Joomla is a powerful content management system. It's easy to get enough of a grasp on Joomla to do basic things like adding an article to the site; however, it takes a little more time to really learn Joomla. Here's a basic curriculum for learning Joomla.

Understand that Joomla dynamically creates web pages.

Web pages existed as a file on disk before the advent of content management systems. In fact, many sites still use that old style of web design. Joomla, and other content management systems, work differently, however. These websites maintain a database and the information for the site is in the database, not a flat file. Instead of a file called index.html, a file called index.php is called when you go to a web site. Index.php builds the web page you see, dynamically, on the fly.

On-the-fly site building makes changing the site fast, and you don't have to upload a bunch of new flat files.

Learn about sections, categories, and articles.

Joomla 1.5 used sections, categories, and articles. Joomla 1.6 uses nested categories. Learn what these are. If you're just learning Joomla, you might as well learn the latest and greatest, version 1.6. This area of Joomla (categories) has changed dramatically between the two versions.

Think of sections and categories as a filing system. All the content on your site needs to be organized, and you organize it in groups called categories. So, if I were building a site to sell produce, I might have a category structure like this:

  • Fruit
    • Berries
      • Strawberries
      • Blueberries
      • Raspberries
      • Blackberries
  • Melons
    • Watermelon
    • Honey dew

Learn how to add, delete, or change an article.

The article is the smallest unit of Joomla content, and you need to learn how to add articles, delete articles, and change existing articles. For the most part, editing articles is as simple as using a word processor.

What are modules? Learn how to change, create, or delete modules.

Look at a Joomla website and you'll notice little boxes on the left site, right side, or bottom side. Those are modules. You can control what shows up in a module and you can control what pages the modules appear on. You can create your own, custom modules, or you can download them from the Joomla website. Modules are one type of extension.

What are components?

Components add a significant amount of functionality to a Joomla site, and they usually have their own control center. Log into the back end of Joomla and look under the Component window and you'll see the components that are currently installed.

What are plugins?

Plugins are another type of extension, and they change the functionality of Joomla throughout the site.

Learn about extensions.

There are three types of extensions: the module, the component, and the plugin. The differences between these extensions were discussed above.

Go to the Joomla website,, and click on the Do-More button and then on Extensions. Extensions are additional programs that you can add to your Joomla site. They're usually pretty easy to install. Some cost money and some are non-commercial. Extensions can let you add shopping carts to your site, photo galleries, and a host of other functions. There are extensions to turn your site into a social site, a news site, and a directory.

Learn how to create, delete, or change menu items.

Menu items are the buttons you click on in the navigation bars. These are changed in the menu manager. In order to create a menu item, you need to know what type of thing you are linking to. Is it an article or something specific to a component?

Learn about the module manager.

Under the extensions menu item in the back end of Joomla, go to the Module Manager. You'll then see a list of all the modules installed on the website. Click on the module you want to change. On the bottom, left-hand side of the screen is the Menu Assignment area. (Once again, Joomla 1.6 has a major improvement in this area.) Play around with the settings to learn how to show which pages the modules show up on.

Learn about templates.

Templates are a bit more involved. Some templates have an interface to make some changes, and some don't. For the templates that don't, you need to modify the html, css, and javascript associated with the templates. For the templates that make it easy, select Template Manager under the Extensions menu item in the back end of Joomla. Click on your template.