Top 10 useful components – free joomla components

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

When designing a Joomla website, we often use some components to get according functionalities, There are a lot of components that give Joomla the power to be the best CMS on market today.
Here are the most useful components I used in the years for building sites. Of course the list is not exhaustive. I do not claim to have used all components and also I will not include any commercial components in this list. Commercial components will make another list .
The list is not in a specific order, the components are all good and mainly from different areas – so it would be hard to compare them to each other..

1. Virtuemart
No eCommerce site should be without a virtuemart installation. This component provides an out of the box shop. An extensive plugin API allowed the component to grow into a full ecommerce solution. There are now a huge amount of payment plugins available for virtueamart, and there are lots of freelancers able to build you a custom made one (if you have some exotic payment processor).
Products and Manufacturers can be very easy setup, and shipment costs can be customized with ease. After trying Virtuemart there are not enough horses in the world to drag you back to OSCommerce

2. JoomlaPack
Backup, Backup, Backup. You always wish you do not have to need it, but when you need it – you’re dead without it.
Most budget hosting sites do not offer a decent backup management system (I know godaddy does not), and also there is not to easy to restore that backup once you would need it. Joomlapack solves this with elegance. First of all the backup management is very well thought and joomla oriented. Second it generates install files that put your site back in case you need it. Just upload the archive contents and you will get a wizard similar to the joomla installation wizard.
Also great for site migration!

3. Community Builder
Ok. There are not enough words to stress the necesity of this component. There is no proffesional wemaster that did not use it at least in one site. For the moment this is THE profile management system for joomla. Smart field management (you can add a lot of custom fields to your profiles), avatars, userlists and many more.
Althou it seems that future versions will be commercial or at least released under some club licenses, this extenison is a must-have for every community site. We even used this for a company intranet site. Worked very well.

4. Fireboard
Forums. The well known meeting place. The granfathers of social networking. Any open website has one. If you need feedback, if you provide support – there is always a forum.
Fireboard does the job. It delivers. The component is clean, has many options and some templating. There are some missing features – like a messenging system- but the component is very well made and has an enormous complexity.
The only realist alternative for joomla is a SMF bridge – and we all know we hate bridges…

5. RSSFactory
News syndication is good. RSS integration is better. You can get your fresh content without moving a muscle. Just add the RSS sources that feature news in your area of experitse , or at least that generate keywords that have meaning for your site, and there you have a great free SEO tool.
Most RSS feeds feature a big chunk of the main article, so by integrating them in your site – you will have almost everything there. And with the smart wrapper display our users will not even have to leave your site. Rssfactory has a lot of configurable options in the administrator backend – you can even choose the refresh interval.
Great Tool, Huge benefits.

6. FacileForms and BreezingForms
Once a proud component in the joomlasphere, Facile forms stalled development some year ago. When I first saw facileforms I immediately fell in love with it.
The visual editing was amazing, and the form element plugin system just great. I had customers that even could programm some basic functions on their own even if they were php illiterate.
Now after more then a year of standstill in the development, there seems that a followup appeared (not by the original development team – but as a fork of Facile forms project) Now with Joomla 1.5 support and a promise of further development. Let’s see where this road leads

7. Artio JoomSEF
SEO. The final frontier. The place where many webmasters dissapeared and never returned.
There is no way – no way! to run a non-sef joomla site. It’s a crime against SEO. The joomla 1.0 core sef was a goof. The joomla 1.5 is at least not a joke anymore, but it does not near the smoothness of Artio’s JoomSEF. I will always recommand it. Sh404 is good, but artio is more human I think ..

8. JSAS
Even it is not an extension – JSAS needs here a special thank you. It’s just geat that there is a way to get Joomla running in no-time on a desktop computer – without even having to be online (but that would not hurt thou)
Many development projects wi developed with JSAS (I even have the Mysql database from the MSAS –mambo stand alone server – on my work computer. How time flies..) Thanks guys!

9. JCE
TinyMCE on steroids. Have more to your WYSIWYG Editor. A lot of features and a great way to configure them. Plugin management and many more. Maybe sometimes to many..

10. JoomlaXplorer
A modern day ftp replacement. Just forget the old FTP program. Use this great component to administer the files on your joomla hosting. Upload, donwload, edit and change user permissions. All with jooomlaxplorer.

Although there are no known security issues, I do never leave it installed on a live production server if I do not plan to use it on a daily basis (and I never did until now), I just uninstall it after I did the cahnges I needed on the server and the next time I reinstall it. Safe is safe.

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