The new version of Joomla version 1.6 was officially released this week. This version was rebuilt from the start, and is a major change from the previous 1.5 release.
The Joomla team had three main goals for this release. First, they wanted to expand and improve the access control system. This was a much needed improvement, as competing CMS systems, like Drupal, already had a good authorization system implemented. Users have been asking for this for awhile now.
The second goal was to have a nested category system. The previous release allowed for articles to be organized by sections and categories, but that was it. The new system gives you a hierarchy of categories to further group articles.
The third goal was to standardize on the way extensions and added functionality was coded. This will allow for a consistent interface through out Joomla.
Other improvements were ease of installation, running several sites off the same engine, expanded language support, and more creative control of template styles.
The overall look of the administration panel includes new icons and a new look to the previous confusing, and all important, menu type selection page. The page now is laid out without drop down menus which is much better.
The tools menu has disappeared which allowed for mass mailings, and global check-ins. The mass mailings have been moved to the Users menu where it makes more sense, and the Global Check In has moved under Site>Maintenance, along with the now included Clear Cache. This was a separately installed plug-in in the last version.
Categories now can be nested in a hierarchy of categories, and permissions can be set on individual categories.
Which brings me to the permissions system. A new Category Manager gives you permissions by category and sub-category by group, with choices of Inherited, Allowed, or Denied on Create, Edit, Delete, Edit State, and Edit Owner for each group of users. Permission can be changed for each type of user or group of users. A new Access Levels Manager allows you to manage users by group hierarchically. Another nice touch is you can create you own group of users and give that group special permissions, very nice. Permissions alone would have made the new version great, and there's more. None of this was possible in version 1.5.
There is a new back end messaging component that allows you to set up messaging between developers and users.
A big plus, to me, is a new "Redirect Manager" under the Components menu. This should hopefully eliminate the previous "buggy" SEF component plug-ins that caused so many errors. Another new component is the Links manager for controlling your external links and grouping them into categories.
As to the front end of the site, the developers have given you two types of sites as examples with corresponding brand new templates to use as an example. This will hopefully allow developers of smaller sites to get sites put together more quickly , and in the second example, you get a more upscale corporate looking site of a fruit company in Australia with menus.
If your just starting a new site, Joomla 1.6 is a worthy choice. A note of caution, though. If you use a lot of modules and components to add functionality to your sites, you may want to wait until version 1.6 matures to give Joomla 1.5 plug-in developers time to upgrade their plug-ins to run 1.6.
At first, quick, glance, it looks like Joomla used an old Microsoft trick of just changing the looks slightly, and calling it a new version, but after you start looking around under the hood, you realize that a wealth of new functionality has been worked into this release. The developers have added some very needed and hard to do functionality and deserve a hardy thank you for their efforts. Version 1.6, at first glance, looks like a winner, and I expect developers to move forward rapidly to upgrade their plug-ins for the new version. Congratulations, Joomla Development Team, and Thank You.