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Extensions are additional tools for building Joomla websites. There are over 7,000 add-on extensions in the Joomla Extension directory. About half of these options are free or have two versions, a basic non-commercial version with more features in the commercial version. In this section, you will learn how to evaluate extensions in the Joomla Extension directory.

Let's begin by going to the home page of the Joomla Extension Directory https://extensions.joomla.org/

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Below the search box is a section called Browse Categories:

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Pick a category you are interested in learning more about. Then click on that link. Below we will research Download Managers to determine which we should add to our website. Click on Directories & Documentation. Then click on Downloads.

Researching Download Managers
Download Managers allow you to offer virtual products such as PDF tutorials to your readers. Go to the category called Directory and Documentation and select Downloads. Joomla offers about 37 different Download Managers. http://extensions.joomla.org/category/directory-a-documentation/downloads?&start=0


Which Download Manager should we choose?
Component, Module or Plugin?
Because we want to track the number of times each file is downloaded, we need a table of downloads in the backend of our website. This means we need a component – which eliminates any extensions which are merely plugins (putting files in documents) or modules (displaying files in a module or box). To determine if a File downloader is a component, look for a big green C when hovering over the extension box. Below is more information on the difference between Plugins, Modules and Components.


Types of Joomla Extensions
There are three main types of Joomla extensions


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Plug Ins are reached and configured via the Plug In Manager. These are very small bits of code typically inserted into articles. They are indicated by a purple P next to the extension name in the Joomla Extension Directory.

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Modules are larger programs controlling Joomla boxes or modules on your website. They are indicated with a Red M next to the Extension name in the Joomla Extension Directory.

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Components are often very large programs which often include plugins and modules. They may in fact be sub-directories of Joomla adding several pages of options and parameters. These are indicated by a green C in the Joomla Extension Directory. After uploading a new component, all components are reached from the Top Menu Components Icon.

The final type of extension is a Combination of the Components, Modules and Plugins typically called Packages. These are Components which may also come with associated Modules and/or Plug Ins. They will have a combination of icons next to their name. It may require more than one download to make these work. While templates are also Extensions, templates are not posted in the Extension Directory.

Seven Factors in Selecting Extensions
There are many websites which rate Joomla Extensions. However, because new extensions are released all the time, it is a wise practice to go directly to the Joomla Extension Directory and read about all of the available options. Some of the more important criteria to look for include:


One: Written for the latest version of Joomla
While some extensions written for older versions of Joomla might work, the best choice is to look for extensions that have been specifically tested for Joomla 3 as indicated by a yellow box in the Extension Summary


Two: Number of Reviews and Review Ratings
The extensions with the highest ratings and most reviews are listed first. These are usually, but not always, your best choice. It is important to read the actual reviews which are posted just below the extensions in their respective pages.


Three: Free or Commercial?
About half the extensions are free while the other half require a payment to download. Free options are often better than commercial options. Because the whole point of Joomla is to offer a free open source web building tool, all of the extensions we recommend below are free. After clicking on the Free filter in the search box, there are 20 options. Here are the top six Download Extensions:


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Four: Highly Rated, Popular and Editors Pick
Generally, the highest rated extensions are on the first page meaning they are among the top twenty extensions. It is worthwhile to look over all options however as occasionally there is a new extension near the bottom of the list which is better than anything else on the list. It is only at the bottom because it has not been reviewed and rated yet. Also it is important to read the reviews as you will learn not only which extensions have the fewest problems, but also tips for using the extensions. To get to the Reader Reviews, click on the Extension to reach the page for that Extension. Here is the page for the top rated Downloader called Phoca Download. It has an average score of 100 out of 100 from 135 reviewers.


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It has been used since 2008 – about 7 years. It has a Demo Site, Support and Documentation. These are all good signs.

Five: Are the latest Reader Reviews still positive?
Click on Reviews to read the latest reviews. Sometimes recent changes in an extension will make it better. But they can also render the extension unusable! It is important to read the latest comments submitted on several options before making your final choice as these comments may alert you to potential problems. It does not hurt to download an extension and try it out to see if it works. You can always delete an extension later if it doesn’t work out. The reviewers pointed out that one of the reasons they chose Phoca Downloads was because it comes with a Downloads counter which is what we want.


Six: Documentation and Support Forum
Extensions which have extensive documentation and support forums available are much easier to work with than those who do not. Forums are also a good place to look for folks having trouble with a given extension. To reach the forum for a given extension, click on the extension website and then click on Support or Forum in the top menu.


Seven: Demo Site
Extensions which have a Demo site allow you to see what the extension is like in action. Be aware however, that the extension may still not work on your website for a variety of reasons including possibly not being compatible with your template, or other extensions on your website. So, you also need to download the extensions you are most interested in and actually try them on your website.


Narrow down our list
Because it is easier to eliminate options based on drawbacks than to make a decision based on advantages, I often start at the bottom of the list and work up.


Testing the Top Four Options
After reading the reviews and visiting the demo pages and forums for all of the Download Manager options, it became apparent that most either did not work at all or did not give a count of how many times a document has been downloaded. The two finalists both keep a count of downloads and received top reviews from those who used them. These were Phoca Download versus JDownloads. I downloaded both and spent several hours testing each on my website.


The Final Two Choices: Phoca Download versus Jdownloads
You can see from the reviews that both are very highly rated and are used by a lot of people. Both offer file counters. Both offer buttons to insert download files into documents. I have used both on websites in the past.


There were four features which tipped the edge to Phoca Download.
First, it is available in more languages which is something that many retailers would be interested in. Second, it can integrate with VirtueMart and Akeeba extensions. Third, Phoca Download has a batch uploader for adding several documents at the same time. Fourth, it is easier to customize the appearance. In Chapter 9, we will describe how to install and use Phoca Download.


Next, we will describe the top twenty essential Joomla extensions. While Joomla is the best Web Building Tool available today (free or otherwise), it still suffers from a few shortcomings. Thankfully, nearly all of these shortcomings can be overcome by adding Extensions from the Joomla Extension Directory.

Top 20 Extensions

Number One: Encrypt Configuration
https://extensions.joomla.org/extensions/extension/access-a-security/site-security/encrypt-configuration
Our first six tools are free site security tools. The biggest drawback of all Content Management Systems is that they do not encrypt the log in page. This makes it very easy for a hacker to learn your user name and password. We will cover how to encrypt your entire site. But there is a need to encrypt the log in page while you are building your site. This simple tool does exactly that.


Number Two: Brute Force Stop
https://extensions.joomla.org/extensions/extension/access-a-security/site-security/brute-force-stop
One of the most common ways to attack a website is by using tools that keep entering passwords until they find yours. This free tool not only stops these attacks, but let's you know who is attacking you.


Number Three: Marco's SQL Injection
https://extensions.joomla.org/extensions/extension/access-a-security/site-security/marco-s-sql-injection
Another common way to attack your site is to attempt to insert code into your database. This free tool stops these attacks and let's you know who is attacking.


Number Four: Spam Protect Factory
https://extensions.joomla.org/extensions/extension/access-a-security/site-security/spam-protect-factory
While many security tools allow you to block individual IP addresses that are attacking you, major hackers have thousands of IP addresses. This free tool allows you to easily block entire countries from attacking you or even reaching your login page!


Number Five: Eyesight
https://extensions.joomla.org/extensions/extension/access-a-security/site-security/eyesite
This is a file monitor that will warn you about any changes to any of the files on your website.


Number Six: TJ Set Generator Tag
https://extensions.joomla.org/extensions/extension/site-management/seo-a-metadata/set-generator-tag


This extension allows us to change the generator tag for our website from Joomla to whatever we want.

Number Seven: Sparky Template Framework
https://www.hotjoomlatemplates.com/sparky-joomla
While not technically a Joomla extension, we will install this revolutionary template through the Joomla extension manager just like our other extensions and be used to replace the default Joomla template.


Number Eight: JCE Editor
https://extensions.joomla.org/extensions/extension/edition/editors/jce
The most highly rated Text Editor is JCE Editor. One of the first things we will do, as covered in the next article, is install this text editor to replace the default Joomla editor. Installing and using this extension is covered in Article 2.4


Number Nine: Profiles File Manager
https://extensions.joomla.org/extensions/extension/core-enhancements/file-management/profiles

This file manager allows you to quickly create and edit files and folders in your Cpanel account without needing to log into Cpanel. Installing and using this extension is covered in Article 5.3.

Number Ten: Unite Nivo Slider
https://extensions.joomla.org/extensions/extension/photos-a-images/slideshow/unite-nivo-slider


This simple slide show is one of the best at combining text over images in an easy format. Installing and using this extension is covered in Article 7.1.

Number Eleven: Modules Anywhere
https://extensions.joomla.org/extensions/extension/core-enhancements/coding-a-scripts-integration/modules-anywhere

Modules are boxes used by Joomla to display functions such as slideshows and forms. This extension allows you to place any module inside of any article simply by clicking on a button. This extension is covered in Article 7.2.

Number Twelve: Video Embedder
https://extensions.joomla.org/extensions/extension/multimedia/multimedia-display/video-embedder


This extension allows us to embed a Youtube video to any article simply be clicking on an “Insert Video” button. Unfortunately, it does not allow us to set the height and width of the video. For that we need a second free tool.

Number Thirteen: OS Youtube Free
https://extensions.joomla.org/extensions/extension/social-web/social-media/osyoutube
This plug in allows you to display any YouTube or Vimeo video in an article simply by copying and pasting the URL of the video into the Article Edit screen. Installing and using this extension is covered in Article 7.3.


Number Fourteen: SJ Video Box
https://extensions.joomla.org/extensions/extension/social-web/social-media/sj-video-box
This tool allows you to place a video in a module or feature box. Installing and using this extension is covered in Article 7.4.


Number Fifteen: Phoca Download Manager
https://extensions.joomla.org/extensions/extension/directory-a-documentation/downloads/phoca-download
Phoca Download has a batch uploader for adding several documents at the same time. And it comes in all kinds of languages making it ideal for an international website. Installing & using this extension is covered in Article 10.1.


Number Sixteen: ReDJ URL Redirection Component
https://extensions.joomla.org/extensions/extension/site-management/url-redirection/redj
ReDJ allows you to manage URL redirection. This allows you to redirect old web pages to new one without broken links.


Number Seventeen: Header Tags Plugin
https://extensions.joomla.org/extensions/extension/site-management/seo-a-metadata/header-tags
Automatically taking your first H2 tag and turning it into an H1 tag. Now search engines can find all of your web pages.


Number Eighteen: Phoca Open Graph System
https://extensions.joomla.org/extensions/extension/site-management/seo-a-metadata/phoca-open-graph-system
Generates open graph image tags for sharing images on Facebook.


Number Nineteen: OS Site Map
https://extensions.joomla.org/extensions/extension/structure-a-navigation/site-map/osmap

Installing a site map and submitting it to Google will help increase the page ranking of your website for Google Searches.

Number Twenty: Tell a Friend Email Referral Tool
https://extensions.joomla.org/extensions/extension/content-sharing/bookmark-a-recommend/shape-5-tell-a-friend
Tell a Friend allows your supporters to send a personal email to their friends with a link to your site and their message about why their friends should visit your site.


In one of our next books, Create Your Own Social Network, we will review how to add the following Joomla extensions: Community Builder, Wall Factory, IC Agenda Events Organizer, Kunena Forum, AcyMailing Newsletter Tool, JQuery Easy. In future books, we will review even more extensions: G Translate and Virtuemart.

This completes our review of the Top Twenty Joomla Extensions. In the next section, we will add and configure the first of these free extensions, a very important web building tool called the JCE Editor.