Comparing TYPO3 Extensions
Reflections on the systematic selection of TYPO3 extensions
The success of TYPO3 projects is becoming more and more dependent on the choice of the right extensions. In view of tight time and financial constraints, as well as permanently increasing demands on design, functionality and usability, it must always be asked whether the special programming of desirable features is worth the trouble. Often already existing TYPO3 extensions offer suitable solutions.
It makes no difference whether a website belongs to a legendary rabbit-breeding club or a global chain of businesses. The demands on certain functions are usually quite similar: only the content (dates, documents, images, links, etc.) changes. In many cases, TYPO3 is chosen as the CMS because of its flexibility. Preexisting extensions are playing an increasingly significant part in such decisions. To be sure, choosing the right extension has not been made any easier by the ever increasing number of extensions, as well as the broad independence of their reliability, their self-assessed status, and actual installation. Details that are not even mentioned in the often terse descriptions of the extensions can, under certain circumstances, become important in deciding whether an extension can be used or not. TYPO3 does not have to become a 'no worries' package, which does all the work for developers; but the success of the TYPO3 community would surely increase even further with a more targeted choice of extensions.
All tests are intended for publication in the T3N magazine (in german or in english).
You can read some of the following articles in the T3N archive in German, most of them are also translated into English and available on typo3.org:
- Linklist extensions (T3N 3.06) german text german table
- FAQ extensions (T3N 4.06) german text&table
- Sitemap extensions (T3N 4.06) german text german table
- Glossary extensions (T3N No 7) german text german table
- Banner extensions (T3N No 8) german text german table
- Backup extensions (T3N No 9) german text german table english text english table
- Download solution with DAM connections (T3N No 10) english text english table
- To-Do-Lists (T3N No 11) english text&table
- Download solution without DAM connections (T3N No 12) english text english table
- Guestbooks (T3N No 14)
- Tagclouds (T3N No 15)
Original version of this document published in the T3N 3.06
- Seminar/Event extensions
- Calendar extensions
Please don't hesitate to join us, volunteers are very welcome. This work is perfect for decentralization, e.g. if you are anyway looking for extensions of a special group and think about testing, why not test all of them using the matrix?
For more information have a look on forge.typo3.org
We use an internal Dokuwiki for collecting all raw material and information regarding new comparisons to be published in the T3N and an internal mailinglist for communication. Contact us to join the team and get access.
Comparison of following extension categories:
- discussion boards / forums
- frontend editing library
- website statistics
The Aims of the Comparison
In what follows, some points will be discussed and suggestions will be made about what a systematic and transparent comparison, which is fair to developers, might look like. The aims of the comparison are to be defined clearly:
- Support for TYPO3 developers and users in the search for the right extension. This is to be effected by a documentation of the extension's functionality that is as comprehensive as possible, as well as by information about features that might not yet have been considered.
- Support for extension authors when they document their work.
- Stimulus for the further development of extensions.
- Documentation of the broad range of TYPO3's functionalities through the incorporation of extensions, and hence the promotion of TYPO3 in general.
In principle, there are many groups of extensions that could be compared according to the present methodology. To be sure, future comparisons must be kept as intelligible and transparent as possible. It is therefore recommended that authors of extensions do not describe them themselves. Rather, they should be consulted during the description of their extension and their statements should be taken into account in the course of the survey. For the comparison of extensions we recommend the following:
- The comparison is to follow a clearly defined methodology. This methodology should be documented in such a way that future extensions can be included into the comparison.
- No general criticism of the extensions is to occur. The comparison is only to state whether features exist or not.
- Under no circumstances are comparisons to be undertaken by authors of the same group.
- Since a very extensive repertoire of settings, configurations and version combinations is responsible for the executability of the extensions, the test described here cannot guarantee functionality. The aim is not to test the stability of extensions under all conceivable circumstances, but rather to present their basic functions.
- All essential reports are to be checked personally. If a feature is not checked because it could not be documented, and if, therefore, the author's word is taken, this must be noted.
- The part contributed by the authors must be clearly circumscribed. The authors are to be given notification prior to publication of the result so that they can take a stance.
- The status of an extension (Alpha, Beta, etc.) is not immediately to entail its exclusion.
- All extensions, relative to their size, are to be granted the same time for intallation and configuration.
At the beginning of each comparison, a short introduction is to describe what the author associates with the documented extension group, or rather which features seem important to him. The comparison is to describe how each extension is to be chosen or found. As a matter of principle, all extensions in a category are to be compared. If it is not possible to subject an extension to comprehensive testing, it should at least be referred to in the comparison. All search criteria and methods used are to be presented fully. The features and criteria of the comparison are to be exactly described and summarised. The purely factual listing of features is to be performed in a table. This table is to be composed of criteria that apply to extensions generally, and of those that are of specific importance to the group of extensions under consideration. The extensions compared in the table are to be briefly described and their especially interesting features are to be delineated. Extensions that have similar functions, but which were not taken into account in the comparison, should also be presented. It is essential that, for each comparison, the system for testing is defined. This requires the definition of the following components:
- TYPO3 version(s) (3.x, 4.x )
- PHP version (4.x)
- mySQL version (4.2.x)
- Apache version
- ImageMagick and GD, as needed
- Template mechanism [Standard (Marker)/TemplaVoilá (Version)]
- Browser (FE/BE)
The developer should be informed about any errors that appear during testing at once.
The following aspects appear across the board and are therefore to be applied (or are at least applicable) to all comparisons of extension groups.
|Name||Name of the extension|
|Ext key||Extension key|
|Author||Name of the Author(s)|
|Abstract||What is the extension for?|
|Version||Version of the extension tested|
|Date||Release date Version of the extension tested|
|Self-explanatory installation||What must be taken into account when installing the extension?|
|Online Documentation||What documentation is available? Developer sends feedback via email; Stance on extension. (Note holidays and other commitments of the developer.)|
|Own HP/other documentation||Can the extension be seen live? Are there additional helpful documents?|
|Tested on||T3 versions TYPO3 versions under which the extension was tested|
|Based on||Is the extension based on an already existing one?|
|Dependencies||Which other (if any) extensions must be installed first?|
|Multilingualism||Does the extension support mulitlingualism?|
|Templates||Which template mechanisms are available? (table/css)|
|RealUrl||Are there problems with RealUrl? How well can the extension be customized to RealUrl?|
|TemplaVoilà||Does the extension work in conjunction with TemplaVoilà?|
|BE-Usability||How intuitive is the handling of the extension?|
|Templates||Which template mechanisms are available? (table/css)|
|Accessibility||To what extent is the extension accessible? Are accessible forms possible? Are lists and tables implemented accordingly? Do images and links correspond to accessibility norms? Are there accessible sample templates?|
|Browser problems||Which (if any) problems arise with which browser?|
|Complementary extensions||Which extensions offer additional functions?|
|Errors||Were significant errors observed? (Publish only after consulting the developer of the extension.|
|Miscellaneous||Planned changes, helpful additional information, etc.|
An example of the described approach at a comparative judgement is given in the T3N 3.06 article about link list extensions (only in german). We would be delighted if our suggestions met with broad interest and perhaps led to the writing of further articles or to other comparisons between extensions. One thing is certain: a comprehensive comparison of performance features of extensions would be a great help to developers and users of TYPO3. Much work time that is currently bound to the tedious search for the fitting extensions could be set free and invested in the further dissemination of TYPO3.