The Christmas season is linked with people making gifts to each other, or even themselves. What's a better gift than a book? I was fortunate enough to receive a free copy of Packt's new book, Joomla! 1.5 Cookbook, a great resource for Joomla! site owners written by a knowledgable member of the Joomla! community and personal friend Tom Canavan. Let's take a more in-depth look at it.

The book is organized in chapters, each one covering a specific concept of site administration. They range from Joomla! installation instructions, to using phpMyAdmin, to even using some of the widely used components like JCE and K2.

The installation chapter is the best written resource on the topic I've read so far. It is extremely thorough and even has step-by-step instructions for creating a new database on GoDaddy and on cPanle-powered hosts. It even talks about a step often overlooked, making sure that you have sane permissions throughout your site. A big bravo to Tom for compiling this great resource. In my opinion, this is exactly what the official Joomla! documentation should contain.

I really liked the chapter on doing basic database maintenance tasks using phpMyAdmin. Since this software is the standard for both on-line and local installations, being familiar with it is an essential web mastering skill. The relevant chapter is very well written and will not trouble even beginners who know nothing about databases.

The presentation of third party components only scratches the surface of their potential, but it is expected. Each one of them would take an entire encyclopedia to cover in depth. JCE and K2 are presented concisely. The choice of the Agora forum component as a sample extension is rather unfortunate because, by the time the book was published, it went commercial. As a result, an entire chapter becomes impossible to follow without paying for the component or using an older release (which is rather unsafe). The presentation of the core components of Joomla! is well written and the security tips sprinkled throughout are an absolute must read.

There are three other chapters in this book which are very important. To be honest, I'd buy the book just to read them. The first is the troubleshooting chapter. The instructions are dead simple to follow and so thorough that put Joomla!'s own documentation to shame. This is the definition of how a troubleshooting section must be written. The security chapter, even though it scratches the surface, is very well written and is a must read for new webmasters. It will teach you the essential skills to securing your site. The appendix of this book is a goldmine. All recipes presented in there are essential to all webmasters. The recipe on which questions to ask to a prospective host is so damn good that it should be included in Joomla!'s download page. If you are planning on running a Joomla! site, ask all prospective hosts these questions. You'll be surprised!

Finally, a bit of constructive criticism (mostly to the publisher). There is an introductory chapter on the upcoming Joomla! 1.6. First, I do not understand why a book about Joomla! 1.5 should talk about 1.6, especially before it's officially released. Second, the interface and features have already changed twice since the publication of this book, rendering the chapter redundant. I'd suggest all publishers stop pushing their writers to write “something about Joomla! 1.6” and, more importantly, don't include a chapter on Joomla! 1.6 in every book they publish. It's annoying. Unless Joomla! 1.6 hits stable it's not final and it's not ready for production use. Even if the current RC hits stable, I am not convinced it's ready for large-scale production use yet.

Disclaimer: As with all other book reviews in my site, I was given a free copy from the publisher to read and publish my opinion about it. I don't get paid for reviews and I won't write a review that's not 100% consistent with my honest opinion about the book I've read.

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