There are a lot of Joomla extensions out there, many of which are free (or at least offer limited release or branded versions for free). There are so many, I would say, that it can be frustrating to search for an extension when you need one. I can not fix this problem, but I hope I can reduce the search time for others when it comes to a few common extension needs.
My short list of must-have, FREE Joomla Extensions
1. akeebaBackup (formerly joomlapack) - Since updating to akeebaBackup, I think this particular component has started to cater to its commercial version a little too heavily. Nonetheless, it stands as the best backup utility that I have used. It backups the entire file system (allowing custom exclusions, and including standard exclusions for directories like tmp), it generates a backup of the database (including all the tables, not just the standard installation tables), and it creates its own custom installation directory for restoring the site using the file system and db backups. I use akeebaBackup for moving sites between my test servers, and among live servers. I also have akeebaBackups pre-built with all of my preferred extensions and templates installed, so I can hit the ground running on my new projects.
2. JCE (Joomla Content Editor) - Joomla Content Editor takes Tiny MCE project to the next level within Joomla sites. It occasionally causes issues with editor buttons, but these are worth troubleshooting, as the JCE interface is much more manageable, and offers a lot of configuration options. This component requires the JCE plugin to reach its full glory.
3. Phoca Gallery - I have posted a couple of hacks to alter Phoca Gallery plugins, and I am generally a big fan of their projects. Phoca Downloads, Phoca Maps, Phoca Documentation, and Phoca PDF have all served my needs well for projects - but I must admit to not investigating alternatives in these cases. As far as galleries go, I think the Phoca Gallery really has the best combination of user-friendly administration, feature-rich without being bloated with parameters (although it does have quite a few), and a great suite of complimentary Modules and Plugins (I never install the Phoca Gallery without the Phoca Image Module and Phoca Search Plugin).
4. ChronoForms - I wish forms would just go away. They're ugly, annoying, browser-specific, and did I mention ugly and annoying? Anyway, they are not going anywhere, and I have spent a lot of time looking for a good (free) form component that can meet all my form building needs. I think ChronoForms is a bit lacking in UI elements, but it by far the best option I have found for putting forms in my Joomla sites.
5. JEvents - For event management. UI, options, functionality are all where they should be for a free component. JEvents is popular for a reason, and I use it when I need events data on a site. There are also good modules/plugins available to complement.
6. XMap - Everyone is concerned about SEO and making sure Google has their latest and greatest site map and has indexed every last word they posted. XMap easily takes care of this, and also provides a means to include your site map on your site.
7. VirtueMart - I prefer VirtueMart for e-commerce in Joomla. I hope I am not starting a war here.
8. My Custom Blank Component. I searched long and hard for a blank component, but could not seem to track one down. I know you should use a different template, or you can include a show component option in your template. But many times I just have one page, where all I want is to show a bunch of modules. In those cases, I just want to assign a menu item that is going to leave the component blank. So I made a blank component, and I use it a LOT.
This is getting long, so I'll skim the modules:
1. Extended Menu Module - If you are not using this already, you should be.
2. AiDaNews Module - A good enhancement to the Latest News plugin that comes pre-installed.
3. Simple Image Holder - I use this thing everywhere. It is probably my most used extension on a per page basis.
4. Simple Image Rotator - I am fairly anti-flash, and I generally opt for the Simple Image Rotator over alternatives.
My Plugins are all complements to my components. Since I tend to avoid flash, my articles tend to be images and text. The only times I require plugins are when I want an article to interface with a component, hence you will find all my top Plugins at the links previously provided.
And for templates, I will defer to a good article I caught recently at JoomlaPraise. I will also say that many of my Joomla projects start with one of the free JoomlaPraise templates.
I intentionally did not list a flash player (I usually turn to the Flash Module or Embedia - moseasymedia, are these really the best?) or an all encompassing media component. I have tried too many to count, and just can't seem to find one (or even two or three) that will meet all of my needs. Hopefully someone can recommend a good media component (plugin/module) or suite of utilities and help me figure what I am doing wrong on this front.
Well, other than the media component/flash player are there any others I missed? Or, does anyone have reasonable alternatives or disagreements?