Joomla 1.6.0 Released

It’s been a long wait and finally Joomla has released version 1.6.0! Thanks to everyone who contributed, new version delivers many new features pleasing the site users and administrators like nested categories, ACL, improved language support & SEO, built-in redirects, template styles, & much more.  From my point of view, the most important improvement is the nested categories feature which means there is no more need to use 3rd party components to create a tree category structure.

Joomla 1.6.0 Release

Joomla created a launch page for the new version and decided giving the new improvements under 4 categories. Here is the official Joomla 1.6.0 features:

Designer Features

  • Core layout files are tableless: New for Joomla! 1.6, all core output files are written in XHTML 1.0 Strict. HTML 5 is also supported in Joomla! 1.6.
  • New core templates: Joomla! 1.6 ships with new core templates. On the administrator side, Bluestork is the default template, and Hathor is a fully accessible template to support those with various types of disabilities. On the site side, Joomla! 1.6 ships with Atomic and Beez2 (yes, the bees are gone!), plus the legacy Milkyway template.
  • Template styles: On occasion, you want a slightly different look to one page or a handful of pages on the site. Previously, this might mean coding a completely different template. Now, with template styles, you can easily create minor template variations, which can then be assigned to specific pages on the website.
  • Template overrides vs Layout overrides: In Joomla! 1.5, you could change the look of some of Joomla’s output files via template overrides. However, you couldn’t change those output files just for a few pages. With the new improved layout overrides, you can alter the look of specific menu items, components, modules, and categories.
  • Legacy layer in Milkyway: Did you use the core Joomla! output files (without template overrides) in a Joomla! 1.5 site that you need to upgrade to Joomla! 1.6? If so, use the legacy layer in the Milkyway template for quick compatibility of look and feel, without reworking your CSS to match the new tableless output in Joomla! 1.6. (The html folder will be available as separate download.)
  • Codemirror editor: Finally, there’s a color-coded editor for easier HTML and CSS editing in Joomla!
  • Media Manager improvements: The Flash-based media uploader is back! Once more, you can upload multiple images at once to the Media Manager.
  • SEO features: Meta-keywords and meta-descriptions can be assigned to articles, categories, and menu items, and you can easily add a site name to the HTML page title.
  • Nested categories: With infinite layers of categories, creating a representation of your site map in Joomla! is a breeze.
  • Easy extension updates: You know you should keep Joomla! up-to-date, but do you keep your extensions up-to-date as well? You can easily update those extensions from within Joomla!, without visiting dozens of extension developer’s websites, in Joomla! 1.6.

Developer Features

  • New Core Functions for Automatic Extension Updates: One of the hardest things for developers and end users alike is getting Webmasters to update their extensions. The update process has been, at best, clunky, and many times well nigh impossible for the average user. Joomla! 1.6’s new update manager allows developers to build in automatic update functions allowing their users to update to new versions with just a few clicks!
  • New Package Installation Capability: For developers that offer a suite of components or extensions that rely on companion extensions, this one is for you. Developers can now package their components allowing users to install one file and include multiple extensions all at the same time!
  • Easily included Language Capabilities: With Joomla! 1.6’s new language structure, developers are allowed to include additional language packages right with their extensions. This makes installing and extending your website by adding languages a breeze, and also makes updating components simple.

…Providing Code Improvements for Easy Integration.

  • Integrated ACL Capability: Joomla! 1.6’s new ACL structure has been the talk of the “Joomla!sphere” for end-users. But developers benefit from this as well! The development team has made it very easy to include these advanced ACL features inside of any 3rd party component. With just a few code changes your component can allow your users to take advantage of the revolutionary ACL structure for their users!
  • Upgraded System Requirements: The new operating requirements for Joomla! 1.6 (particularly PHP 5.2) offers developers a great advantage by allowing them to take advantage of object-oriented programming and functionality. This allows developers to keep on the leading edge of development and delivering the latest in functionality!

…Providing a Uniform Component Structure.

  • New Plugin Format: With the release of Joomla! 1.6, plugins now have the same common structure as components and modules. Giving each their own directories allows developers to use a universal format for development for all joomla! add-ons.
  • Consistent Component Programming: Joomla! 1.6 provides a new and cohesive method for building components. The ability for developers to “Learn By Example” and look at the core components allows developers to easily integrate their ideas into the Joomla! framework. In fact, the Joomla! Development Team has even included sample code for developers to use as they build components for Joomla! 1.6!
  • Easy Migration to 1.6: With Legacy Mode (the ability for components built for older versions of Joomla! to work on the current version) gone in Joomla! 1.6, all developers will have to upgrade their components to be compatible with the new version. Fortunately, Joomla! developers have made it very easy for you to upgrade your components. Developers that are already familiar with the 1.5 API and MVC structure will be able to upgrade their existing components with ease!

…Providing Improved API Abilities.

  • New Query Building Class: The new Joomla! 1.6 API provides an intuitive query building class allowing developers to build queries programatically. Besides easing some of the headaches of developing for Joomla! this helps set the stage for allowing Joomla! to be compatible with other Database engines.
  • Brand New Forms API: The move from the JForm class to the JParameter class brings an increased efficiency to Joomla! development. Besides the ability to automatically filter input, the JParameter class keeps developers from having to duplicate needless code for different forms. The new class also presents developers with extendability to easily create their own forms within this framework.

Administrator Features

  • New Administrator Functions: Site Administrators will notice the new look of Joomla! 1.6 from the moment they log in. From the brand new Administrator Navigation menu, to the added functions of “Save & Add” in Content, the new Joomla! is all about efficiency and saving you time, while still giving you the familiar options and control you need.
  • New Admin. Template Choices: Joomla! 1.6 offers a whole new look at the Administrator Interface with some new templates that extend the Joomla! system. The new template functions allow Administrators to present a simplified and intuitive Administrator Interface to their Managers and other users.
  • Advanced ACL: The buzz around Joomla! 1.6 is the release of the revolutionary Joomla! Access Control System. Administrators can now easily restrict Joomla! users from content using the new Access Control Levels right out of the box! What used to be left to the domain of third party extensions or, in many cases, was not even possible now can be accomplished with a few simple clicks! Here is a quick list of some of the capabilities ACL provides: Unlimited user groups A user can be assigned to multiple groups
    • Unlimited access levels
    • Any combination of groups can be assigned to any access level
    • Access permissions can be set at multiple levels in hierarchy: Site, Component, Category, Object
    • Permissions can be inherited from parent Groups and parent Categories for faster user management.
  • New Module Configuration Options: The new module configuration options will save administrators around the world headaches as they try to publish their content on their pages. With the added ability to now publish modules on “All Pages Except Selected”, presenting your module content where you want it, and, more importantly, keeping it hidden where you don’t want it, is now standard.
  • New Category Structure: To make your life easier, Joomla 1.6 no longer has Sections. It has nested categories instead. That means you can now have a main category with unlimited sub-categories that can have their own sub-categories, etc.. There is no limit to how deep your multi-level category hierarchy can be and the neat thing about this new setup is that you have complete transparency – you can easily view and manage your categories at every level.
  • New SEO Functions: New advanced SEO features such as the ability to add Meta descriptions and keywords to categories as well as change the page title depending on the article view, and add the site name to the Title, means that Site Administrators will be able to easily control and present their sites content the way they want to!
  • New 404 Redirect Component: The addition of a Joomla1 Core Component handling 404 redirects means peace of mind for Site Administrators. Now, automatically re-routing users from an old page to the new one without them hitting the dreaded “404, Page Not Found” view is an easy reality!
  • New Template Styles Functions: The added ability to create multiple instances of your site templates, each with different controls and the ability to edit the template for each instance means the days of changing and uploading the same template multiple times just to get that perfect look on your pages is gone! Now administrators can get the look and feel they want by simply creating a new Template Style right in their Control Panel!
  • Language Overrides: Joomla! 1.6 gives site Administrators the ability to implement custom language overrides and protect them from disappearing every time you upgrade! The new custom override functions give you the ability to edit your emails, system messages, and more once, and never have to worry about them again!
  • Manual User Approval: Sick of spam users clogging your User Manager and Database? Joomla! 1.6 has that solved! The new ability to allow administrators to manually approve new registered users means that every new user can have the careful eye of the Administrator making sure that your membership isn’t clogged with bogus or fake users!

Webmaster Features

  • Save & New, Save & Copy: Joomla! 1.6 is all about efficiency, including how long it takes you to create new content! With the new options to “Save & Create New” applied to content editing, adding content to your site just got easier … and faster!
  • Module Assignment: Joomla! 1.6 makes it easy for Webmasters to pinpoint their content even more with the added features to module positioning. With the new ability to publish on “All Pages Except Selected”, getting your content where you want it is a lot easier.
  • Joomla! remembers where you were: Ever edit article number 45 in your article manager and save it only to have to flip back through the pages to get back to it? Joomla! 1.6 puts an end to that! Joomla! now remembers where you were and saves your place for you!
  • Media Manager improvements: Joomla! 1.6 brings major improvements to Joomla!’s media manager. A flash based uploader makes things easier, and the ability for users to upload multiple files at one time makes life easier, and, needless to say, saves you a lot of time in uploading your media to Joomla!
  • Installer improvements: One of the biggest hassles for Joomla! webmasters was the process needed to update 3rd party components. With Joomla! 1.6, problems gone! Joomla! now has an update interface allowing Webmasters to update their components to current versions with just a couple clicks!
  • Redirect component: With the addition of the Core Redirect Component, Joomla! saves you a headache by allowing you to automatically redirect old links to new pages, and saves your visitors an eyesore and hassle by keeping them away from the “404 Page Not Found” and getting them right where they need to go!
  • SEO features: With the new SEO features in Joomla! 1.6, creating custom Meta descriptions for categories, and added flexibility for title and descriptions in articles and pages is now possible! Worried about your websites rankings or usability? Use some of these added tools to give you a boost!
  • Template styles: Sick of being stuck to whatever your template allows? Joomla! 1.6 offers a whole new world of versatility by allowing Webmasters to create Template Styles. Pretty much, you can easily clone your template to apply custom changes or edits to it, and then assign it to specific menu items to create unique pages!
  • Assign modules and templates within a menu item: Joomla! 1.6 extends the ability for Webmasters to present their content where they want it, how they want it. With the ability to easily select the template and template style right from the menu interface, Joomla! saves you time, and makes presenting your content a breeze!
  • Translation now has more effective pluralization support: “One Foot, Two Foot …” simple language differences like presenting plural words typically plagued Joomla! websites with its limited ability to handle plurality across languages leaving Joomla! interfaces riddles with Dr. Seuss references from books long forgotten. No More! With Joomla! 1.6, improved language features present the user with a wider array of options for language support.

The new version looks absolutely promising but it is best to stick on 1.5 version for the client sites and test 1.6 with your own sites first. I came across to an interview with Andrew Eddie at Joomla Blogger. Andrew is the leader of the Joomla Production Leadership Team. Lets listen what he says regarding this issue:

There has also been some critique about the General Availability version of Joomla 1.6 not being tested enough before launch. Any thoughts on that?

I think the timing is appropriate.

Yeah, I hear that a bit. But in all seriousness I doubt they could tell you exactly how much extra testing it needs or a date that it should be released on. The software has been in Beta for six months now and I believe we just passed the 2,500th issue closed so there is testing going on constantly. We also have many automated tests that we run and add to as we find more issues. But, even if we waited another six weeks or six months, there are still going to be bugs and the same people will probably still be saying it’s not ready. The reality is software is never ready – you just have to draw a line in the sand and say “here it is”. If we waited until it was perfect, we’d never release.

Another reason for releasing is that you actually get a lot more organic testing happening once you release the so-called “stable” version (“wobbly” is probably closer to the truth). Maybe it’s psychological, but there are a lot of people that just aren’t using 1.6 now (even though it’s RC and we’ve said they should) because they don’t have to yet or they simply haven’t had the time. Now that GA is out, many in the community have to give it some priority whether they want to or not. It’s a vicious circle but one that is typical in software development – it’s not unique to Joomla.

…if we are forever frozen in beta, innovation dies because you can’t add any significant new features.

The other tension we have to balance is if we are forever frozen in beta, innovation dies because you can’t add any significant new features (and there’s a lot of debate of what that means, but let’s say big new components, etc). Leave a release baking for too long and developers and users will go somewhere else because they are sick of waiting, or worse, you burn the code 🙂 We need to get the new Bowerbird release cycle started so that we can satisfy the people that are itching to do new things with the software. They are part of the community to.

Whatever the case, we started 1.6 three years ago, it’s been in alpha and beta phases for what, nearly a year, so I really think it’s a stretch to say we have “rushed” the release. I think the timing is appropriate.

You also need to consider that not everyone is ready to upgrade to Joomla 1.6 now. We saw when we released 1.5 that it took roughly 6 months to gain significant traction. 1.6 will probably take the same time and progressively get less as we shift to the 6-month release cycle. So, all things considered, releasing now is neither here nor there. It’s just a milestone that defines the end of one process and
the beginning of another.

If you feel like celebrating new Joomla version, why not join the worldwide Joomla Launch Parties and do the happy Joomla! dance of joy! They will be taking place between Jan 24-Feb 7 anywhere around the world!

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