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Joomla Extensions: The Good, the Bad, and the Fugly

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As the planet is well aware by now, I've been doing most of my recent work in Joomla and I've found several useful extensions along the way. However, considering my employer, my experience with each has had a bit of an academic bent. Regardless, for my personal future reference, and the reference of anyone interested in tested and (un)approved extensions for their own Joomla installations, I present my own extension reviews:


Plugins

Tooltips - Do it. This is a fantastic plugin that allows the user to instantly add a mouse-over tooltip (or, in my case, a mouse-over wall-o-text-in-a-bubble). Simple installation, easy to use, highly recommended.

AutoTweetAutomator - Skip it. I was on a quest for a plugin to quickly and easily send our latest news items (headline and link) to all of our social networks and this one was very highly rated on the Joomla site. Thus far, it has done little except take up a smidgen of server space and stare at me mockingly from my Plugin Manager screen. It doesn't do what it was designed to do and it refuses to be deleted. Avoid the headache and look for another solution (something I haven't gotten around to yet).

Metagenerator - Do it. As is often the case when working with old school wannabe geeks, the idea that metatags are no longer the be all, end all of the Google algorithm is met with gaped-mouth insistance that metatags MUST be included and they MUST be ridiculously convoluted and there IS no other option for improving search rankings. This plugin keeps them quiet and makes my day a tiny bit less stressful by automatically generating meta content for every page of your Joomla site based on the content of that specific page. Totally worth it.


Modules

GCalendar - Do it. This module connects to your Google Calendar and pulls your schedule for display on the site. My Google Calendar contains a total of 14 different calendars. This module gives me the option to display all of them, some of them, or just one of them on any given page (or little corner division of a page). I have the events calendar displayed in a small section of the front page, the athletics calendar displayed for each individual sport in a sidebar, the academic calendar displayed on its own page Agenda style, the master calendar is displayed from another page. It's really a fantastic little addition and frees up an incredible amount of time because I only have to enter an item into one calendar one time and I can display it as often as I want in a multitude of formats.

VTEM News Stack - Meh. This is a cute little news changer that displays your selected number of news items in carousel format - complete with animations - without the use of Flash. It is a beautiful addition to any site meant to be viewed in Internet Explorer. However, it is far too buggy in Firefox to make it worth the time I spent trying to fix it. Use at your own risk.

IceMegaMenu - Do it. This is a fantastic dropdown menu module. It allows the user the freedom to add virtually unlimited levels of dropdown goodness and you can choose to display ALL the dropdown levels or only the first few (I use the latter method for the sake of URL logic - let me know if you'd like me to post more details on this). I've used this module for every Joomla site I've created to date. It's super quick! It's super easy! It's super queasy!


Components

Hosting Raja - Modified. This component was originally marketed as a way to advertise and accept registrations for seminars/webinars. I made a few PHP modifications and produced a beautiful way to display current job openings. It should be noted that I use this in conjunction with the Tooltips plugin to display the actual ad content. Recommended if you know PHP and are just adventurous enough to dig in and make a few edits.

Fox Contact - Do it. This is a remarkably customizable contact form that works beautifully every time - just as long as your email settings are correct in your control panel (I lost 3 days to this problem). Worth it if you're smarter than me!


In addition to these, I've also found alternate uses for some of the Joomla default extensions. With a few modifications, I've taken the Banners advertising component - included standard in all Joomla installs - and turned it into a rotating event spotlight for the institution's main page. I've also used the standard Joomla Contacts component to generate Directory listings by department, name, full- or part-time status, and whether the employee is a faculty member or staff member.

I hope this list is helpful to someone somewhere out there in WTH Do I Do With Joomla Land. And - in the words of the immortal Forrest Gump - that's all I have to say about that.

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