When first approaching Joomla, one of the hardest things to understand is how the system itself is organized. It's straightforward enough to add an article, but how do you determine where on the site that article will be displayed? The answer to this question is menus.The entire Joomla system is organized around menus. Nearly every piece of content (and most functionality like online catalogs, contact lists, newsfeeds, and so on) on a Joomla site needs to be connected to a menu item entry before it is available to visitors. The hurdle that you need to overcome to truly understand Joomla is that a Joomla menu does much more than the menus that you find everyday in a typical computer user interface.
Create a New Menu Item
To help you understand, let's take a look at the screen to create a new menu item. A Joomla site have many menus, but the only one that is absolutely required is the Main Menu. This menu is typically displayed on the left side of a site page as highlighted in the figure below.
In the figure, the Main Menu has 6 items (Home, Why do I need Joomla?, Joomla Jumpstart FAQs, Beginning Joomla!, Professional Joomla!, and General Joomla!). To add another item, under the Menus > Main Menu option in the Joomla Administrator interface, you can click on the New button in the button bar of the Menu Item Manager. At this point, you'll be asked to select a Menu Item Type. If you click on the Articles option, it will expand to show all of the Article item types that are available to this menu item as shown below.
If you look down this list, you can begin to see the power of a Joomla menu item. To create a menu item that connects to only a single article, you can choose the Article Layout option and the following screen will let you select the article to display. However, if you select the Section Blog Layout, for example, clicking on the menu item will display the articles of a Section group in a blog layout as highlighted below.
Menu Item Types are not even limited to displaying one or more articles. They can also be used to access components (such as News Feeds, Contacts, Web Links, and 3rd Party Add-ons), link to external URLs, and provide a separator from other menu items.
The menu system is the way content and functionality is structured for user access on a Joomla site. The actual display of a web site is handled by templates, components, modules, and plug-ins. We'll take a look at the Joomla display system in the next article, Part III - Joomla! Presentation.