different sites?

As you click through the example sites, not only the content changes; the menu links to each main category (such as the Parks and Fruit Shop category) have specific templates assigned to them. This way, on the frontend, the look-and-feel of the different main article categories are totally different, whereas in the backend, they're just part of one big site.

Applying templates to categories can give visitors the impression of exploring a separate set of websites.

Although there's no limit to the number of levels in the category hierarchy, even in this rather complex set of sample site articles, categories don't go further than four levels deep. It is possible to make more subcategories, but keep in mind that this means that your content will be stored 'deeper' in the hierarchy, possibly making it more difficult for visitors (and search engines) to find it.

One benefit of placing interrelated content under its own main level category is that you can easily unpublish, delete, or archive any content dealing with a specific subject by unpublishing, deleting, or archiving this main level category. That's why the Joomla! developers have chosen to use one top-level category for all sample data. By unpublishing the top level category (Sample Data-Articles), you can unpublish all of the example content in one go.

New category settings: notes and metadata

When entering or editing a new category, the New Category or Edit Category screen now offer you an area to type notes about the purpose of the category or related items, as well as a place to add keywords and a description (metadata).

The Note field (found in the Basic Options section) can be useful to share some extra information about the category with other backend users. For example, you can enter a short explanation about this category ('subcategory of ...'):

Joomla! 1.6 First Look

Adding category metadata

In Joomla! 1.5, there was no way to separately enter metadata for category pages. Now, you can enter specific Meta Description and Meta Keywords in the Metadata Options section when creating or editing a category.

Joomla! 1.6 First Look

Another new item in the Basic Options of a category is the Alternative Layout select box. Alternative layouts are an advanced new feature that enable you to select a customized layout for the current category, provided the selected template (or a third-party component) provides these extra layout options. A template can contain so-called template override files, allowing for customized layouts that replace Joomla!'s default views. Using the Alternative Layout select box, you can now select the template override you want to activate for this particular item. To find out more about this feature, have a look at the "Introduction to Alternative Layouts in Version 1.6" document on the Joomlacode site. You'll find it at http://downloads.joomlacode.org/trackeritem/5/8/6/58619/introtoaltlayoutsinversion1-6v2.pdf.

Fresh ways to display category contents on the frontend

Joomla! 1.6 provides several additional methods to display category contents. They replace the four classic layouts of Category List, Category Blog, Section List, and Section Blog. When creating a new menu link pointing to a category, you are now presented with a slightly different set of Menu Item Types:

Joomla! 1.6 First Look

These are the category views are available:

  • List All Categories is a new view, described below
  • Category Blog was previously called Category Blog Layout
  • Category List was previously called Category List Layout

The Blog and List views are basically the same as they've always been. However, these display types now offer new settings that provide more control over the look and feel of the resulting pages.

Along with the new List All Categories menu item type, there are also a few new module types that provide you with new ways to display links to categories and their article contents. Let's have a closer look at the new category views.

New category view # 1: List All Categories

The new category system rationalizes the organization of content, even in large or complex websites. One advantage of this is that you can more easily give visitors (and search engines!) access to all that well-structured content, just by adding one menu link to a main level category. This will allow visitors to easily drill down the different layers (the category levels) of the site structure.

To achieve this, the new List All Categories menu link type allows you to display categories as well as their subcategory contents. You can see an example of this menu organization if you select the Site Map link on the This Site menu in the frontend of the sample Joomla! 1.6 content. As we've previously seen, the sample data that comes with Joomla! 1.6 is organized in a structured way. The Site Map link uses the List All Categories menu item type to show all levels in the category hierarchy.

 

Joomla! 1.6 First Look A concise guide to everything that's new in Joomla! 1.6.
Published: March 2011
eBook Price: £14.99
Book Price: £24.99
See more
Select your format and quantity:

 

        Read more about this book      

(For more resources on Joomla!, see here.)

Creating a link to a site map

Let's find out how you can set up a site map link yourself. We'll create a basic site map to present links to all articles on the site:

  1. Go to Menus | Main Menu.
  2. Click on New. In the Menu Manager: New Menu Item screen, click on the Select button to open the Select a Menu Item Type popup window. Select List All Categories:

    Joomla! 1.6 First Look

    The pop up window closes.

  3. In the Menu Title field, enter Articles Site Map.
  4. In the Required Settings section, the default value in the Select a Top Level Category drop-down list is Root. You'll probably want to leave this unchanged, as a typical site map should display the contents of all the categories from the site top level.
  5. In the Categories Options panel, we'll make a few changes to the default settings to ensure that the site map will only display a tree of category names. In the Subcategories Descriptions drop-down box, select Hide. In the # Articles in Category drop-down box, select Hide too. This way, Joomla! won't display the category descriptions (entered when creating or editing a category) and the number of articles in the categories.
  6. Click on Save and click on View Site to see the output on the frontend. A new link is added to the main menu: Articles Site Map. Click on this link to see the site map:

    Joomla! 1.6 First Look

This is all there is to creating a site map for all article content on the site. Creating a menu link of the List All Categories Menu Item Type using all the default options will result in a page displaying a list of links to the categories and their contents.

Tweaking the site map display

When creating a List All Categories link, on the right-hand side of the screen you'll see a bunch of options panels. It's worth trying out the available settings, as they result in pages that look quite different (although they all basically serve the same purpose, creating links to different levels of category contents). As an example, have a go at changing the Categories Options. These allow you to fine-tune the site map layout and display.

To make the site map a little easier for human visitors to use, in the Categories Options you might want to add some descriptive text to the various categories. If you'd like to try this out, you can edit the site map menu link that you've created in the previous exercise and enter the following details in the Categories Options:

  • Set Top Level Category Description to Show.
  • In the Top Level Category Description box, add a short explanatory text that will be displayed at the top of the Site Map page, such as "Looking for a particular article? Browse this site map, listing all the articles."
  • To make sure all subcategories are displayed, set Subcategory Levels to All.
  • To display descriptive texts introducing individual categories, set Subcategories Descriptions to Show. This way, descriptions that have been entered for individual categories (through Content | Category Manager | New/Edit) will be displayed on the site map page.

When you've changed the settings as described above, the options panel should look like this:

Joomla! 1.6 First Look

  • To check the effect of these changes, click on Save and then click on View Site.
    The Articles Site Map link in the Main Menu now still displays links to all categories, but you'll notice that more details (such as descriptions of category contents) have been added:

Joomla! 1.6 First Look

Adding descriptions can be helpful to your visitors, as they can explain the various categories on your site, instead of just presenting the category names as a list of hyperlinks.

As site maps come, the List All Categories menu item type produces a very basic one. There are third-party extensions specifically aimed at creating site maps. These will include more content (not just articles) and have more features. Consult the Joomla! extensions directory to see what's available: http://extensions.joomla.org/extensions/structure-a-navigation/site-map.

New Category View # 2: Articles Categories Module

Joomla! 1.6 features two other new methods to present category contents. Two new modules are available, allowing you to show (links to) categories and their contents in module positions or embedded in articles. The new modules are:

  • Articles Categories Module, which displays a list of the names of categories (from one parent category) as hyperlinks
  • Articles Category module, which shows what articles are contained in one or more categories

The names of these modules may confuse you. Actually, it's better to think of the second module as the Articles in Category module, because that's exactly what it does; it shows what articles are contained in one or more categories. First, we'll look into the possibilities of the Articles Categories module; after that, we'll explore the Articles Category module.

Creating an Articles Categories module

The Articles Categories module is a simple little navigational aid, allowing you to display links to children of the current category. Let's use this module to display a list of categories we want to draw the visitor's attention to:

  1. Go to Extensions | Module Manager. Click on New.
  2. In the pop up window, select Articles Categories:

    Joomla! 1.6 First Look

  3. In the Title field, enter All about extensions.
  4. Set Show Title to Show.
  5. In the Position drop-down box, select position-9.
  6. In the Basic Options panel, select Extensions as the Parent Category. The other options allow you to customize the module display, but we'll leave the default settings unchanged.
  7. In the Menu Assignment section, change a few settings to make the module display only on the home page:
    • Select Module Assignment: Only on the pages selected
    • Now click on Toggle selection to deselect all the pages
    • Click on the Main Menu tab and select the Home link
    • The module screen should look as shown below:

    (Move the mouse over the image to enlarge.)

  8. Click on Save & Close and then click on View Site to see the output:

    Joomla! 1.6 First Look

The left-most of the three bottom panels on the frontend of the site now contains a listing of categories in the extensions main category.

You'll notice that the three panels have only turned up now that we've assigned a module to them. That's because the default Joomla! 1.6 template, Beez 2, contains code to check if there's any content assigned to the position-9, position-10, and position-11 positions. These positions represent the row of panels below the main content. This row of panels is only displayed if any of these panels contain content.

Adding some more category listings

To add two more category listings to the three panels at the bottom of the screen, follow these steps. We'll add more instances of the same module, this time displaying categories within the Templates category and the Park Site category:

  1. Create a new Articles Categories module as described above. In the Title field, enter All about templates.
  2. In the Parent Category drop-down box, select Templates.
  3. In the Position drop-down box, select position-10. This is the middle panel position.
  4. Again, set the module to display only on the homepage and save it.
  5. Finally, create a third new Articles Categories module. In the Title field, enter Park Site Categories.
  6. In the Parent Category drop-down box, select Park Site.
  7. In the Position drop down box, select position-11. This is the right panel position.
  8. Again, set the module to display only on the homepage and save it.

The output should look as displayed in the following screenshot:

Joomla! 1.6 First Look

New Category View # 3: Articles (in) Category Module

Apart from the Articles Categories module (displaying category names), there's another new module to display category contents: Articles Category. What's the difference? This new module may seem a modest new feature, but it's amazingly powerful—and very much more so than the module that resembles it only in name, Articles Categories. It makes it possible to present category contents in a variety of ways.

Using the new Articles Category Module

As an example, let's create a list of teaser texts pointing the visitor to articles in the Modules category:

  1. Go to Extensions | Module Manager and click on New.
  2. In the pop up window, select Articles Category:

    Joomla! 1.6 First Look

  3. In the Title field, enter More on modules.
  4. In the Position drop-down list, select position-8. This way the module will be displayed in a column on the right-hand side.
  5. In the Menu Assignment section, change a few settings to make the module display only on the home page:
    • Select Module Assignment: Only on the pages selected.
    • Now click on Toggle selection to deselect all the pages.
    • Click on the Main Menu tab and select the Home link.
  6. Now let's set the Options to get the module to display what we want, how we want it:
    • Click on the Filtering options heading to display the available options in this panel.
    • In the Category list, select the Modules category as shown in the screenshot below.
    • Leave Category Filtering Type set to Inclusive as shown in the screenshot below. This way, only contents from the selected category will be displayed. (If set to Exclusive, all categories but the selected ones would be displayed).

    Joomla! 1.6 First Look

  7. Set Child Category Articles to Include. If we'd leave this set to Exclude, only articles in the selected category (Modules) would be displayed—but this category doesn't itself contain any articles! Its child categories do. By selecting Include, we make sure that the articles contained in the subcategories get displayed.
  8. Click on Save and then click on View site to see the output on the frontend:

    Joomla! 1.6 First Look

    We've obviously created a rather huge list of links to articles that are all part of the Modules subcategories. Let's change this to set a maximum number of five links. We'll customize the display further to add the article intro texts, instead of just the article titles.

  9. Return to the Articles Category module edit screen. In the Grouping options, set Article Grouping to Category. In the Display Options, set Introtext to Show and keep Introtext limit set to 100 to display the first 100 characters of the article text.
  10. In the Filtering options, you can limit the number of items to be displayed. Set Count to 6 to display a maximum of six articles.
  11. Click on Save and then click on View site to see the results:

    Joomla! 1.6 First Look

The category contents are now displayed ordered by category. All the articles contain a short teaser text.

Take some time to explore the many options of the Articles Category module. In the Filtering Options, you can filter by author (that is, display only contents written by specific authors), you can exclude certain articles by entering their article ID's, you can filter by date (to show articles that have been published within a date range field, or articles written in (for example) the last 30 days. In the Display Options, you can choose to show article details (such as the category name or creation date).

Summary

In this article, we've focused on what it's all about in Joomla!: managing actual content. You've seen how Joomla! 1.6 enables you to categorize content and to display category contents, and you've learned what's new in creating and editing content:

  • The biggest change in working with content is the new way in which articles can be organized in an unlimited number of categories and subcategories.
  • The New Category or Edit Category screen offers you some new settings, such as adding a note or adding metadata for category pages.
  • There are some flexible new methods available to display category contents on the frontend of your site: through the Display All Categories menu item type, and through two new modules displaying links to categories and articles.

Further resources on this subject:


Joomla! 1.6 First Look A concise guide to everything that's new in Joomla! 1.6.
Published: March 2011
eBook Price: £14.99
Book Price: £24.99
See more
Select your format and quantity:

About the Author :


Eric Tiggeler

Eric Tiggeler has authored several books on Joomla!, such as the highly successful Joomla! 2.5 Beginner's Guideand Joomla! 3 Beginner's Guide, both by Packt Publishing. He has also written several Joomla! guides in Dutch. His books have received excellent reader reviews. He also writes tutorials for several computer magazines and Joomla! community websites. Over the last ten years, he has developed numerous websites, big and small, using Joomla!.

He is fascinated by the Web as a powerful, creative, and ever-changing means of communication, as well as by the revolutionary software Joomla!, which enables anybody to create beautiful and user-friendly websites.

On a daily basis, he works as a consultant and copywriter at a communication consultancy company affiliated to the Free University of Amsterdam. Over the last few years, he has written more than 20 books in Dutch on writing and communication. His passion lies in making complex things easy to understand.

He is married, has two daughters, and lives and works in Hilversum, the Netherlands. On the Web, you'll find him at www.joomla.erictiggeler.nl(in Dutch) and www.joomm.net(in English).

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