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By Cynthia Scott | Wednesday, November 02, 2011

lynda.com author Jen Kramer on the latest Joomla! news

I recently caught up with lynda.com author Jen Kramer, and she filled me in on what a wild ride Joomla has had this year. SinceJoomla! 1.6 Essential Training and Joomla! 1.6: Creating and Editing Custom Templates were released in our library, there has been a lot of great news to report, according to Jen:

First of all, back in February, I discussed Joomla’s new software release cycle. We are still on track with this new software release cycle, with Joomla 1.7 successfully released in July 2011. Even better, the promised ‘one-click’ updates were also available, and most people had no trouble transitioning their Joomla 1.6 sites to Joomla 1.7. That’s a huge win for Joomla, and I’m so pleased it turned out well!

Joomla 1.8, due in January 2012 as a long-term release supported for 18 months, is still on track for release, however, it’s no longer called Joomla 1.8. The new name is Joomla 2.5, with Joomla 3.0 to be released in July 2012.

Here’s the revised table of software releases:

Release Name

Type of Release

Release Date

End of Life

Joomla 1.5long-termJanuary 2008April 2012
Joomla 1.6short-termJanuary 2011August 2011
Joomla 1.7short-termJuly 2011February 2012
Joomla 2.5long-termJanuary 2012At least 18 months
Joomla 3.0short-termJuly 2012February 2013
Joomla 3.1short-termJanuary 2013August 2013
Joomla 3.5long-termJuly 2013At least 18 months

Each group of three Joomla releases comprise a release series. Joomla 1.6, 1.7, and 2.5 are one series, while Joomla 3.0, 3.1, and 3.5 will be another series. Each series consists of two short-term releases and one long-term release. Major changes to Joomla, such as a completely new administrator interface or changes to the way extensions are coded, would only be included at the start of a series. This policy was put into effect in the Joomla 1.6 to 1.7 transition.

There are minor differences between Joomla 1.6 and 1.7. For example, Joomla 1.7 has the ability to specify a background image on a custom HTML module, while Joomla 1.6 does not. However, Joomla 1.6 and 1.7 are about 98% similar from a site builder’s perspective. You should be able to followJoomla! 1.6 Essential TrainingandJoomla! 1.6: Creating and Editing Custom Templates with very little trouble using Joomla 1.7. The same should also be true for Joomla 2.5.

What about clients who are still running Joomla 1.5? Recently, I wrote an extensive Joomla! Community Magazine™ article describing the Joomla 1.5 to 2.5 transition, including business and technical considerations when planning those migrations. At my company, we are moving some Joomla 1.5 sites to Joomla 1.7 now. For other sites, we’ll move them early next year. We’ve started the process of notifying our clients about the upcoming migrations now, so they can organize their resources for the move. As for new sites, we are building them in Joomla 1.7 wherever possible.

Planning for the Joomla 3.x series began at an in-person planning session on October 21 in New York City. You can watch the video from the Joomla planning sessions as well. Watch for more Joomla videos coming to the lynda.com Online Training Library® soon!

By Cynthia Scott | Thursday, August 25, 2011

WordPress 3.2: New look, new features, new possibilities

The updated WordPress admin dashboard. The new design features a more minimalistic and streamlined approach to the content.

WordPress 3.2 was released on July 4th, 2011, followed by the 3.2.1 release on July 12th. If you are learning WordPress, you’ll find that although the content in our current WordPress 3 courses is still relevant, the user interface may be different as new features are added to WordPress.

Our current WordPress courses include:

WordPress 3 Essential Training (covers both WordPress.com and self-hosting through WordPress.org)WordPress 3: Creating and Editing Custom Themes WordPress: Creating Custom Widgets and Plugins with PHPWordPress 3: Building Child ThemesWordPress 3: Developing Secure Sites

I asked author Morten Rand-Hendriksen to summarize the changes in WordPress 3.2 to help anyone who is working through our WordPress courses. Here’s what he had to say.

By Cynthia Scott | Sunday, August 14, 2011

jQuery projects courses now cover two coding environments

In March, we started publishing a new series of video tutorials called jQuery Projects that takes members through the creation of a specific project, such as an interactive photo gallery. When author Chris Converse wrote HTML and jQuery code in his examples, he used Dreamweaver.

Shortly after the first course was published, we started receiving comments from members saying they were not Dreamweaver users—and while they could still follow along with Chris, they wished he had used a straight coding environment instead.

To figure out what members wanted for future courses, we polled members who had written to us to find out whether we should continue to use Dreamweaver as the editor, or switch to using Aptana Studio (note: we proposed an Eclipse-based code editor such as Aptana Studio because it’s free and available for multiple platforms).

It turns out that the respondents were split right down the middle. So now, we are trying out something new: giving you two versions of each project to choose from; one using Dreamweaver, and one using Aptana Studio. Here’s are samples from one of our courses.

Using Dreamweaver: Create an Interactive Video Gallery with jQuery and Dreamweaver

Using Apatana Studio: Create an Interactive Video Gallery with jQuery 

Check out the series so far:

Create an Interactive Video Gallery with jQuery Create an Interactive Video Gallery with jQuery and DreamweaverSet a Marquee to Autoplay with jQuerySet a Marquee to Autoplay with jQuery and DreamweaverCreate an Interactive Map with jQuery and DreamweaverCreate an Interactive Photo Gallery with jQuery and DreamweaverCreate an Interactive Homepage Marquee with jQuery and Dreamweaver

With more projects coming your way soon, including

Create Animated RolloversCreate an Animated Bar Chart

Have other projects you wish Chris would teach in the series? Leave us a comment on this post.

By Cynthia Scott | Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Jim Babbage covers what’s new in Fireworks CS5.1

Recently, I asked Fireworks CS5 Essential Training author Jim Babbage to give us a rundown of the changes to Fireworks in Creative Suite 5.5.  I wanted to find out if there were changes that would help make your work lives easier. Here’s what he had to say:

Creative Suite 5.5 has been out for a little while and while Fireworks didn’t receive a 5.5 designation, it did—like Photoshop—get a 5.1 update. Basically what this means is that no new features were added to Fireworks, but there were some under-the-hood tweaks applied to make Fireworks run better, or perform certain tasks more efficiently.

For a complete rundown on the major updates to Fireworks 5.1, check out the Adobe Fireworks Team blog.

Granted, these are all small things, but they add up to some important fixes in Fireworks, and I think they set the development team in good stead for future versions of my favorite web graphics application.

And current CS5 users, never fear! You have not been forgotten. Adobe will be releasing a patch for 5.0 users. This patch will include all of the bug fixes that are going into CS5.1. It will not, however, include the subscription engine that is part of CS5.1, so it will not fully upgrade CS5.0 to CS5.1.

To identify the different builds, you can check the build number. The full CS5.1 internal build number will be 11.1. If you apply the 5.0 patch, the internal build number will be 11.0.1.

By Cynthia Scott | Thursday, June 02, 2011

Discussing HTML5 video and audio with author Steve Heffernan

As part of our series of courses on HTML5, we’ve released a new course called HTML5: Video and Audio in Depth. I had a chance to catch up with new author Steve Heffernan to talk to him about this topic. Steve Heffernan is a web front-end developer with 12 years of experience, and an HTML5 video enthusiast. He has spoken on HTML5 video at the Open Video Conference, and is the creator of the popular HTML5 video player, VideoJS. He is also co-founder of Zencoder, a cloud-based video encoding service.

By Cynthia Scott | Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Author James Williamson discusses his new HTML5 course on structure, syntax, and semantics

We’re very excited to be releasing a series of courses on HTML5 this week. Senior staff author James Williamson kicks off the content with a new course releasing today, HTML5: Structure, Syntax, and Semantics. This course is designed as the starting point; other courses will teach how to use HTML5 web forms, local storage, rich media, and graphics with the HTML5 <canvas> tag. Let us know what else you’re interested in learning about HTML5 by leaving us a comment with this post.

I had a chance to ask James about his experiences preparing for this course.

Q: What got you interested in HTML5?A: When it seemed that the implementation of XHTML 2 just wasn’t going to happen. I remember hearing about the founding of WHATWG and how they planned to keep working on HTML. At the time I viewed it as a pleasant curiosity, but as we can see, they were on the right track.

Q: What are some of the most surprising uses of HTML5 you’ve seen?A: I have to be really careful here, because there are a lot of demos and examples floating around out there that, while amazing executions of HTML and JavaScript, aren’t technically HTML5. Overall, I’d have to say I’m most surprised at how quickly Canvas is maturing. Although the Canvas API is in its own spec in the W3C, the canvas element is native to HTML5. Check out Hakim El Hattab’s demo page and you’ll see how far some people are pushing the envelope.

By Cynthia Scott | Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Joomla! development news: an interview with Jen Kramer, lynda.com author

Learn how to make this web site in Joomla! 1.6 Essential Training with Joomla! author Jen Kramer.

As part of our ongoing training courses on content management systems, we’re soon to release a new course, Joomla! 1.6 Essential Training. If you’ve been watching Joomla! 1.6 Beta Preview, that course will be coming off of the Library soon and replaced with Joomla! 1.6 Essential Training.

I had a chance to catch up with author Jen Kramer to talk to her about her experience with this software. She described the planned evolution of Joomla releases. I thought our members would like to hear about this unusual development plan.

Q: So what you’re saying is that Joomla 1.6 will evolve into 1.7. Then, Joomla 1.5 and Joomla 1.7 will merge together into Joomla 1.8. Is that right?

Well, not quite. Joomla’s development path has become considerably more complicated than it has been in the past.

These are all individual releases. Each release builds on the one before it. Joomla 1.5 will continue, parallel to Joomla 1.6 > 1.7. Then they will merge into 1.8

A full description of Joomla’s release plan is available at http://developer.joomla.org/strategy.html

Up until the release of Joomla 1.6, Joomla based their releases on feature sets. When the features were done, the software was released. Unfortunately, in an all-volunteer community (no one is paid for Joomla core development at this time), this lead to a very long time between releases. Joomla 1.5 was released in January 2008. Joomla 1.6 was released in January 2011—three years later.

Joomla has now moved to a time-based release cycle, which includes short-term (STR) and long-term support (LTS). Short-term releases will be in active development for 6 months, then reach the end of life 1 month after the next version’s release. Long-term support means the product will be good for a minimum of 15 months. The previously supported long term release will be supported for 3 months past the release of the new long term release.

Here’s a table describing key dates over the next year for Joomla’s release and support cycle.

Release NameType of ReleaseRelease DateEnd of Life
Joomla 1.5LTSJanuary 2008April 2012
Joomla 1.6STRJanuary 2011August 2011
Joomla 1.7STRJuly 2011February 2012
“Joomla 1.8”LTSJanuary 2012Unknown – at least 15 months

“Joomla 1.8” is what many people are calling the next LTS version of Joomla, but it’s not known what its exact name will be.

Q: What should people think about if they are deciding between Joomla 1.5 and Joomla 1.6 at this time for a new web site?

I would point to the schedule, and be very sure to factor this into your thinking. August is not far away (even though it feels like it, due the many feet of snow on the ground here in New Hampshire).

I have talked with a number of people in Joomla’s leadership. They have stated that migration from Joomla 1.6 to 1.7, then 1.7 to 1.8 will not be that difficult. They have also promised a migration tool for Joomla 1.6 to 1.7. There is no official Joomla migration tool available for Joomla 1.5 to 1.6 from Joomla.org; however, there is a third party tool available (http://www.matware.com.ar/joomla/jupgrade.html).

Easy migrations, unfortunately, are not borne out in past history in the Joomla project. I do not want to be in a position of building a site for a client in Joomla 1.6, only to tell them a short time later that I must upgrade their site to a new version—at some additional, and potentially significant, cost. If that cost is small, I’m fine with it, but again, the history points to difficulty in migrating.

If you’re building a new site in Joomla, and you really need one of the major new features in Joomla 1.6, you should definitely consider building there. In my mind, those new features are ACL (Access Control Levels), significantly improved accessibility in Joomla’s back end with the Hathor template, or possibly some of the templating features. The nested categories feature is flagged as a major new feature, but you can replicate that functionality easily in Joomla 1.5 with K2, Zoo, or another CCK (content construction kit) extension. If nested categories is all you need, I’d stick with 1.5.

I have said publicly, on my blog, that my company is still building sites in Joomla 1.5. That is not because Joomla 1.6 isn’t a great product. It’s got some absolutely fabulous new features we would love to use. But due to our concern over future migrations and support for them, we will stick with Joomla 1.5 for now.

Q: What should people think about if they are deciding to migrate a site from Joomla 1.5 to Joomla 1.6?

If you have an existing Joomla 1.5 site, and it’s working great for you, I would tell you NOT to migrate to 1.6. There’s absolutely no reason to do so in February 2011. However, you should be planning for February 2012, when you should definitely be migrating your site to Joomla 1.8.

Q: What kind of projects would be best for Joomla 1.5 versus Joomla1.6?

If you have a site that needs to comply with certain accessibility guidelines like Section 508 or WCAG, Joomla 1.6 is the way to go, no question. This is particularly true if the back end of the web site must meet accessibility guidelines. My good friend Andrea Tarr, who created the Hathor administrator template, tells me that it meets the WCAG 2.0 AA specification.

If you need the ability for many groups of users to see different content on the front end of the site, or if you need fine-grained control over who can create/edit/delete which content on the back end of the site, I would also go with Joomla 1.6. The new ACL (Access Control Levels) system is extremely powerful. (In fact, it’s so powerful that it’s possible to lock yourself out of the back end.) There’s not much documentation for ACL at this time, so be careful if you need to use the system. However, you can make Joomla do whatever you want where this is concerned.

Finally, if you have a project with fairly complicated templating, including a number of different variables for look and feel, you might be better off with Joomla 1.6.

Joomla 1.5 did a great job with templates, allowing you to override core output via a template override. However, a template override affects all views tied to that look. For example, if you override the look of a category blog, then every category blog on the site takes on that new look.

Layout overrides, available in Joomla 1.6, allow you to override the look of a specific instance of a category blog (or anything else).

You’ve always had the ability to set up parameters associated with your template. For example, you could configure a color style (tied to a specific stylesheet), configure a logo or title for the site, things like that. These vary with the specific type of template installed. You can see an example of this if you look at Joomla’s core rhuk_milkyway or JA_Purity templates in Joomla 1.5.

Template styles, new in Joomla 1.6, allow you to configure these parameters for specific pages. Now you have an easy way to make these pages red, those pages blue, and other pages green — all from a single template source, and all completely configurable by your client. You can assign a template style in the menu item for a given page, so your clients can handle setting up new pages with styles you configured for them. (Combine this with ACL, and you can lock the clients out of the template area, so they can’t change your configuration settings.) So if you’re building a template with a theme that lends itself to parameters and options, then Joomla 1.6 is also a good choice for you.

Q: What are some of the most engaging uses of Joomla you’ve seen?

Joomla is in use in 20 million sites worldwide. It powers 2.5% of the web. So that’s a pretty tough call, determining which sites are the most engaging.

If you’re looking for great examples of Joomla websites, check out the Joomla Showcase, which features sites built by community members in a variety of areas and languages.

Steve Burge has done a series of blog posts profiling some big names using Joomla for their sites, including eBay; General Electric; Palm; the governments of the UK, Australia, Mongolia, and Ethiopia; Pizza Hut; McDonald’s; and many others. You can read more at http://community.joomla.org/labels/joomla-portfolio.html.

Q: What foundation skills would people need to get the most out of Joomla! 1.6 Essential Training?

I’ve targeted Joomla! 1.6 Essential Training to those who have some experience building websites before, whether that’s with Dreamweaver, FrontPage, or another CMS. Mostly, that’s due to the language I use in the course. For example, I assume you know what the words HTML and CSS mean, if I used those terms in a sentence. However, there’s little coding in this title. Mostly it’s button-clicking, showing you how to set up a site from start to finish.

Q: What other related courses do you have in the Online Training Library®?

I have some other titles that may interest readers. They may already be familiar with Joomla 1.5: Creating and Editing Custom Templatesand Joomla 1.5: Styling with CSS.

My favorite title is Web site Strategy and Planning, which covers how to plan a web site before you ever start clicking around.

And Preparing CMS Web Graphics and Layouts Using Open Source Toolsshows all of the prep work, getting a comp ready for conversion to a CMS template or theme, using GIMP (an open source substitute for Photoshop) and KompoZer (an open source substitute for Dreamweaver).

Q: One question I’ve always wondered about. Why the exclamation mark?

Yeah, they weren’t really thinking clearly when they did that. In general, people use the exclamation point in the titles/headlines of articles, but not in the main text.

Author Jen Kramer will be hosting Joomla User Group New England on April 2, 2011 at Marlboro College Graduate School. You are welcome to join members of the Joomla leadership, business owners and instructors to learn the latest skills and techniques used in Joomla 1.6. For more info, go to www.joomladaynewengland.org.

By Cynthia Scott | Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Drupal training released on the same day as Drupal 7

Drupal 7 is scheduled to release today—and in a happy coincidence, lynda.com’s first release of 2011, Drupal Gardens Essential Training, with Tom Geller, was also released today.

Kirk Werner was the training producer for this course. The day we talked about creating this course he went out to test Drupal Gardens for himself. When I asked him about the software, he told me that he found Drupal Gardens to be an amazing CMS solution, giving people the ability to make a great looking, custom site in less than 30 minutes.

In this course, author Tom Geller demonstrates how to create and publish a complete web site with the powerful tools in Acquia’s hosted service, Drupal Gardens. The course covers how to leverage its pre-built page layouts and add custom styling without having to learn CSS, using the Theme Builder tool, integrate rich site features, such as forms, surveys, and media galleries, and how to push content to Twitter and Facebook. The course also shows how to transition a Drupal Gardens site to a self-hosted Drupal site.

I caught up with Tom to ask him about his course.

How is Drupal Gardens related to Drupal 7?

It’s real Drupal, only without the server maintenance hassles of traditional, self-hosted Drupal. Think of it this way: What the WordPress.com blogging site is to WordPress, Drupal Gardens is to Drupal.

Drupal Gardens also differs from the “core” Drupal by including a lot of extra pieces. I think Acquia did a good job picking which modules to add: They really give you features you want, but that aren’t in core Drupal. On the down side, you can’t add modules (as you can with self-hosted Drupal). On the other hand, you can always export your Drupal Gardens site if you outgrow its functionality.

What skills will people need to use Drupal Gardens?

Not nearly as many as for Drupal! If you’ve ever used a publishing platform — WordPress, Blogger, MediaWiki, or even services like Facebook or LiveJournal — you’ll feel comfortable publishing in Drupal Gardens right away. Now, you’ll only use five percent of its power at first: It’s really that much deeper than those other programs. But that just speaks to how far you can go with it.

In your opinion, what’s the most interesting feature in Drupal Gardens?

One feature? I’d say it’s the Theme Builder, which gives you incredible freedom to change your site’s appearance. You get pixel-level control over the theme’s Cascading Style Sheets without having to learn CSS — although knowing a bit about its structure sure helps. I give a brief background about it before showing how the Theme Builder works.

But what most impresses me about Drupal Gardens is the whole package. It feels solid; there are no loose ends. Given Drupal’s flexibility, that’s saying a lot.

Are there any key features that have been added since you recorded your course?

Yes! In late December, when the course was in post-production, Acquia added a neat data-collection feature called webforms. Drupal Gardens already had something similar — the Poll module that comes in core Drupal. But webforms takes that concept much, much further. As with the Theme Builder, they improved webforms by giving it a more click-and-drag interface than you usually see in Drupal.

Since we’re planning to update this course on a regular basis, I’ll be able to update the Drupal Gardens course to include webforms the next time I’m at lynda.com.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Just that Drupal Gardens really owes its life to two parties: Acquia, the commercial company that released it, and the Drupal community as a whole. It’s an excellent example of a community-built open-source project that’s been commercialized with intelligence and sensitivity. It sure helps that the same person created both Acquia and the original Drupal software.

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