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BNR Branding Solutions is based in Huntersville, N.C., and is a full-service web development and digital marketing company.

Sunday, 03 May 2009 22:26

Taking Joomla to Another Level with CCK

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If there is one weakness Joomla has is its simplicity. Yes, this is also its strength but it does make a developer's job a bit harder when trying to shoehorn a site's content in to Joomla's Section-Category-Article model. Sometimes a client needs a specific content type - job listing, employee directory, product descriptions, the list is endless. In the past this has been dealt with installing content specific components or by making the move to Drupal. Why Drupal? It's simple really. Drupal has an extension called Content Constrution Kit or CCK. It's one of those must have extensions that should be part of the core code. CCK is THAT good.

What is CCK?

CCK is best described as a built in custom component builder. It fixes the main issues with Joomla because it allows for nesting categories, multiple categories for a single content item, and custom content fields. Rather than stuffing everything in to an article or adding yet another component, you just define another content type. Think that might be a little useful?

Where to get CCK?

There are several developers who have ventured in to the CCK arena with their interpretation of what CCK should be. The offerings range from free to subscription based to one time licensing fees. Depending on which version you decide to go with you could end up spending as much as $131 USD for your CCK component.

As of this writing I have found 6 developers with CCK components either for sale or available for download. I will be doing detailed reviews on each product I can get my hands on, but here is a brief summary of each product. For the purposed of this article I am only considering Joomla 1.5 native components.

Form2Content by Open Source Design
Open Source Design is a Dutch website development house. Form2Content is their first publicly released commercial Joomla component. F2C is available for about $60 (45.00 €) for the core component. At this time there is one additional extension for F2C, an XML feed generator that cost an additional $38 (29.00 €) and they have a search component under development. OSD does not currently offer a trial version, but they do have both a frontend and admin demo site set up for you to try.

If OSD will supply a copy for me to test I will feature a full review from install to implementation. If not, I will see what I can come up with from their online demo.

Fabrik is the oldest of the CCK projects. It started life as the Mambo extension mosForms back in 2004. Over the years it has evolved from a simple form generator component to a full blown CCK. Due to its age Fabrik has a very established and active forum as well as a well developed feature set. In addition to the core component Fabrik also has 2 Fabrik plugins, 2 Joomla modules, and 5 Joomla plugins including one to integrate with Community Builder. Fabrik is available free of charge except for the subscriber exclusive plugins. In lieu of licensing fees Fabrik offers subscription support services for either $30 (£20.00) per year or $120 (£80.00) per quarter for more extensive support.

I already have a copy of Fabrik so this component will be getting a detailed review in the near future.

K2 by JoomlaWorks
K2 is being developed by JoomlaWorks, a full time Joomla extension development house. They have quite a few popular extensions including Frontpage Slideshow, Simple Image Gallery, AllVideos, Simple Image Rotator among others. They have been around since 2006 and are one of the heavy hitters in the Joomla extension world. They generally provide top notch extensions and in many cases offer them for free. There is no fear of JoomlaWorks disappearing overnight or of them not providing excellent support. This is their full time business so they are held to a higher standard by their clientele.

At this time, K2 is available for free download as is typical for JoomlaWorks. They do have plans for an extended Pro version in the future, but it's all free for now. Due to their popularity JoomlaWorks has a very active community forum with an entire section devoted to K2. Since this component is relatively new on the scene the K2 forums are still building traffic but will surely be as busy as the rest of their forums.

The free download includes the core component, a Joomla module and Joomla plugin. K2 also offers a demo site to go along with their free download. K2 will also be getting a detailed review from install to implementation.

Resources by JoomSuite
Like JoomlaWorks, JoomSuite is a fulltime Joomla extension development studio. They have quite a few successful extensions that are well review including JoomSuite Member, Defender, and Pay to Access. They have a sizeable development staff and an impressive list of clients using Resources. A quick peek at some of the sites reveals some very good examples of the power of Resources. Their own site even runs the extension, so they use what the write - always a good sign.

Joomsuite works on both a pay for license and pay for support model. You can download Resources for free and try it out with a renewable 15-day free trial. They encourage users to really put their extensions through the paces before purchasing the lifetime license. The license is available in Standard and Advance versions for $43 (£29.00) and $102 (£102.00) respectively.

Since Resources is available for a free trial this extension will also be getting a detailed install to implementation review.

Catalog by JXtended
JXtended is a well know full time development team that works very closely with the Joomla Development Team. So much so that several of their extensions are being added to the Joomla 1.6 core including Comments, JXtended Libraries, Access Control, and Nested Categories. Pretty impressive resume, and a good indicator of the commitment these developers have to the Joomla project.

JXtended has a full spectrum of extensions ranging from the aforementioned Comments, to a WYSIWYG editor, to some very handy developer tools that take a lot of the headache out of extension development. Support comes in the form of a well thought out documentation library and a support forum. JXtended works on a points/credits model that allows users to save money by buying credits in larger quantities for later use. If you are just interested in Catalog it will set you back no more than $90 for the highest priced credit package.

Like the other fulltime development shops, JXtended makes use of their own extensions so many of them can be seen at work in a live environment. Unfortunately, while JXtended does offer some freebies, Catalog is not one of them and there is no trial version available. They do have a frontend and admin demo install available for use, so they will at least receive a usage review if they do not want to offer up a copy for review.

ZOO by YOOtheme
YOOtheme is probably best know for some of their impressive Joomla templates. They offer some beautiful templates with very good use of AJAX and dymanic user controlled features. They also have an extensive list of Joomla extensions that are equally as impressive. You've probably seen their YOOtoppanel extension, it's a very nice implementation of an AJAX login form.

Like most of the other CCK developers, YOOtheme is a fulltime development business that utilizes a subscription model for most of their offerings. They do make an exception for ZOO however. They offer ZOO lite for free download and a Pro version for $131 (99.00 €). The lite version appears to be a very limited sample of what ZOO is really capable of since most of the media support and all of the social and web services are removed. ZOO Lite should still be enough to gauge how good their product really is.

Support comes in the way of a professionally assembled documentation that generally includes images, screenshots, and code samples with the occasional video. They also have a user support forum that can be accessed by purchasing a subscription that will also give you access to their templates and tool. 3 months of forum access are included with your ZOO purchase.

Hopefully YOOtheme will be willing to supply a full version for review. If not ZOO Lite will be put to the task, however limited that might be.

So that's it. Six heavyweight contenders for what promised to be one of the cornerstones of future Joomla development. I am looking forward to trying each of these products, particularly since I already have several clients who would benefit greatly from a good CCK extension. Look for the reviews in the coming weeks.

Did I miss your favorite CCK extension? Feel free to send me a link if you know of an extension that deserves a look!

BNR Branding Support

Brent Friar is the owner and chief web developer for BNR Branding Solutions. His development experience dates back to 1994 when he was a founding partner of Internextion Web Development in Orange County, CA.

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