Which version of Joomla should you use?

October 18th Information and Tutorials \ Joomla CMS With more than one Joomla release available, it isn’t always clear which one is the best one to use. Currently there are a number of stable versions, including version 1.5, 1.6 and 1.7, and it is worthwhile comparing these versions to understand why you might use one version over another.

Joomla has a release cycle. Once a stable release becomes available, it has a lifespan, in which there are regular patches, security updates and support is provided. After the lifespan is over, support is no longer offered and security updates cease completely. Recently Joomla has shifted to short term release cycles with the release of version 1.6 and 1.7. Version 2.5 will be the next long term support (LTS) release.

Joomla 1.5 was the last LTS release. This will be supported until April 2012.When January 2012 arrives, Joomla 2.5 will be available, and developers will have 4 months to upgrade. Versions 1.6 and 1.7 have a longer window of time to upgrade, until July and August 2011.

It is extremely important to ensure that the version you choose is currently supported, because once this expires, any bugs and security holes which may be discovered will be not be fixed again. The best way ensure that you are not exposed to security issues, is to always be running a supported release.

So if you are about to start a new project, which version should you use? This depends on a number of factors. To take advantage of the latest features, you should consider the latest release. Although one of the most significant factors in your decision involves extensions. Many extensions don’t currently support the short term releases of 1.6 and 1.7. For example, a very popular extension K2 supports 1.7 but at this time of writing, is at the release candidate stage (RC), and it may be some time before the full stable version of K2 is release for Joomla 1.7.In your research, the first step is to research which extensions you need. If they all fully support 1.7, then you have a good reason to use 1.7.

Another factor to consider are upgrades. Upgrading Joomla from 1.5 to the most recent version can be a relatively big job. Keep this in mind, that this upgrade process is inevitable if you currently use Joomla 1.5, or are considering starting anew project with 1.5. The upgrade process from 1.6 and 1.7 has been simplified with a built in one click version updater.

There are many who advocate starting all projects in Joomla 1.5, and only consider 1.6 or 1.7 if you really need one of the new features offered, such as Access Control Levels. This is because Joomla 1.5 has a long history of stability and security updates. There is also a lot more of a history of support. If you have a question about how to do something in Joomla 1.5, you are more likely to find itin a forum, compared to the most recent Joomla versions.

As time goes on, there will be more and more reasons to lean towards the most recent versions. Extensions are becoming more and more compatible, and bugs are being ironed out, in the most recent Joomla versions. Now is the turning point, where most Joomla designers and developers are starting new projects in Joomla 1.7 rather than Joomla 1.5.

This was a guest post by Mitchel Xavier, a Joomla Developer and Joomla web design specialist.

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