TYPO3 – an extensive content management system

Since its first beta version in 2000, non-profit organization TYPO3 has been a prominent content management system (CMS), particularly in Europe. It’s changed a lot since then: nowadays, TYPO3 features many new templates, plugins, additional features, and more. The large community presence is helping to ensure that this CMS remains competitive going forwards, too. The timing seems perfect to examine the CMS TYPO3 a little more closely.

TYPO3 in profile

In 2012 this content management system began to be distributed under the name ‘TYPO3 CMS’. This was a reaction by the TYPO3 Association to, among other things, a split in the development team to leave and work on ‘TYPO3 Neos’; another CMS that has since come to resemble something a lot more different than the original TYPO3. Despite the new name of ‘TYPO3 CMS’, we still mainly only use the handle TYPO3 when referring to the classic content management system from the ‘TYPO3 Association’.

Alongside WordPress, Joomla!, and Drupal,  TYPO3 is one of the world’s most common CMS programs with over 400,000 installations.

Click here to download the infographic about the market share of CMS systems.

Like other popular content management systems, TYPO3 offers an open source software that users can edit using templates to create their personal web design. The operation is then carried out via the web browser. The program can be downloaded for free here.

But unusually for a CMS, TYPO3 users enter the content for their website’s user interface on a special configuration language called typoscript – no easy task for a beginner. Though, if website security is your number one concern, it may just be worth it: TYPO3 is considered the most secure content management system. Other benefits include its high flexibility and very large, active community. There are tonnes of extensions for TYPO3: templates, plugins, and many other things that are usually free of charge. Should you encounter issues, there are numerous online forums and tutorials within the community as well as professional service assistants on-hand to offer TYPO3 support.

Source: YouTube „What is TYPO3?“; https://youtu.be/LMx4SmK4s0U

TYPO3 features at a glance

TYPO3 makes it possible to create web presences of all kinds and sizes. Due to its impressive functionality, TYPO3 can cater for even the most specific web design demands. The following is a brief overview of the most important TYPO3 features:

  • Multiple editors can contribute to web content. This can be easily controlled and adjusted thanks to the Workflow function, which also saves all drafts in its history, allowing you to restore older versions easily.

  • Changes to content and layout can be tested in workspaces. A workspace is a specially designed working environment that simulates the front end of the site.

  • It’s possible to set detailed instructions for who has access to which areas of your website, both front end and back end. Numerous settings allow you to modify the access rights of individual users, editors, administrators or particular groups.

  • There are no restrictions on the management of multiple independent sites. Installations only need to be made once for all sites.

  • There are over 6,000 extensions and applications to choose from. The Extensions Manager makes them easy to locate and install.

  • Making a web presence or several websites available in different languages is simple. There are more than 50 localisations available for this.

  • Both the front and back end are responsive. It is also possible to set special previews of the front end for mobile devices.
Tip

Check out our comparison article on the five most popular Content Management Systems and see which one is best suited to your web project.

Installing TYPO3: A Quick Guide

Anyone interested in this free content system can find the most up to date version on the official homepage of the project. Before you busy yourself with how to install TYPO3, you should first make sure that you have the correct software and hardware setup. TYPO3 makes certain demands of a web server that need to be fulfilled before an installation takes place. This is to ensure that there are no problems with installation and future use.

TYPO3: requirements for use

TYPO3 is one of the SMS systems that spans across many platforms. When it comes to selecting an operating system you have a free choice, as the TYPO3 Association offers various installation packages for Windows, macOS, and Unix/Linux. Even when it comes to the issue of web server software, the decision lies with you. While Apache is the optimal solution suggested by the development team, TYPO3 projects can also be run using NGINX, Microsoft IIS, or other applications that have a PHP module. The components of the content management system are based on this scripting language, which is why the installation of an up to date version of PHP is among the prerequisites of TYPO3:

  • TYPO3 v6: PHP 5.5
  • TYPO3 v7: PHP 5.5-7.1
  • TYPO3 v8: PHP 7+

When it comes to the installed PHP environment, it is of paramount importance that you have a memory limit of at least 64 MB (recommended: 128 MB) and the ‘globals’ value is deactivated. Additionally, the authorised period of time for the execution of scripts (‘max execution time’) should be at least 30 seconds (60 is even better). In terms of database, the developers recommend MySQL (from version 5.5 upwards). Thanks to the standard extension DBAL (Database Abstraction Layer), TYPO3 also supports other database systems, for example, PostreSQL and Oracle, as well as Maria DB. Similarly, the hardware demands of TYPO3 are also quite minor, with 200 MB free web space and 256 MB working memory respectively. However, as with any database supported application; the more computing and processing power, the better.

TYPO3 Guide: Installing the CMS

There are two possibilities for installing TYPO3:

  1. Download the relevant installation package and unpack it on your web server. Alternatively, you can also open it on a local PC and then upload the unpacked files to the server. However because the package is made up of thousands of files, this is not always recommended.
  2. Or you can also install TYPO3 with the help of extra tools like TYPO3Winstaller. This installation assistant (for Windows) not only takes over the installation and setup of the content management system, but also ensures that the required versions of Apache, PHP, and MySQL are installed on the web server.

Once all of the required program files are on the web server, the installation tool will carry out the rest of the installation and configuration process. The installation tool can be found in the folder titled ‘typo3/install’. This can be launched via the browser of your choice by entering the exact directory path in the address bar. Follow the instructions of the TYPO3 tool to create databases and regulate access to them, for example setting up an administrator account for your TYPO3 project.

Tip:

Alternatively, with just a few clicks, you can install and administer TYPO3 with special hosting services. 1&1 offers a special TYPO3 hosting package which promises to provide you with the optimal start for TYPO3.

TYPO3: Extensions for greater functionality

Even in its basic version, TYPO3 delivers an excellent CMS package that can be used in so many different web projects. The core of the program, as well as the front and backend, can be adjusted and extended if required. For this reason, there are TYPO3 extensions available for use – modules with specific functions and that can be integrated via specific interfaces. This allows you to add useful features to the content management system, e.g. security features – to do with the acceleration of backend passwords or the automatic blocking of certain IP addresses displaying unusual login behaviour, as examples. Furthermore, there are also extensions for the optimisation of user administration, the integration of specific interactive elements, or the implementation of additional formulas.

TYPO3: How the extension development work

Regardless of the area of application, PHP is the basis of every TYPO3 extension. As a result, being familiar with the script language is one of the most important requirements for setting up such TYPO3 extensions. However, the content management system offers two valuable and useful tools to make the development process a lot easier. The template engine Fluid helps to generate the extension in the user interface. Then the MVC framework Extbase acts as a template for the software architecture to keep the data from the processing and the presentation separate. In this way, the source code is made clearer and the removal of bugs becomes easier. On top of this, Extbase has a function that makes the registration of newly developed extensions easier.

Anyone looking to enter the world of TYPO3 extension development themselves in order to programme their own extension should familiarise themselves with Extension Builder. This allows for the quick and uncomplicated generation of a basic framework for the planned extension. All necessary files are generated automatically, which saves a lot of time and work.

How to install TYPO3 extensions

Once you have found useful plugins for your TYPO3 project you next need to install them. Before the installation, make sure that the selected installation is compatible with the version of the content management system that you are using. You should also check the reputation and reliability of the extension. You can do this by looking at the basic information like the version’s history, the date of the last update, or the download numbers. To install the desired TYPO3 extension, you can refer back to the Extension Manager, which is a standard component of the program. The manager makes possible the installation and configuration of extensions directly within TYPO3 itself; something which is always preferable to a manual installation via an external package.

In most cases, the extension that you are looking for can be found using the search function within the Extension Manager. All that you need is the complete and correct key, which for example you can find in the official repository. To begin the installation, simply click on the ‘Import and install’ button, which can be found next to the title of the selected extension. If the implementation was a success, TYPO3 will inform you of this by displaying a brief dialogue window.

TYPO3 Extension Repository

For developers who have programmed a TYPO3 extension and wish to share it with the whole community, then the TYPO3 Extension Repository (TER) is the right platform for this. This central directory, which can be accessed via the official homepage of the content management system, offers the possibility of uploading one’s own plugins, templates, and so on to make them available for the entire TYPO3 user community. With the upload process, the developer also assigns (among other things) the aforementioned extension key, that can be found through the Extension Manager and installed.

The TYPO3 Extension Repository offers more than 1800 different extensions, which makes it one of the most important portals for TYPO3 users. One of the directory’s particularly useful features is the integrated search function, which among other things, allows you to filter results based on development status, category, and TYPO3 compatibility.

Popular TYPO3 extensions: an overview

In order to demonstrate the versatility of the Extension Repository, we have compiled a clear and precise table of some of the most interesting and useful TYPO3 extensions: 

Extension key

Description

TYPO3 version

Author

Download link

commerce

Shop system

6.2.0–6.9.99

Commerce Team

typo3.org/extensions/repository/view/commerce

ke_questionnaire

Surveys, develop an E-Learning environment

6.1.7–7.9.99

kennziffer.com

typo3.org/extensions/repository/view/ke_questionnaire

newsletter

Newsletter marketing

6.2.0–8.99.99

Ecodev admin

typo3.org/extensions/repository/view/newsletter

nwt_imagecrop

Crop and adjust images

7.6.0–8.7.99

Christian Lange

typo3.org/extensions/repository/view/nwt_imagecrop

realurl

Search engine-friendly URLs

6.2.0–8.7.999

Dmitry Dulepov

typo3.org/extensions/repository/view/realurl

seo_basics

Basic SEO features

6.2.0–7.9.99

Benni Mack

typo3.org/extensions/repository/view/seo_basics

sourceopt

Optimisation of source codes

7.6.0–8.7.99

Tim Lochmüller

typo3.org/extensions/repository/view/sourceopt

toctoc_comments

Networking components (Rate, share, etc.)

4.5.0–8.9.99

Gisèle Wendl

typo3.org/extensions/repository/view/toctoc_comments

tt_news

Integrating current news

7.6.0–7.6.99

Rupert Germann

typo3.org/extensions/repository/view/tt_news

TYPO3 templates: Get the design you want

TYPO3 is a simple way of giving your TYPO3 project the layout and design that you desire. When it comes to optical design, instead of having to start from scratch, you can use handy templates to create a basic framework, upon which content can be built. The selected structure can also be changed at a later point or also completely scrapped – in this case, the content will simply be transferred and integrated into the new system.

Many programmers have made it their mission to develop TYPO3 templates and make them available to users. Either they make the templates available for download on their own site or else on the websites of providers that specialise in the sale of such things. However, keep in mind that the price should not necessarily be the gauge of the quality of the website template.

Selecting a TYPO3 template: what to look out for

When searching for TYPO3 templates for your web project, you will encounter both free, as well as fee-based options. Some sites offer various templates, whereas others will only have the one. However, prices and choices should not decide whether or not you download a template. Much more important are the optical components of a template.

Next, you should ask yourself whether the design and layout of the envisaged template fit both your vision and more importantly your web project (not only thematically but also functionally). For example; imagine if you use an unchanged template because it gives your website a long-envisaged navigation structure but at the same time this structure distracts from the actual content or is even unsuited to it. This will then quickly lead to an unwanted devaluation of your project. If a template contains only a few elements of interest to you, then you should weigh up whether the subsequent necessary adjustment work is worth your time and money. Furthermore, consider the following things before downloading a TYPO3 template:

  • Responsive web design: Use a TYPO3 responsive template from the very start. Having such a flexible template as a basis means that your website will fit automatically to the display size of different devices. This allows desktop users and those with a tablet or smartphone to have the optimal user experience, without you having to create and manage an additional mobile version of your project.
  • Compatibility: before you use a certain template for your project, you need to make sure that it will even be compatible with your version of TYPO3. Normally, providers will include details in the description of a template, regarding which versions the template is suitable for. However, if this is not the case then you should carefully consider whether you wish to take the risk that the TYPO3 template doesn’t work. This becomes an even more important decision if you are paying for the template. If you plan on updating your TYPO3 regularly, then you should search for templates that keep you up to date with the newest versions of the content management system.
  • Licensing: TYPO3 templates are published with very different licences; something which later has an effect on potential uses. Regardless of whether you are dealing with a commercial or a free licence, you should always check whether the applicable guidelines fit your plans. In some cases, it is prohibited to modify a template or use it for commercial purposes. Most of the time, it is at least required of you to include a link to the developer or provider.
  • Reliability: Downloading TYPO3 templates brings with it all the risks typically associated with the online world. It could happen that you end up using the wrong provider and then along with the desired template, also end up unwittingly downloading Adware or even Malware. These types of dubious providers are not always immediately recognisable, meaning that there is always a certain amount of skepticism that accompanies the emergence of new service providers in this area. Keep an eye out for the signs of an established and honest provider; these could include positive comments from users, as well as details regarding contact and support. Additionally, it is also a good sign if there are demo versions and example screenshots available from the TYPO3 templates on offer.

Finding TYPO3 templates: an overview of the free and fee-based options

The search for a template is often more complicated than originally envisioned. It is not unusual for one to find the perfect solution, only for it to turn out that it is not actually compatible with your version of TYPO3. In other cases, the entire package might be the perfect fit; except that the price of the template exceeds your budget. You should approach the whole issue with patience and not immediately pounce on the first decent solution that you encounter. This is the only way to ensure that you find a TYPO3 template that meets all your expectations and can be used long term. Below is an overview of the established and reputable providers.

Note:

Compared to the templates available for other content management systems like WordPress, Joomla, etc., the range of TYPO3 templates on offer is very manageable; something which makes the search for a suitable provider a little bit easier.

typo3.org – Extension Repository (free)

The previously mentioned extension repository from TYPO3 also introduces us to a number of templates. While the repository doesn’t actually offer the possibility of choosing an extension category, it does have a filter option that can help you search for the template you need. The templates in question come from a variety of developers who use this platform to make their products available to the user community. Along with a short description, the most important basic details for each TYPO3 template will also be written. These include the current version of the template, the compatible TYPO3 versions, whether the template is dependent on other extensions to function, as well as the name of the developer responsible for the template.

Sometimes it is also possible to access a manual, which alongside a detailed introduction, offers information relating to the licensing. When downloading a TYPO3 template you will have the choice between a T3X package and a ZIP archive – both formats can load the content management system as standard.

t3Bootstrap.de/en (fee-based)

A template of particular note is the t3Bootstrap Template from WapplerSystems, which as the name suggests, is based on the CSS Framework Bootstrap. This template is primarily aimed at TYPO3 users who are creating their own template but do not wish to work with the standard engine. Along with a series of basic components – like a grid system, sidebar menu, typographies, and a function for responsive images – you also have access to a template maker that makes the creation of basic components for your project so much easier. Alternatively, thanks to the finished bootstrap elements, the TYPO3 responsive template can also be used, unchanged, for content management.

In order to be able to use t3Bootstrap, you need to acquire one of the licenses on offer. One of the relatively cheap private user licences is usually sufficient for a basic homepage. If it is the case, however, that you wish to use the TYPO3 template for your company website, then you will need the individual commercial licence. WapplerSystems offers a multi-project licence for unlimited commercial use. Non-profit organisations can use the template free of charge, on the one condition that they use a backlink.

sklein-medien.de/en

The web developer Sebastian Klein has also created a template for TYPO3 that you can use as a basis for your own templates. Apart from the t3Bootstrap template, his template (named ‘basetemplate’) contains no integrated frontend solution like Bootstrap. Instead, it has a simple HTML structure that aims to make the use of TYPO3 FLUID templates that little bit easier. For this purpose, the template has a logical file structure, a basic TypoScript setup, as well as a basic configuration of the TYPO3 module (TSconfig). All settings can be adjusted without complication if required. You can find the free basetemplate, in three versions: ‘basetemplate62’ (for TYPO3 6.2), ‘basetemplate7’ (for TYPO3 7.6), and ‘basetemplate8’ (for TYPO3 v8 LTS), available for download on GitHub.

OnePage Template for TYPO3 CMS (free)

If you are looking for an onpage layout for your web presence and are working with TYPO3 6.2, then the t3onepage template is an excellent choice. The TYPO3 template from Maximilian Mayer contains the right TypoScript and the corresponding module basis in order to allow you to present your content on a single page. The package made up of fonts, icons, JavaScript snippets, Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), is available under a free MIT license, and can be utilised and modified for both private and commercial aims (provided licence and copyright are indicated). The web page onepage.compuart.com functions as a live preview of the template that you can download for free on Github.

codingpeople.com (fee-based)

While Codingpeople Ltd. offers no TYPO3 templates for download, it does offer the service of creating a standard, complete template on demand within 5 working days. This German company orientates itself on the official TYPO3 coding guidelines and, therefore, focuses on a clean separation between design and code, as well as an object-orientated PHP, and JavaScript development. For the agreed upon price, you will receive a high-performance template with all the basic functions of the content management system, and various optional features like a responsive web design, contact formulae, multi-language, newsletter, and special fonts. All of these, as well as the desired number of subpages can be selected in the configurator and then added to the standard package.

How do you create a TYPO3 template?

Apart from the option of making use of the finished templates, there is also, of course, the possibility of creating your own TYPO3 template. This gives you maximum control over the layout and design of your web presence. In order to do this, you need have the necessary skills for HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. It is possible to make the creation of a basic framework like this easier by using the likes of Bootstrap [Build web projects with Bootstrap], ZURB Foundation, or HTML5 Boilerplate. This then means that you don’t have to start right from scratch. Also, an alternative to creating templates via HTML template, you can also create yours with TYPO3 internal configuration language TypoScript. Although for this to happen, a certain amount of time for familiarisation is required.

It is recommendable that you create your own template in the form of a TYPO3 extension. This allows you to easily embed the template using the Extension Manager.

What are the steps involved in a TYPO3 update?

When upgrading to a new TYPO3 version, there are a couple of things that you need to do. Regardless of whether it is a small update (e.g. from 7.6.2 to 7.6.3) or a large one (e.g. from 6.2 to 7.6), you should first create a backup of both your current TYPO3 installation as well as your database. This means that if there are any complications with the update process, you can still quickly change back to the old version. Before switching over to the new version, you should also definitely make sure to update the reference index. With larger TYPO3 updates, i.e. for those that should be done with the help of the Upgrade Wizard, it is necessary to take further steps:

  • Convert global extensions to local extensions
  • Run the database analyzer
  • Empty the cache table and delete temporary cache files
  • Delete backend user settings
  • Read the ChangeLog and the NEWS.md file of the new TYPO3 update
  • Updating of extensions and the language module

In most cases, switching to a new TYPO3 version can occur without much complication. The adjustments that will be necessary is dependent on the range of extensions and different versions being used. Given that these often involve a significant amount of work, many hosting providers will offer the implementation of TYPO3 updates as a service as well.

Impressive examples of what you can do with TYPO3

TYPO3 is particularly popular in Europe. To see what can be achieved using this CMS, here are a number of famous organisations across Europe who use TYPO3 for their website:

If you’d like to see TYPO3 in action, you can try a demo version in your browser.  

Pros and cons of TYPO3

Compared to other content management systems, TYPO3 is less user-friendly. For those with absolutely no CMS experience, it may take a while longer to get to grips with TYPO3’s operation and many different functions than with some of the other options.

On the other hand, this is an enormously flexible CMS that offers endless possibilities (with the right know-how). The diverse range of plugins allows you to equip your TYPO3 website with a large variety different features, while the workflow tool makes organising collaboration between several editors and admins easy. 

The ease of localisation for many languages gives TYPO3 an advantage over WordPress and it’s also easy to manage several websites on the CMS. When it comes to troubleshooting, tutorials, or just new updates, the large community on TYPO3 is on hand to help. While admittedly complex, TYPO3 is a comprehensive CMS, offering almost limitless web design opportunities.