Written by Robert Vining | 03 March 2011
Sigsiu.NET currently produces the most popular directory component on the market for the Joomla Content Management System. Spanning a time period of just over 3 years, the Sigsiu Online Business Index version 2, or SOBI2 for short, has become the leader with over 500,000 downloads to date.
Known for it's extendibility, SOBI2 let's you build just about any type of web based directory you can imagine. Custom Fields, Nested Categories and Custom Templates for Entry Form, Category View and Detail view, not to mention there's currently over 60 plugins listed on the Joomla Extensions Directory designed to work with SOBI2.
One of the big advantages to users of SOBI2 is the fact that the software is completely free to download and use. It's released under the GPLv2 license, and it's successor, SobiPro, is released under the GPLv3 license, and completely free to download as well. This allows small businesses to focus their budget on extending SobiPro through Applications, Support and Customization.
As SOBI2 evolved over time, the developers found various areas within the software they felt could be improved, and set out to rebuild the component from the ground up. That's when the SobiPro concept was born, and development started just over a year ago by Radek and his wife Sigrid.
As senior developer, Radek has spent over a year getting SobiPro to RC1 status as of March 1, 2011. While Sigrid has been hard at work maintaining their current business, and building the Membership Site and Documentation for the SobiPro Club.
At this point, you should have a basic understanding of the Joomla CMS software and how to install extensions using the built-in Extension Manager in Joomla.
Head on over to the Sigsiu.NET SobiPro Club website and download the latest release of the SobiPro Directory Component.
Log in to the backend of your Joomla website, and in the Extensions Menu up top, click Install/Uninstall. Now click the browse button and find the location you saved the SobiPro file package you downloaded from the SobiPro site. Click Upload file and install.
As you can see in the screenshot, the first thing SobiPro does is check your Server to see if SobiPro will work in your hosting environment. If there's an error, it will tell you what's missing or needs to be turned on for SobiPro to work properly. If you do not have access to your server settings, usually in a shared hosting environment, you will need to contact your host's support department and ask them to adjust the server settings to allow SobiPro to function properly. If you see a yellow flag next to a setting, you will get a warning that the server is not optimal, but SobiPro should still function. Once you get the green light, click next in the top right of the page to proceed.
Here we see the SobiPro Component installed with the sample data in place, including a Business Directory and Cars & Vehicles Marketplace. These 2 sample directories are included with the default SobiPro component install just to give you an idea of what SobiPro can do 'out of the box'. The SobiPro Control Panel design is much more user friendly than the previous Sobi2 control panel, and integrates with 3rd party admin templates much more elegantly.
Let's take a look at what's in the Control Panel of SobiPro:
Global Configuration covers the core SobiPro component settings that are used in all directories on your site. Unlike Sobi2, there's not a lot of settings here. You have General cache, HTML input and debug settings, Payment Options and the 'Powered By' link settings. Also, there are 'preset' Input Filters for things like email fields, alphanumeric string etc… and the ability to add custom input filters. A link to the System Check you saw when you installed SobiPro and then the Error Log for diagnosing problems.
Here's the real power of SobiPro. With the Access Control List 'Rules', you are able to set up specific areas that site visitors and members can access. Want to have an Author who can Authorize listings? You can do it. Want to have a specific user group that can 'skip payments' you can do that. There's 14 different rules you can apply, alone or together, for entries per group, and you can have an unlimited number of custom rules.
SobiPro has another new feature that is going to make this one of the most powerful and versatile components ever released for Joomla! Gone are the plugins once used in SOBI2, and now we have SobiPro Applications. Applications can be many things, and the default payment and custom fields that come pre-installed with SobiPro are examples of Applications.
In addition, things like 'Comments' can be installed through the Application Manager, and a cool new feature in SobiPro is the Repository. No, not a suppository, I said repository. That means that SobiPro can 'Fetch' applications from another server, download and automatically install them, without you ever leaving the administration screen of your Joomla! Site. Never again will you have to hunt for just the right add-on for your directory. You'll be able to download your Apps and Updates right from your site!
Another powerful feature of SobiPro is the integrated template manager and code editor. SobiPro has put the power in the site builder's hands by allowing every single view on the front end of the site to use a template. This is a great advantage to anyone who wants a customized look for the directory results or search page. Even the category chooser has it's own template file.
Roberts Web Design is launching the first ever dedicated Sobi Templates Club later this month, and will feature custom templates for Sobi2 and SobiPro on a monthly basis! Look for the announcement coming soon. You can also sign up for the Sobi Templates Club Newsletter to stay up to date on important release information and inside news.
The SobiPro sample data has 2 complete directories installed by default, the Business Directory and Vehicles Marketplace as mentioned earlier. The Business Directory features the default template output for the front end, and the Vehicle Marketplace uses a Custom Template for you to see how the template can be edited to suit your own site's style and layout.
Next up is the Multi-Content or Directories feature that we will cover in our SobiPro Directory Component for Joomla - Part 2. If you have any questions or comments, drop us a note below, we would love to hear from you.