Joomla reorganized, modernized

The newly released Joomla 1.6 improves page layout, user permissions and internal structure

The volunteers behind the Joomla content management system will release version 1.6 of the open-source software today, which features considerable improvements in access control and page layout, among other enhancements.

This new version of Joomla, version 1.6, has been in development for about three years, said Ryan Ozimek, president of Open Source Matters, a not-for-profit organization providing legal and financial support to the Joomla project. The project has about 80 volunteer programmers, including 10 who manage the code-base.

Alongside Drupal and WordPress, Joomla is one of a number of open-source Web content management systems (CMS) that are increasingly being used to manage websites and other online repositories of content. It is used in approximately 10.9 percent of all the websites that use CMSes, according to a survey conducted by the Austrian Q-Success IT consultancy.

Joomla has been downloaded over 22 million times, according to OSM. Online trading firm, eBay, for instance, uses Joomla to host a set of internal usage analysis tools for employees. Citibank, General Electric, Harvard University, Ikea and McDonald's also use the software.

In addition to the usual round of bug fixes and feature improvements, this new edition of Joomla also features some substantial improvements, Ozimek said.

Most notably, a new access control system has been implemented. The new version gives administrators a lot more nuanced control over how users can view and manage content. The old system offered only a predefined set of groups, which couldn't be augmented unless the administrator was willing to do a lot of low-level coding. The new software offers a console that will allow administrators to specify what actions each user can take in regard to a particular page. It also offers inheritance, in which permissions levels can be nested within multiple groups.

More nuance has also been built into the software's organizational model as well. With the previous version of the software, administrators could only classify material within a two-level hierarchy of sections and categories. Multiple categories could be placed under a single section, but categories could not be broken into subcategories. Now, an unlimited number of subcategories can be placed under categories. This ability to build a more complex category tree should help organizations better organize their material.

Updates have also been made to the presentation layer. Joomla has been criticized for its over-reliance on HTML tables, which complicated the underlying source code of the Web pages, Ozimek said. Now page rendering has moved to XHTML, a subset of HTML rendered with in the XML (Extensible Markup Language) format. This move should make the underlying code cleaner, Ozimek said.

Other new features include one-click extension updates and the ability to implement a multi-language site. The software's architecture has also been reorganized so it can be used as a general use Web application framework, rather than as a CMS. "Developers can start using the framework to do things that [do not involve] content management," said Ozimek said.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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