What the Bleep is the Title Alias?

"What the bleep is the Title Alias? Do I fill it in? Should I leave it blank? Help!"

This is definitely one the most common questions I get from clients using Joomla for the first time. Theres nothing to indicate what its for, and if you click on the "Help" button you get something thats less than helpful:

"Title Alias: Enter a short name for this Item."

Thanks for that! So this is my best attempt to answer that question and save myself from answering it again too many times in the future… Just what is the Title Alias for?

It has no official use at all in Joomla 1.0. Its basically Joomla’s appendix – something that was useful many moons ago but is now just an evolutionary hangover. Yes, you can happily leave it blank. You can also take advantage of quite a large number of components, modules, plugins and hacks that do use the Title Alias.

A Brief History of the Title Alias

From Andrew Eddie: (Core developer)

"It’s a common technique used in many a blogging application.  Anyone is welcome to use it and then next schema change will probably mean that all tables will have it.  I have actually seen other SEF components that duplicate it’s effect instead of using it directly.  There are also a number of ‘sleeping’ fields in the schema.  I can think of a least two others.  There are a number of fields that were put in around 4.5.0 time that didn’t get properly used until a later versions."

From Emir Sakic: (Current SEF Advance and former core developer)

"Title alias field was added for benefit of a large Mambo customer: Devshed.com. We wanted them to use Mambo and they had this requirement so we put it in core. After that several 3rd party components made use of this field."

Who Uses the Title Alias Now?

  1. Some Search Engine Friendly URL components such as SEF Advance, sh404SEF and Artio SEF. They allow you to use it for the URL. That way to can have a long, interesting page title with lots of odd characters (? – ! ‘ ) and filler words (and, or, the) but still have a short, keyword packed URL. This feature is actually going to become part of the core in Joomla 1.5.
  2. Some modules such as JooFox Content Titles and the Alias for Page Title Plugin (for 1.5). These allos you to use the Title Alias as an HTML Title – an SEO feature sorely lacking in Joomla.
  3. Plugins such as Titlelink. This allows you to easily link to other content items on your site.
  4. Assorted design hacks. At the last Joomla South East meeting, Steven from Intownwebdesign.com showed us a very neat trick that he used to design Schroederslater.com. Many of the pages needed a unique background image so he gave each image the title alias of the page it was going to be used on. He then used PHP and CSS to automatically load the correct titlealias.jpg on each page. Joseph LeBlanc show you how to call the title alias here.
  5. Assorted coding hacks. One example is Phil Braddock‘s hack to allow the HTML title to created from the page title – very similar to the modules in #2.

Over to you … do you have any other tips and tricks you have for using Joomla’s Title Alias?

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