Joomla 3.2 Released with Version Control, Rapid Application Development ToolsJoomla, an open source content management system (CMS), is now offering features like version control, one click extension installation and a rapid application development module that bring the system in line with many of its commercial counterparts.

Joomla's Biggest Release Yet 

Version 3.2 is a major upgrade, according to Paul Orwig of Open Source Matters, a nonprofit organization that provides organizational, legal and financial support for the Joomla open-source project. "The release is generating excitement, but also nervousness," he told "This is the biggest release we've done yet."

Joomla is the second most popular CMS in the world, according to W3Techs, which provides information about the usage of various types of technologies on the web. More than 9 percent of all websites that use a CMS use Joomla, followed by WordPress and Drupal.

However, unlike Drupal and WordPress, Joomla doesn't have a single founder. Joomla is a collaborative effort, and there is no professional services organization attached to the project like there is with Acquia (Drupal) and Automattic (WordPress).

"There are Joomla agencies that offer those services, but we talk about this a lot," Orwig said. "The prevailing view is we like to keep things non-commercial. We do plan to expand the revenue base, though, so we can add more scholarships and more modules."

Version Control, Rapid Application Development Module

Two of the biggest updates are version control and the rapid application development module. Version control is just what it sounds like. It allows both versions of a webpage to be viewed side by side simultaneously. Until now, there were extensions available that could provide version control, but now it is baked into the product core.

Core features benefit from longer support and have less of a chance of breaking when an update takes place, for example. Any website that maintains a large team of writers and editors will likely appreciate this feature. For developers, the rapid application development (RAD) module will require up to 50 percent less code, Orwig said. Additionally, it will allow for using less code in general and focus more on defining characteristics.

"The hard part will be building the documentation," Orwig said.

RAD can be used to build features for a website or to build apps for other website owners to use. Think of it as a set of macros, Orwig said. It will reduce the amount of code that needs to be known. Developers have been asking about this  feature for a while, Orwig said, and it makes Joomla even easier to extend than before.

An updated administration interface is more task focused in Joomla 3.2.

Joomla Building a Unified Content Model

Joomla employs a model-view-controller architecture, which means the presentation layer is separated from the database layer. This allows Joomla to perform well on mobile devices, Orwig said, and the version 3 series natively supports the Bootstrap framework on the front end.

"The next step is not displaying content on webpages, but rather serving content on different web services," Orwig said. "Making the same content available in as many ways and on as many devices as possible."

In version 4.0, Joomla aims to build a unified content model where every piece of content will be an object.

"We don't want to break backwards compatibility, but we're re-architecting everything in the database structure," Orwig said.

The even bigger challenge is making the user interface (UI) easier, he said. Instead of typing content into a text editor, a webpage can be assembled from different fields, for example. Joomla operates on a six month release schedule, so the next version will be 3.5, then the 4.0 release.

Other updated features in v3.2 is a one click extension installer and two factor authentication. Adding an extension will no longer require searching the directory, finding an extension, downloading it and then opening the site admin view and uploading it. Instead, administrators simply go to their view and the directory framework is embedded there. No downloads.

"Joomla is growing at a furious pace, with more than 45 million downloads to date. A broader audience means it’s more important than ever that the latest version is as simple, stable and straightforward as possible," Orwig said.