Andreas Kölln's Selection of "Must Have" Extensions

SpicesJoomla! is a content management system (CMS) with all of the necessary extensions in the base package.

What is the sense of this chapter? If you want to work with Joomla! in a secure, comfortable and efficient manner, and you want to publish interesting information on your website with prepared modules, plug-ins and components, you will soon reach some limitations of what is possible with only the base extensions of Joomla!. Here we will give you an overview of our selection of helpful third-party extensions, for use in the front-end, or back-end, to make your work easier!

There are more than 8,000 extensions available for Joomla! (look at This chapter can offer only a small selection, a choice that must be made subjectively from the viewpoint of the author. "Must Have" here, doesn't mean that a website can't be made without them, it means rather, that you will be able to make a successful website with greater ease and flexibility.

For each extension there is a brief explanation as to why it may be helpful and why it is the best choice for each category of extensions!
We only look at extensions that are prepared for Joomla! 1.6 or 1.7. This guarantees their compatibility with the new version of the Joomla! CMS.
The rapid development and the limited space of this chapter means that the list remains incomplete, and each user with some experiences would probably have another opinion regarding our list.

The list does not include extensions that are of interest to only a specific area (e.g. for an on-line shop). This wouldn`t follow the idea of "Must Have" for nearly ALL users.

The extension will be separated to the back-end and front-end. Sometimes it not really easy to assign an extension specifically to one of these areas, but for the general overview it is helpful. In both sections the author gives a premium award for the most innovative idea.
The lists are certainly a small advertisement for the nominated extensions, but it must be this way if they are helpful for users and administrators.

The author wants to follow the concept of Open Source from Joomla!. For this reason there are only GPL-License extensions in the list (sometimes there are extensions with a free and a pro version.

“Must have” extensions for the back-end

The criteria for the selection of extensions for the back-end are:

  • speed of operation,
  • ease of administration,
  • improved security,
  • and the overview!

The most innovative ideas for the back-end are two extensions by Stephen Brandon of New Zealand.

His extensions are named MetaMod (free and pro version) and Chameleon (formerly MetaTemplate Pro)!

This is small summary of the extensions directly from the creator:


Have you ever been in a situation on your Joomla! site where you wanted modules to appear or disappear on a particular page, but it seemed impossible to achieve? You probably found that you can only assign modules to pages that are directly assigned to a menu item.

MetaMod gets around this fundamental Joomla! restriction, and allows you to make modules display (or disappear) on absolutely any page of your site. Furthermore, modules can be controlled by a number of additional factors:

  • date and time (e.g. recurring time slots)
  • page type (e.g. article pages, or search results pages)
  • GeoIP country, city, area etc
  • group membership, or for specific users
  • browser or front-end language
  • comprehensive VirtueMart support, and support/detection for many other major extensions
  • random selection
  • and more!

MetaMod Pro is commercial GPL, reasonably priced, and backed by comprehensive support on the forum. If there's ever something unusual you need to do with modules, ask on the forum. Chances are, with MetaMod Pro it's possible. Licence: Commercial GPL

The free version of MetaMod works in almost the same way as MetaMod Pro, but just has a few limitations in the way that the "target" modules are laid out on the page. In the free version, the target modules are placed within a MetaMod "placeholder" module, which introduces extra HTML around the included module(s). This can sometimes cause CSS styling anomalies, and can prevent module positions from collapsing even when it appears that they do not contain any published modules. Despite the possible layout issues, MetaMod (free) is used in thousands of web sites around the world and is a great way to learn MetaMod and to try it out in different situations.

Licence: GPL

Chameleon (formerly MetaTemplate)

With Chameleon your site can change templates and menus to fit different situations (Figure 1).

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Figure 1: Chameleon extension

Studies show you have less than 1 second to convince a visitor to stay on your site. If your visitor Googles for “sports” and ends up on your site, then that visitor is likely to engage and purchase more if the site template is sports-themed. Is the visitor French? Show advertisements en français. Once you’ve started you'll find it hard to stop thinking of more and more creative ways to engage your visitors. Chameleon makes it easy to select a template, home page and a selection of menu items to show/hide, then determine where and when these will be applied to the site.
Chameleon for marketers: Re-brand your site depending on the visitor's Google search terms – or by their country or language. Perform A/B testing on different templates & menus and find out what converts best.

  • Chameleon in eCommerce: Streamline the user’s shopping experience by switching to a simplified template for checkout or other parts of the shopping cart system.
  • Chameleon for site admins: Make your site multi-purpose; embed it in a Facebook tab, switch templates for different devices, or choose a different template, menu and home page for different sub-domains of your site.
  • Chameleon is unique, revolutionary technology. There is no other software available on the market which can help you identify, then attempt to match customer expectations from the moment they land on your Joomla! site.

Licence: Commercial GPL

List of other proposed extensions for the back-end

Topic: Backup

Why this may be helpful:
For security reasons it is necessary to continuously create a backup of your site. With this extension you can make it easily and professionally.

Proposed extension:  Akeeba Backup

Akeeba Backup Core is the successor to the now famous JoomlaPack component. With Akeeba Backup you can create a site backup that can be restored on any Joomla!-capable server. The archive contains all the files, a database snapshot and an installer similar in function to the standard Joomla! installer. The backup and restore process is AJAX powered to avoid server timeouts, even with huge sites.  
For Joomla! 1.6 using the same installation package, since 3.0.rc1, Akeeba Backup was the first extension to fully embrace Joomla! 1.6. Note: in order to install to Joomla! 1.6 RC1 or later you have to use Akeeba Backup 3.2.b1 or later. Earlier versions won't work due to changes made in Joomla! 1.6 after RC1.

Akeeba is at this moment the best backup possibility for Joomla!

Topic: SEO

Why this may be helpful:
For better search engine results.

Proposed extension: shs404SEF

sh404SEF rewrites Joomla URL to user-friendly format (SEF URL or URL rewriting): becomes

It is a security component, as well as a page title and meta tags manager for every page. Works with or without .htaccess file. It is Joomfish compatible. It is a caching system for high speed with very small DB queries overhead.

A lot of well known components will be supported.

Topic: Antispam

Why this may be helpful:
Now, more so than ever, a protection against spam is absolutely important!

Proposed extension:  EasyCalcCheck PLUS

In the core forms and also with 3rd party extensions, there is no protection against spam.
This nice plugin adds an arithmetic problem, a hidden field and a time lock.
Integrated anti-spam services are: ReCaptcha, Akismet, Bot-Trap, Honeypot Project, Mollom, StopForumSpam, and BotScout

Topic: Content Editor

Why this may be helpful:
The Joomla! editor has the necessary functions. An extra editor, such as this, provides many useful opportunities.

Proposed extension:  JCE Editor

If you want to work more productively writing articles, an extra editor will be helpful!
A well known, configurable WYSIWYG editor based on Moxiecode TinyMCE, is the JCE Editor. It includes advanced Image/Media, File and Link handling, plugin support, and an Administration interface for the editor configuration.

Topic: Flexible placement of modules, articles and components

Why this may be helpful:
These are two nice plugins from Peter von Westen and one from Mike Reumer which I have added to the list!

Proposed extensions: 

  • Modules Anywhere,
  • Articles Anywhere,
  • Plugin Include Component

Modules Anywhere

With this plugin you can place modules anywhere that you can enter text. With Modules Anywhere you can include a single module or complete module positions anywhere in your site, including within 3rd party components and even within other modules.
Modules Anywhere is very flexible, it works anywhere, not only in articles. It even works in modules and you can load a single module, not only complete module positions.

Articles Anywhere

With this plugin you can place articles anywhere that you can enter text.
Articles Anywhere is a plugin that allows you to insert articles anywhere on your site. So you can place articles inside modules or in other components or wherever.
You can place articles using the syntax:

  • Using the title of the article: {article Some article}...{/article}
  • Using the alias of the article: {article some-article}...{/article}
  • Using the id of the module: {article 123}...{/article}

Within those tags you can place different tags to place different article data/details.

Plugin Include Component

This plugin is to include a component in an article without an iframe. The links will work like in a normal page, the styling of the site will be used, and also the style of the component.
The syntax is {component url=''}

Topic: Integrates the javascript framework

Why this may be helpful:
The framework is very powerful and expands Joomla in various ways.

Proposed extension: Jquery++ Integrator

This plugin brings jQuery, jQuery UI and jQuery Tools to your site. It supports grabbing the libraries from both Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) and local copies, allows to activate jQuery.noColflict() mode if necessary. It aso includes one of jQuery UI themes: uiLightness (and you can download and use any other theme).

Topic: Integration of scripts

Why this may be helpful:
With this plugin you can use different scripts inside Joomla.

Proposed extension: Embed Any Script

Include JS, VB scripts to your site with ease!

With this plugin, you will be able to embed a list of scripts in every page of the site.  As well, the plugin supports in-article tags to embed scripts only to specific pages. Those tags can be, not only in articles, but also in modules etc. - anywhere in html.

Topic: Control of Administration

Why this may be helpful:
Improved clarity to the admin panel

Proposed extension: KC Admin Quickicons

The KC Admin QuickIcons administrator module allows the administrator to add up to 10 quicker icon access links to the Joomla back-end administrator control panel. Each icon has a text label, a link and it can use an icon from the khepri or bluestork template or you can use your own custom icon (48px x 48px).

Topic: Filemanager

Why this may be helpful:
Faster and more clearly arranged file management

Proposed extension: eXtplorer

eXtplorer is a web-based file management component, for all your needs. It has a desktop-application-like interface with drag&drop, a grid and a directory tree, and makes heavy use of the ExtJS Javascript Library.
You can use it to access and modify the files and directories on your server via FTP or direct file access.

Topic: Administrator help

Why this may be helpful:
This simple plugin will prevent admin session expiration. Prevent a loss, for example, of input texts.

Proposed extension: Admin Forever

You will never be logged out when you don't want it to happen.

Topic: Compression

Why this may be helpful:

Minimize external Javascripts and CSS files into one, to minimize expensive http request.

Proposed extension: JCH Optimize

The files can be minified and gzipped to reduce bandwidth and to further optimize download time. Typical results after plugin is configured with optimum settings for your site is a 6-10 point jump on Page Speed.

Topic: Cache handling

Why this may be helpful:
Intelligent caching makes accessing the pages faster

Proposed extension: JOT Cache

JotCache is an advanced solution for page caching in Joomla! 1.6 framework.
JotCache consists of JotCache Plugin and JotCache Component.

JotCache Plugin is an extended replacement of the standard System-Cache plugin, but with a lot of enhancements!

“Must have” extensions for the front-end

The extensions for the front-end have been selected with a view to important basic functions that give faster access and options for visitors to a website, and that are not provided in the basic package of Joomla!. Some components, modules and plugins are certainly not indispensable, but at the moment, for example, there are almost no websites without a spectacular slideshow on the frontpage.
For the front-end, the author gives the award to a small extension, which shows pictures/icons (with links) at every corner (Figure 2).

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Figure 2: Optimized Campaign extension

This extension has the name Optimized Campaign and comes from o-sense!
In these times of tumultuous changes and global problems it gives the site owner the possibility to express their support for an important project, their opposition to a negative development in politics, or only a simple discount for a product. This gives the website an individual note. An idea, which the author tries to implement with his own template project (
This module will allow you to put an image in one of the four corners of your page in either a fixed way (The image will not scroll down with the page), so it will remain in the corner. Or scrollable (the image will scroll with the page).

This will be great in campaigns, live chat usage, Find us and Follow us use.

Topic: Contact

Why this may be helpful:
The contact component from Joomla! is very simple and has only a few possibilities.

Proposed extension:  Fox Contact form

A fast and very easy to setup contact form designed for Joomla! 1.6.
Tableless and css styled output simplify integration into your website.

Some interesting features:
* Multiple recipients
* Antispam system
* Captcha system
* Multi-language
and more

Topic: Search

Why this may be helpful:
Your visitors can quickly detect whether a keyword is available on the website.

Proposed extension:  RokAjaxsearch

This powerful module brings fantastic search functionality to Joomla!, using the powerful and versatile javascript library, Mootools, as well as full Google Search integration (Figure 3).

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Figure 3: RokAjaxsearch extension

Topic: Slideshow

Why this may be helpful:
Nearly every modern website has a slideshow, often on the frontpage.
It helps to give the visitors a nice impression of your identity.

Proposed extensions:

  • Image Show GK4
  • LOF Articles Slideshow Module

Image Show GK4

With Image Show GK4 module, you can create a slideshow on a site that include various images and article fragments or texts defined by a user.
Thanks to slide management system integrated in the module, its support is very easy, intuitive and fast. With the new method of creating module styles you can easily move your slideshow style from one template to other template.
From now on, thanks to the rebuilt administrative panel, it allows you to manage slides without additional component use.

LOF Articles Slideshow Module

The module is the most eye-catching way of displaying featured articles into a slide show. The module is usually put at the top of the main content. With many animations supported and with an easy way to control the module display via simple parameters, you can do everything you would like, to impress you client.

Topic: Video player

Why this may be helpful:
With new cameras, it is easy and cheap to shoot your own videos and to put them on your site.

Proposed extension: JPlayer

JPlayer is a simple flash player plugin for Joomla based on flash player "JW Player". This plugin is a fork of AllVideos plugin (by JoomlaWorks). JPlayer has simplified code without unnecessary functions but is enhanced with lots of useful features.
The plugin is easy to use, offers a lot of tunable parameters, plays video with subtitles and much more.

Topic: Gallery

Why this may be helpful:
An easy way to make your own photo album!

Proposed extension:

  • Phoca Gallery,
  • Simple Image Gallery (SIGE)

Phoca Gallery

Phoca Gallery is a Joomla! 1.6 component that offer an image gallery with slideshow.
With a lot of add-ons, it meets almost all requirements.

Simple Image Gallery (SIGE)

SIGE (Simple Image Gallery Extended) is a powerful gallery content plugin for Joomla! 1.6.  It offers numerous opportunities to present pictures quickly and easily in articles. The special feature of the plugin is that you can control any parameter on the syntax call.

Topic: Facebook integration

Why this may be helpful:
Facebook is, at this time, a must-have platform to make your site popular.

Proposed extension: Facebook Link Content Image

It adds in the header of the page, absolute links to images found in article. It is useful for sharing links on the Facebook Wall. Compatible with Open Graph. Plugin works only for components which fires events from Content Plugins, e.g. Joomla! Articles, Section/Category Blog, Frontpage/Featured.
It Works only for HTTP urls!

Topic: Social bookmarking

Why this may be helpful:
A bridge from Joomla! to the social network and to the social marketing!

Proposed extension: Nice Social Bookmark

This module shows icons from the 12 best known social networking sites (delicious, digg, facebook, google, linkedin, mixx, myspace, newsvine, reddit, stumbleupon, technorati, twitter and rss feed). There are 4 different sizes of icons to choose from (24,32,48,64) and 6 different sets of icons (aquatic, orange round, white round, logorunner, glass and iPhone)

Topic: Tweet

Why this may be helpful:
More and more people build up their own tweet to inform others very quickly about their news.

Proposed extension: Tweet Display 1901

Tweet Display 1901 is a simple module, that will automatically show your twitter feed in a nice widget on you site.

Topic: Menu

Why this may be helpful:
Upgrade your own website and make it more accessible with helpful advanced navigation!

Proposed extension: Art Wijmo Menu

Art Wijmo Menu is a free customizable menu with horizontal and vertical layouts with multiple themes!

A good alternative module:  Maxi Menu CK

Topic: Sitemap

Why this may be helpful:
A sitemap is good for visitors and good for search engines!

Proposed extension: XMap

Xmap is a Site Map generator component for Joomla!. Xmap allows you to create a map of your site using the structure of your menus.
A lot of plugins are available for the most popular components!

Topic: Visitor counter

Why this may be helpful:
This is to show visitors the popularity of the website!

Proposed extension:  VCNT

Small and fast visitor counter module for Joomla! 1.6


  • Shows Today - Yesterday - Weekly - Monthly - All statistics
  • Locktime
  • Preset Counter
  • Automatically cleans up the database
  • Horizontal view
  • Exclude bots
  • Exclude IP-addresses
  • XHTML 1.1 and CSS valid
  • MVC

New: Contest - A winner can be determined after a certain number of visitors

Topic: Typograghie

Why this may be helpful:
Easily usable graphical enhancements for its own articles

Proposed extension: JB Type

JB Type is a Joomla style and typography plugin for your content. By using some simple Joomla! syntax you can create some awesome typography for your site without knowing any html at all. The plugin simply renders predefined styles in your content. Now it comes with a JCE plugin that allows you to render the JB Type styles in the editor window as well.

Topic: Favicon

Why this may be helpful:
Eyecatching web address

Proposed extension: Phoca FaviconA simple component that generates a favicon on your Joomla! site. You can change the favicon whenever you like.