Unlike the release candidates of its predecessor Joomla 1.5, the Joomla team reports there are no high or medium issues left in the bug tracker for Joomla 1.6. The team further states:
"This is the first -- and we hope -- only release candidate release. We plan to release version 1.6.0 on 10 January 2011, assuming we don't find any High or Medium High issues that we are unable to fix before then."
Major Features & Improvements:
You can view the full list and details on the Joomla.org wiki for J1.6. Below we will give you a quick overview of what big advantages Joomla 1.6 will bring in the new year.
New administrative interface:
More relevant menu structure and sub menu consistency. The new look comes with better organized menus, and your option of administrative templates.
Access Control Level System:
Yes, your own user groups, your own permissions and access control over every feature of Joomla! From menus to modules to content and even control over back-end administrative features. You now have control over who can manage and view your content.
Unlimited (nested categories) organizational model:
Gone is the Section-->Category-->Article relationship like in J1.0.x and 1.5.x, replaced by a Category ? article structure in the new J1.6. You can now have nested categories (sub-categories) as deep as you need. There are also more layout options for a bit more control over your site layout to support this new structure
One-click extension updates:
Simplified extension updates and troubleshooting. This allows you to keep your site updated and secure.
Easy installing large extensions:
With Joomla! 1.6 now you can upload large extensions using your favorite FTP client and then the new "Discover" feature will detect any new extensions so you can easily install them.
Semantic XHTML layouts:
Look through the templates pre-installed with Joomla! to see behind the scenes of better semantic markup, cleaner presentation.
New toolbar features:
No longer to you have only two options: Save or Apply. Now you have Save&Close, Save&New, and simply Save. This means no more popping in and out of where you need to be. Much more efficient workflow.
New templates (Site and Administrator):
Alter the look of the back-end to suit your needs or your clients. Preview cutting edge templates or the standard simple, flexible, semantic mark up. No more duplicating templates to alter the look and feel of certain aspects of your site. You can now duplicate a template and apply alternate styles.
Meta descriptions and keywords for categories, articles can now change the page title and page headers separately. Menu items can also carry Meta Data information for custom pages or content extensions that don't provide Meta Data Management.
Improved Modules, Components and Plug-ins Management:
Have all been altered to increase productivity and workflow. No more bouncing around to perform certain tasks. Added check-in ability for recently modified modules and plug-ins.
Check out this J1.6 features infographic, showing the top 10 features which sets Joomla 1.6 apart from the current 1.5 version (created by Kristoffer Sandven, author of JoomlaBlogger.net.)
When should I begin developing with Joomla 1.6?
Joomla 1.6RC1 is a release candidate and is not yet stable enough for live production sites. This means that there are still issues and features that need to be fully worked out before launching a site using the 1.6 version.
Another key factor lies within 3rd party extensions and templates. Joomla 1.6 will not support a legacy mode like it did for the Joomla 1.0 to Joomla 1.5 conversions. This means any extensions you want to use on your site will need to be updated by the developer before you can use them in Joomla 1.6.
Although I do not anticipate the lengthy time frame for adaptation by developers we witnessed with Joomla 1.5, there were multiple issues going on at the time, it is best to follow your extension and template developers closely so you are better prepared to make this decision when the new version is stable.
My suggestions; Begin testing and learning Joomla 1.6 RC1 as time allows. Learn the new features. Make a list of what extensions and functionality have been added to the core that you can use and where you need to keep 3rd-party extensions in place, then set a migration path for your site(s) or client site(s).
Joomla 1.5.x use and support is not going away any time soon, so for sites currently using 1.5, you have ample time to upgrade if and when needed. For new sites, you still have at least few months before you can actively begin pushing 1.6 versions to production. The key is to understand why you are upgrading, define a clear migration path, and then move forward.
Is is hard to migrate from J1.5.x to J1.6.0?
First, not nearly as difficult as the transition from 1.0.x to 1.5. If you were developing with Joomla back then, you may being feeling some serious anxiety about going through all that again. Not so! We all learned from those experiences and the process is much improved.
That said, migration tools are being developed today to make the move as easy and painless as possible. You can view notes on the Joomla Documentation Wiki and see a migration tool being developed here.
Please keep in mind each extension and template developer will have their own upgrade paths. Know your site requirements and know your extension developers plans before moving forward. Again, you can anticipate a 1-3 month time frame before extensions will be Joomla 1.6 ready. This gives you the time you need to really discover how you will be using the newest Joomla version.
When you decide the time is right to migrate to Joomla 1.6, back up your current site completely. Use a tool like Akeeba Backup, so if anything goes wrong you can quickly go back. Always test a site migration or upgrade locally first.
When will JA Templates be available for Joomla 1.6?
As you know we have already released a first native version of T3 template framework for Joomla 1.6 and will prepare adaption of templates and extensions in full swing once stable version has been officially announced. Please check our Updates section periodically or subscribe to our blog/newsletter and you won't miss any major releases.
The majority of Joomla 1.5 web sites will be updated or migrated to Joomla 1.6 at some point during the next year. The new features, improvements, and streamlined workflows are too important to pass up. Do you need to worry about it now? No. You have time. Time to adjust, time to plan, and time to learn.
In fact, if you want to get started go download and try out the Joomla 1.6 RC1. Once you are comfortable with the new features and functionality, head on over and download the JAT3 framework for Joomla 1.6 and give it a spin!