A New Joomla Site

Getting started with Joomla

I want to document my explorations, findings, and lessons learned as I feel my way through the process of building a new website with Joomla.  I am very much a Joomla virgin, and every tentative step provides me with something new to remember.  For instance, the very question of what to do with this Article once I've finished typing it (or rather, once I finish this first little section, because I'll be coming back here as I make progress) is not one that I have an answer to.  What page will it appear on?  How do I link to it?  Add it to a menu?

At this stage -- while we're still living comfortably in the /tryjoomla subdirectory -- I want to place this article on the front page.  But how do I do that?  And how do I move the current content of the home page to a secondary location where I can still view it if I wish to do so?

Figuring all that out will be part of the learning process, of course.  I am not even entirely sure what I want to do with this site -- which parts of my old site(s) I want to keep, and which I want to discard?  How will it all fit together?  I read somewhere that the key to getting started with a new Joomla site was to work out what categories you will want -- but at this stage of the game, I only have a hazy notion of what a Category means to Joomla, and how it controls the content.

My Progress So Far


Before you will be able to charge ahead with Joomla, you will need a site hosted on the internet (or your intranet, if that is where you are playing!)  Your site hosting will need to include PHP support, and have a MySQL database.

Downloading Joomla

Obviously, the first step was to install Joomla.  No, that's not entirely true: the first step was to decide which version of Joomla I wanted to run with.  At the moment, the new version 3.x has some features that interest me, but ultimately I decided to go with the recommended stable version (2.5.8) with the promise that the upgrade to 3.5, when it is released soon, will be painless.

I soon discovered, however, that getting Joomla itself was not the only issue.  Once you install it and start poking around behind the scenes, you realise that the other important question is: how do you want your site to look? That is controlled by the Template -- and from some of the ones I've seen, a lot of work can go into creating a new template!  My searches led me to the RocketTheme site, and more decisions.  Many (all?) of their templates are built upon the Gantry framework, which can, itself, be installed a variety of ways.

I'm actually building two websites at the moment; one for myself, and one for my cousin.  She decided she like the look of the free 'Grunge' template from RocketTheme, whereas I -- almost by accident, in the several reinstall attempts -- discovered this base 'Gantry' template that comes with the Framework and decided it was a pretty good place to start.  Also along the way, I discovered that while Gantry-based templates (including this one) fully support fluid layouts based on screen width (ideal for smartphone support) the free templates ('Grunge' and 'Quasar') do not!  I also discovered that installing 'Grunge' over the top of 'Gantry' tends to cause weirdness to occur -- I dunno, maybe I did something wrong -- and so the install path for this site was different from the install path for my cousin's site.

Installing Joomla I

To get this site started, I downloaded gantry-4.1.5-rocketlauncer_j25.zip (aka Gantry RocketLauncher for Joomla 2.5) from the Gantry download page.  (RocketLauncher is a bundle containing a full installation of Joomla, plus the Gantry plug-in, plus a couple of other plug-ins required to make it all work, plus this 'Gantry' basic template and some sample data.  I notice now, barely a day after downloading it, that version 4.1.6 is the new current version.  Fortunately, upgrading turns out to be incredibly easy.)

Actually installing it is a piece of cake.  Unzip the downloaded file into its own directory on your hard drive.  On your web server, create a directory for your Joomla installation (eg, /tryjoomla) and, using your favourite FTP client, upload everything from the zip file into the directory on the server.  Job done; you can proceed to 'Setup'.

Note that if you prefer, you can install Joomla straight into your site's root directory -- but it seems safer (and cleaner) to install it elsewhere, allowing you to get your content set up the way you like it before moving it into root at a later date.  From what I've read online, moving it is a fairly simple process (but I'll cover that when I get to it!)

Installing Joomla II

For my cousin's site, the process was almost as easy.  I downloaded Joomla_2.5.8-Stable-Full_Package.zip from the Joomla download page, unzipped it, and uploaded it into the /tryjoomla directory as above.  After doing the setup (see next section) I logged into the back-end, where all the magic happens, and opened the Extensions Manager (which can either be found on the Control Panel, or under the Extensions menu.)  From the Install tab, I clicked on the Browse button under Upload Package File, and located the rt_grunge-bundle.zip file (which I downloaded from the download page for the Grunge template; the Grunge Template J2.5 (bundle) contains both the template, and the Gantry code it requires.  If you have already installed Gantry on your server, you can select the (standalone) file instead) and clicked Upload & Install, which proceeded painlessly.

Note, however, that this approach required a little tinkering to get the template to work properly; see 'Grunge and Quasar Templates' below.


Once you have uploaded your Joomla installation, simply point your browser at it to commence the installation process.  (This is a very good reason for not installing it straight into your site's root directory.  What would happen if Joe Random-Stranger (not his real name!) should happen to browse in before you started the setup process?  They could gain access to your Joomla site.)

Setup leads you through a series of pages -- checking compatibility of the environment, setting the name of the site, setting your Administrator login details, and setting up the connection to your database.  This should all be fairly straightforward -- although you might want to have your site's cpanel open in a separate browser window so you can perform any required database setup in parallel.

If you have installed the Joomla package, you will probably want to click the Install Sample Data button when you see it, so that you have some data to play with and examine.  If you installed the Gantry RocketLauncher package, sample data is automatically installed and you don't get the option.

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