Joomla! 3.7.0 New Features

That finally happened on April 25, 2017. The latest, long-awaited version of Joomla! has been released. It finally adds a significant addition to the Joomla core: custom fields. There are a few more new features and many improvements of the old Joomla! features as well.

Please take this blog post as my personal thoughts. You would agree with some of my opinions. And you would probably not agree with some of them. Accordingly to Google trends, popularity of Joomla is still decreasing. However, I definitely don't think that Joomla! users should leave the ship immediately! There is (at least one) more popular CMS over there. Switching to the more popular CMS can bring you more potential customers, but you should also think about the competition! It's (even) stronger! So, if you ask me, stick with Joomla!. Believe that it would get back to the old paths of glory! Switching from Joomla! to more popular (or better, easier to learn, anything...) CMS doesn't mean that you would earn more money!

To me personally, Joomla 3.7.0 is bringing a new hope! I believe that Joomla! can again be what it used to be 5 years ago! Finally, a (real) new feature in Joomla! that can be useful for websites we are making. I don't remember any other that's been added recently, since the addition of tags a long time ago. And the new feature works just fine. It's easy to set up and predictable when you are using it. Let's explain custom fields!

Custom Fields in Joomla 3.7.0

Custom fields allow you to "mark" your articles with text, numbers, options, etc. The best way to explain custom fields is if we have an example. Let's imagine you are making a website for a model's agency and the customer wants to "mark" each model's page with the model's sex, age, height, and country of origin. When you go to Content > Articles, you would see new Fields and Field Groups links. Field Groups are something like categories of Fields. You can group them and it can be useful if your site counts many custom fields. However, it's not mandatory to categorize the fields though. Now, we can create 4 custom fields for our example:

  • Radio field where the site owner can select if the model is male or female.
  • Numeric field where site owner can enter model's age.
  • Textual field where site owner can enter model's height (in example 180 cm or 5' 11").
  • List field where the site owner can select one of the available countries from the list.

There are many other types of fields and almost all use cases are covered.

Joomla backend menu editor

These fields, together with values, would be displayed on the article in a standardized way. I know, you could achieve all this even without the brand-new Joomla feature. You could just enter all data into the article's body. However, it's easier now, especially for the non-experienced site owners who would like to be able to add the content articles themselves. The custom fields allow us to make standardized web pages a lot easier.

Joomla backend menu editor

I am not sure if the Custom Fields should be placed in Content > Articles or under the Components menu, as a new component. I believe the bottom is more logical. However, thinking about this is bringing me to the second new (not so noticeable, but maybe even more useful) feature of Joomla! It can be useful especially if you want to simplify Joomla! backend for your inexperienced clients.

Backend Menu Manager

Users without strong Joomla experience will struggle to setup the custom backend menu. The obvious reason for this is the lack of documentation... So, let me explain how I did that.

Basically, you are adding a new menu as usual. However, don't forget to select "Administrator" for Client option. When you create such a menu, you can start adding your menu items. In this case, the menu items are related to backend features. For example, you can't make a menu item linked to an article (this is for front-end menus), but you can make a menu item for adding a new article.

The next step is to create a menu module. This is simple. You can click on the button in the list of menus or click New in the Modules page and select Menu for the module type. In the module settings, you should select an appropriate module position available in your backend template. In the default Joomla backend template (Isis), this module position is "menu". After you save the module settings, your backend menu will be available (if you added some menu items to it) beside the default Joomla's backend menu. You can disable the default backend menu by disabling its module. This will hide most of your backend menu items! So, be careful... Joomla! will show a warning message that allows you to turn the menu back on in the recovery mode, if that's necessary.

Joomla backend menu editor

Complicated? Not so much if you are experienced with Joomla! enough. If you are not, it could be! Actually, without documentation, it would be a nightmare to set up something like this for a Joomla! newbie.

Multilingual Associations

If you have a multilingual website based on Joomla!, version 3.7.0 should make your work on the site translation easier. Multilingual Associations is a new component that's part of Joomla! core. It allows you to edit two versions of your article (each in a different language) on the same screen. This is so good to see!

However, when I am talking about the multilingual features of Joomla!, I must mention something else. The current status of Joomla! for making multilingual websites is, in my opinion, not perfect! While competition allows you to translate the entire backend with a couple of clicks in settings, there are still dozens of steps required to change the language of Joomla! environment or to install a new language. Once it's set up, the maintenance and translation of such a website are not complicated and it's predictable even without any additional extensions. This is a big plus for Joomla! However, in the next versions, I would like to see an easier way to change the main language and easier addition of the new languages.

Improved Workflow (?)

Joomla! 3.7.0 is not the first version of Joomla! that allows you to create "something" (for example, a new article) from a place that's not designed for this purpose (for example, from the menu manager). So, if you decide to add a menu item for a non-existing article (?!), you can create the article itself by clicking the Create button on the menu item page (?!). A new article can be created from the modal window then (?!). Is it an improved workflow? Not for me, but somebody else might like it...

However, if you supposed that you could create a menu item for an article when you are editing the article, that's wrong! I couldn't find a way to do it. In my opinion, it's more logical to create a link (a menu item) for an article that's in process of formation, than make a link (menu item) for something that doesn't exist yet!

You can create a category while making a new Joomla article. In the category drop-down menu, enter a new category name and it will be created together with the article! Nice and easy!

Improved Editor (???)

For the advanced Joomla! users who are HTML/CSS proficient, changing or disabling the editor is often an easy fix for all the problems that Joomla! makes with the default editor. But, Joomla! must "think" of new and potential Joomla! users! What's the first thing they do after the installation of the CMS? Of course, they first make a new article (post). What's one of the first things they see? Of course, they first see the default editor.

With each new version, Joomla! developers add some small features to the default TinyMCE editor. Therefore, you can easily add links to the articles or menu items from the editor. You can also add contacts and fields. These new buttons make the default Joomla! editor even more complicated. The fact is that Joomla! the editor looks very bad already! It reminds me of Microsoft Word from 15 years ago...

I think default Joomla! editor should be simpler! Much simpler! Advanced and rarely used features should be hidden under the "Advanced editor" link. Should you select font family and size for each article separately? This practice usually produces some awful web pages. Unexperienced users would use font family and size from the editor because they are available! And they would create ugly and non-standardized pages based on jumbled font families and font sizes. Because Joomla! let them do it.

Do you use code text or anchor links often? Do you often add modules to the articles? You probably don't. So, let's get rid of (or at least hide) of all these icons that we don't need from the default Joomla! editor in (one of) the next versions of Joomla!

Please decide the editor you would like to see in your favorite CMS. Is it the editor from CMS option 1 or CMS option 2?

Joomla editor vs. WordPress editor

I think, the answer is simple! And I don't think too hard to make this change in the next Joomla! version. Let's make Joomla! modern, intuitive, and really easy to use! Let's make a new default editor, or, at least, make the current editor light and intuitive. Please don't keep adding new (unneeded) buttons with each new Joomla! release! Joomla! users deserve a simple default editor that would help them to write articles in accordance to the best web design practices. Which they maybe even don't know...

Is This Post For Or Against Joomla!?

Per my opinion, Joomla! is still the best CMS in the world! It brings flexibility as no other CMS does. Again, the author of this post definitely recommends all existing Joomla! developers to keep using Joomla!. There's still hope Joomla! would be back on the paths of glory!

How To Make Joomla! Great Again?

Add new features in each new release. Remove unneeded and rarely used features.

We want new useful features with each new version of Joomla! Joomla! 3.7.0 brings the Custom Fields to the core. How about to (finally) include the comments component in the next version? This is in my opinion a feature that every CMS must have from version 1.0. Period. Joomla! doesn't have it even after more than 10 years of development! It's such a shame...

There are many features at this moment that are rarely used, but still make Joomla! unnecessary looks complicated and overcrowded. Plenty of them is in default Joomla! editor that I already mentioned. Also, the core components like Messaging and News Feeds are more bothering Joomla! users than they are using them. Do we need two core search components? Does the presence of two search components have any useful purpose? It is confusing for new potential users of Joomla! for sure...

Create and include better default templates!

Design is something that sells. The perfect code and plenty of features are not enough to sell, even a free product. But the nice and modern design would sell, even the bad products!

Current default Joomla! front-end templates are something that new potential users see first in the front-end, after installation of the CMS. Current default Joomla! templates look like they are from the previous century. They look bad. In my opinion, if we compare them with what the competition offers in their CMS out-of-the-box, they look very bad!

Each major release of Joomla! must bring a new default Joomla! template, based on a top-notch modern design that will represent (new) features of Joomla! appropriately. Default templates or themes, included with the main CMS, are something that would attract plenty of new users or make them go away. Joomla templates are simple pieces of code, but the most powerful! That's something completely overlooked in Joomla! development for years! In my opinion.

Upgrade issues never again!

I think there were enough problems with an upgrade in Joomla! history. One more and Joomla! can become a part of history itself. I am so afraid of this. I think I said enough...

Last, But Not Least Most Important!

While I am writing this article, I can hear the voices telling me that I should go to Joomla! GitHub, propose new features, code them myself and contribute... Let everybody contribute, let's make Joomla! together, as its name suggests. This sounds so nice and fair, but things are not functioning like that in the real world!

There's no free beer! There's no good graphic designer who will design beautiful default Joomla! templates for free. There's no smart UI designer who will make Joomla! backend simple and powerful at the same time and do it for free! There're no experienced coders who would code comments component in Joomla! core for free!

Above all, Joomla! must have a team of leaders who are experienced enough to decide the best designs for Joomla!, the best UI mechanisms, and ensure the quality of code. And they would not do it for free as well...

Joomla! community must find sustainable ways to collect funds and then invest the funds to the further development of Joomla! Without this, there's no hope... In my opinion.