User's Guide

PDF version here.

This document is intended to serve as a how-to guide for the most often performed user activities. It is not intended to replace the comprehensive user guide offered by Joomla (


Position Research produced this guide for its web development clients.

314 West 3rd Ave.
Escondido, CA 92026
Phone: 1 760-480-8291
Fax: 1 760-480-8271

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Images used in this guide are from

A list of additional noteworthy Joomla documentation follows.

Absolute Beginner's Guide to Joomla! (
Frequently Asked Questions (
Tips and tricks (

Table of Contents


Joomla is a CMS (Content Management System) that allows users to make updates and additions to a Joomla website without coding skills. Instead, Joomla users make adjustments to website content through a WYSIWIG (What You See Is What You Get) interface that has a robust editing environment similar to Microsoft Word.

The user interface Users may make adjustments and instantly publish these changes to the website.

Furthermore, if a web element like a logo or phone number is used on each page, a single change will affect all pages where the element is shows. This advantage alone can save tens of man hours that would have otherwise been spend changing each individual page of a traditional website.

Joomla! is Free Software released under the GNU/GPL License.

Joomla Nomenclature


User refer to those persons that have some responsibility for the content of a website. User fall into 4 classes and have progressively greater privileges.

  1. Author – create new content but can not edit other’s content
  2. Editor – Author and modify other’s existing content (edit) privileges
  3. Publisher – Editor and the right to make Author’s and Editor’s content live (publish) privileges
  4. Administrator – Editor and all other design and creating privileges.

The organization of users permits for an organized workflow. An Author creates new content; Editors are emailed and advised of waiting editing tasks. Likewise, after Editors are finished modifying website content, Publishers are notified of pending tasks.

It is not necessary to assign users different privileges. Smaller organizations may choose to have one or two persons with Administrator privileges rather than splitting workflow tasks among several users.

You may use the following table to record and save your user’s login credentials.


Name Username Password Group Email

For more information, see and

Components, Modules, and Plugins

Joomla classifies the elements of a website page or page function into 3 separate groups.

Components are the portion of a website page that is often called the “body” or “Article”. It is the main portion of a website page. Depending upon the Component, Joomla may offer several different layouts. Typical Component layouts include:

  • Articles layout (free form content in the primary portion of the page)
  • Category blog layout
  • Category list layout
  • FrontPage Layout
  • Section blog layout
  • Section list layout
  • Contact category layout
  • Standard contact layout
  • News Feed layouts
  • Advanced Search
  • Blog page
  • Wrapper (frame page)

There are other Component layouts but it is important to note that only one Component can be placed on a given website page. Also, only Article layout (Article format) is free-form and therefore the most common Component layout used. All other types of Components have pre-designated fields that control Component configuration and behavior.

Modules are chunks or pieces of a website. They are sometimes referred to as web elements. Typical Modules are:

  • Breadcrumbs
  • Feed display
  • Footer
  • Latest News
  • Menus
  • Login
  • Polls
  • Search
  • Sections
  • Syndicate
  • Who’s online
  • Custom HTML

Most Modules allow for some configuration but not free-form content. For example, a login form has pre-designated fields that control the Module configuration. Fields are often specific to the function of the Module. Only Custom HTML modules are free-form and allow users to create a custom web element.

All modules have some common configuration fields. All modules are published to a specific template Position. For example, a vertical menu is often published in the “Left” column. And each Module has a Menu Assignment that controls whether a Module displays on a particular page.

In some cases, modules are Published to a Position that does not exist in the template. In other words, the Module is assigned to appear in a Position that will not show. In this way, a Module may be placed within Article content by using the command (where XXXXX is the name of a position in which a Module has been published.

Plugins add functionality to Joomla. For example, adding Google analytics tracking code may be performed with a plugin. The plugin content never appears on any page, yet the function exists. The Search function is another plugin as well as RSS feed syndication.

For the most part, Plugins are not web elements. Rather, they perform some kind of function that may or may not produce a visible result. As such, some Plugins have the same name as Modules. The Module may be the visible portion where as the plugin controls functionality.

For more information, see

Sections and Categories

Joomla organizes Component content in a hierarchal structure. Developers or Users may define many Sections. And within each Section, Developers or Users may define many Categories. One Section may have many Categories.

Strictly speaking, Joomla does not require Sections or Categories, but they are very useful for web page organization and presentation. Many Joomla Components may be laid out as a list of links. For example, an Article page may have a list layout of only those Articles within a specific Category or Section. This kind of page can serve as an index of Articles with links to individual Article pages. Using this kind of technique means that individual menu items to each Article is not necessary – Joomla creates care of creating a single page of Articles titles and links for a Section or Category.

For more information, see


Joomla, like all CMS development platforms use templates. Templates are designed by web developers to control the basic look and feel of the website. The “look” includes the color scheme, size and position of all website elements (Components and Modules). The “feel” refers to the behavior of website elements.

A Joomla template is comprised of several files. The index.php file(s) is coded in HTML with PHP include and conditional statements that govern website page structure. Cascading Style Sheets (CSS files) are used for positioning and formatting of all website elements. The default.xml file contain a list of files, website element positions, and special parameters that control template performance.

Index.php and CSS template files may be viewed and edited from with Joomla. From Joomla’s top menu, mouse over Extensions. Joomla will display a drop list. Click Template Manager. Joomla will display a list of all templates installed. Note that just because there may be more than one template, Module Positions may be named differently or not exist in other templates. The template marked with a star in the Default column is the active template.

Click on the Default template name to access template files and template parameters (if they exist). Edit icons in the upper right portion of the screen may be used to open the index.php (HTML) and CSS files.

Be careful. Changing code in these files will change template performance. It is possible to change a single character that will result in an error. In some cases, a single template error will cause the entire website to error.

For more information, see


Permissions refer to whether files on a website hosting server are available to specific users or visitors and what tasks may be performed. Permissions govern whether a website page may be viewed, changed or created and define a level of website security. It is important to note that most Joomla hosting files are set to 644 which means that files may be viewed by website visitors and edited by authorized users, but no file execution. This permissions setting is recommended by Joomla and designed to thwart hackers.

During the development cycle, permissions are often set to a more lenient security level. Once the development cycle is complete, more strict permissions are commonly imposed. For this reason, some Joomla editing functions may work as expected while others may not. This is not a bug in Joomla. Rather it is a common issue of balancing security with user flexibility. If editing functions within Joomla do not perform as expected, contact your web developer for additional guidance.

Permissions are not set from within Joomla. Rather, they are set by an FTP client or from within the hosting control panel. Care should be taken when changing hosting permissions. As a general rule, permissions should be returned to their original state after edits that require permission changes are made (755 for file folders and 644 for files).

For more information, see

Content Editing

Joomla is a CMS (Content Management System) Website Development Platform and as such, makes editing of content very easy for Users and Web Developers. Content creation, editing and publishing may be performed in either of two Joomla user interfaces:

  • Front End
  • Back End

Joomla’s Front-End interface is an overlay atop a website page. The Back-End is Joomla’s administration interface and may be used for all Joomla development and user activities.


To log into Joomla’s Front-End, go to the page that has a login Component or Module. It is common that a Login Module be included on the Contact Us or About Us page. This form may be located on a different page on your website.

When logged in, authorized users will see an editing icon in the upper portion of content that may be edited. Note that not every page can be edited. Some page content may have Components that must be edited or configured from the Back-End. However, all Articles (Article layout) can be edited from the Front-End.


To edit an Article, simply click on the edit icon. Joomla will launch an editor that ‘lays over’ the article content. Note: the editor show in this guide is a 3rd party extension called JCE from The editor will allow you to make edits to the Article content. Page Section and Category fields must be filled in. And page Title and Description are also available for editing.

After content is adjusted, click the Save button on the top of the overlay. Joomla will instantly publish your changes to the website (assuming the user has the necessary privileges).

In some cases, the developer will have created the ability to create new pages with new content. In these cases, menu item or link called NEW PAGE will be placed somewhere in the menu system and is only visible to users that have logged in. The most common location for a NEW PAGE link is directly below the login Module. Navigate to the NEW PAGE and then click on the edit icon. The same content editor will appear as an overlay. However, page content created in this manner cannot be associated with a menu item. It is not possible to associate a newly created page with a menu item in the Front-End user interface. However, website pages that are using a Section or Category layout will include the addition of this newly created page.


As you might have imagined, the Back-End is much more powerful. Where as the Front-End is focused on content creation and editing only, the Back-End includes all Front-End functions as well as all other website development processes.

Authorized users may login into the backend administrative area by typing the URL of the home page of the website followed by “/administrator/index.php” (quotation marks excluded).

For more information on Back-End login, see

The 4 most common tasks performed in the Back-End are:

  • Article creation or editing
  • Add a new Menu Item with associated Article
  • Menu creation
  • Contact management

Adding a New Article

Users may choose to use either the Front-End (if a NEW PAGE link or menu item is available), or use the Back-End administration area.

Assuming you are using the Back-End, use the top menu to select Content. Mousing over the Content menu item will open a drop menu. The first item on the drop list is “Article Manager”.

Click "Articles Manager”. Joomla will launch the Article List screen that shows all Articles currently part of the website. Note, Articles must be marked as Published to appear in the website. Articles may be sorted by name, Published status, Access Level, Section, Category, etc. Or, filters may be used to show only those Articles matching the filter.


In the upper right area of the screen, click the icon with the green plus mark. This is the “add article” icon. Joomla will launch the editor screen that allows a user to create a new article. Note: the editor show in this guide is a 3rd party extension called JCE from


IMPORTANT. As a matter of practice, never paste content directly into the Article as this process will likely include lots of extraneous HTML formatting code that may cause formatting and performance issues. Instead, use the icon marked with a “T” to paste text or the “W” to paste Microsoft Word content into your Article. Using the “W” icon will include minimal formatting from Microsoft Word.

Be sure to include a page Name. The “Alias” field may be the same as the Article name.


Section and Category should be filled in. If none is chosen, then “uncategorized” is chosen.

In the Metadata Information section on the right, metadata description and keyword may be filled in.


When your Article is complete, select either Apply or Save. The Save function will save your page, publish it to the website and return you to the Article list screen where as Apply performs the same functions but continues to display the current Article screen.

Although Joomla’s WYSIWIG editor does a good job of rendering content in its final format, there may be some difference between the way your Article looks in the editor and the way it looks in a web browser. It is always best to check your work in a browser to see what it looks like and make further formatting changes as required.

For more information, see

Changing Article Parameters

Joomla allows for a wide range of Article publishing options. These options control such things as

  • Show Article Title
  • Author Name
  • Created Date and Time
  • Modified Date and Time
  • PDF Icon
  • Print Icon

Individual Articles parameters may be adjusted by accessing the Parameters (Advanced) section on the right side of each Article editor screen.

Global adjustments that will apply as the default for each Article may be adjusted from the Article Manager screen.

Mousing over the Content menu item will open a drop menu. The first item on the drop list is “Article Manager”.

Click “Articles Manager”. Joomla will launch the Article List screen that shows all Articles currently part of the website.

Notice the Parameters icon in the upper right. Clicking this icon will bring up a shadow box screen with all the Global Article Parameters.

Simply select the options you want as default for all Articles and Save. Remember, individual Parameters for each Article will take precedence over Global Parameter settings.

Adding a New Menu Item

The Front-End does not allow for the creation and linking of newly created menu items to Articles or other Components. This action requires Back-End access.

Assuming that you are already logged into the Back-End, mouse over the menu item named “Menus”. A drop list will appear. The list will contain several items. Included in the list are the names of previously created menus. Select and click the menu name to which you want to add a new menu item.

Joomla will display a list of all menu items currently created for that menu name.

To add a new menu item, click the green icon with a plus sign labelled “New”. Joomla will display several different types of menu items associated with the Components available. For an Article, choose “Article” and then “Article Layout”.


Joomla displays the Article Layout screen. In the “Title” field, enter the name of the menu item as you want it to appear on the website. The alias may be the same, however, it is not unusual that the alias field be more descriptive. Select the menu item parent.


The menu Alias field is used as the HTML URL that shows in a browser address bar. It is always best to incorporate the keyword phrase associated with the article in the URL so craft the Alias carefully.

Finally, on the right side, under Parameters (Basic), click the “Select” button to see a list of all articles and choose the article you want to associate with this menu item.

The Page Title displays in the title area of browser window. If this is left blank, the Menu Title is used. If the Show Page Title parameter is set to 'Yes', this title also displays as the title of the page.

When your menu configuration is complete, select either Apply or Save icon. The Save function will save your menu item, publish it to the website and return you to the Menu Item Manager screen where as Apply icon performs the same functions but continues to display the current Menu Item screen.

For more information on menu items, see;1&keyref=screen.menus.edit.15.

There may be one last step depending upon how Modules, including the menu Module for this specific menu is configured. Modules (menus are Modules) may be assigned to every page or specific pages. Specific page assignment is made based on menu items. So if a new menu item is created, and Modules are set to display on specific pages, each Module that should appear on the new page (including the menu) must be changed to include the new menu item.

To change Module Menu Assignment, mouse over Extensions in Joomla’s main menu. A drop menu will appear. Click on Modules.

Joomla will display a list of all Modules.

Select the menu Module that should appear on our new page. Joomla will display the Module screen.

Toward the bottom left portion of the screen, Joomla displays the Menu Assignment list (there may be more than one menu for the website).

Scroll down to find the new menu item corresponding to the new article. With the Control key pressed, left mouse click the menu item to add it to the list of selected menu items. Then Save.

Continue this process for each Module for that needs to be assigned to the new menu item. Skip this step for Modules that have Menu Assignment setto “All”.

For more information, see

Creating a Menu

Making a new menu is a little more involved than simply adding a menu item to an existing menu. Although this step is a common web development task, there may be a post-development circumstance that requires a new menu. The process requires two processes. First, a new menu with menu items must be created. And second, the menu Module must be configured.

Creating a menu is a relatively simple task. From Joomla’s top menu, mouse over Menus. A drop list will appear. Select Menu Manager.

Joomla will display a list of all the current menu names.

To add a new menu name, click the green icon with the plus sign labelled “New”.

Joomla will display screen with four fields. Name your menu with some sort of easy name (e.g. Product_MENU or Application-sub_MENU). Use the same name for your Module Title so there will be less confusion.

When a new menu is created, there are no menu items. To add new menu items, the menu item screen must be used. From Joomla’s top menu, mouse over Menus. A drop list will appear. Select the menu name that was just created. Joomla will display the Menu Item Manager screen. Add menu items as described in the “Add a New Menu Item” above.

After at least some menu items have been added, mouse over “Extensions” in Joomla’s main menu. A drop menu will appear. Click on “Modules”. Joomla will display a list of all Modules. Select the menu Module that was just created. Joomla will display a Module screen for the specific menu.

This screen has several configuration settings. The most fundamental settings include:

  • Enable
  • Position
  • Menu Assignment


The settings for Published are self-evident. Yes means the module is “live”; no means not live. The Position setting is a drop list of positions based on the website template where Modules may be published. Menu Assignment covers which menu items and respective pages will display the menu Module.

Parameter settings are beyond the scope of this User Guide. For an explanation of each setting, pleased see

Note: the creation of a menu does not in and of itself link Articles or other Components to menu items. This is a separate step as described in “Add a New Menu Item” above.

For more information, see

Contact management

Adding or changing contact information can be a frequent task. Fortunately, Joomla does make this task relatively painless. All Joomla installations include the capability to display contact information and allows website visitors to fill out a contact forms.

In addition to Joomla’s contact management, there are several 3rd party Components that offer more features. Your Joomla website may use one of these contact Components. One of the most popular is Qcontacts. If your website uses Qcontacts, its management system should be used instead of Joomla’s Contacts. Each has its own separate Database tables with which it stores contact information.

From Joomla’s top menu, mouse over Components. A drop list will appear. Select Contacts or Qcontacts (if it is on the list). Joomla will display additional options (categories and contacts) or, in the case of Qcontacts a management screen.

Your contacts may be put into categories. This feature is particularly important if you want to list groups or categories of contacts on specific pages. For example, you may want to list contacts from Europe on a separate page than USA contacts. Categories must be created in the category screen. Once they are created, they may be used as part of the individual contact information.

The contact screen will list all the contacts currently entered. You may create a new contact or edit existing contact information by choosing the appropriate function. These two operations share the same screen. The only difference is that editing an existing contact has fields filled in that may be modified.

Clicking on the contact link will show the Contact screen. Type or modify the contact Details and Information. Use the Contact, Advanced, and Email Parameters on the right side of the screen to adjust what fields you want to display.

Note that contact display layout is dependant on the choice made for the menu item. Contacts may be presented in a list with links to each contact. Or, if there is only one contact (as would be the case of a simple contact us form), a Standard Contact Layout may be used.

For more information, see

Popular 3rd Party Joomla Extensions

In addition to Joomla’s core Components Modules and Plugins, there are several 3rd party suppliers that offer Joomla extensions with additional features and functionality. Your Joomla website may use one or more of these scripts.

For a complete list of Joomla extensions, see

Some of the more common scripts that Position Research adds to its Joomla projects are summarized below. User documentation is maintained by the author and listed with each script.

Name Description Type Page Documentation
JCE (Joomla Content Editor) Enhanced editor Component Plugin
Qcontacts Adds CAPTCHA and user defined fields Component
FrontPage SlideShow $$ JavaScript slide show Component Module
RSFormPro $$ Form generator Component Module
SWMenuPro $$ Advanced Menu Generator Module
Tabs and Slides Adds tabs to content Module
BIGSHOT Google Analytics Inserts Google Analytics code on each page Plugin


Xmap Create sitemap page & sitemap.xml file Component

$$ indicates commercial extension for fee.