Joomla User Manual

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Template Layouts

Layout File Sructures

In a template, each extension that generates html output places the output code in a template file within the extension file structure, often in a folder named tmpl. Some examples:

  • /modules/mod_login/tmpl/default.php
  • /modules/mod_login/tmpl/default_logout.php
  • /components/com_content/tmpl/article/default.php
  • /plugins/content/vote/tmpl/vote.php

In a template override, a file of the same name is created within the template file structure and that is used instead of the file in the extension file structure. Corresponding examples:

  • /templates/cassiopeia/html/mod_login/default.php
  • /templates/cassiopeia/html/mod_login/default_logout.php
  • /templates/cassiopeia/html/com_content/article/default.php
  • /templates/cassiopeia/html/plg_content_vote/vote.php

This allows you to customise the output to suit your needs. However, you do not have the option to choose whether or not to use your override. It is always used.

In a template alternative layout, you create a file with a different name from the original but in the same template folder. The new name must not contain an underline character. You also create any file that shares the first part of the original name. An example:

  • /templates/cassiopeia/html/mod_login/expires.php
  • /templates/cassiopeia/html/mod_login/expires_logout.php

It then becomes possible to choose whether to use the original default layout or the alternative layout. The choice is made in the module or component edit form (Advanced tab for modules, Options tab for Articles). Note that not all extensions allow either overrides or alternative layouts.

Beware: plugins do not provide a mechanism to select alternative layouts.

Module Alternative Layouts

Creating an alternative layout for a module is similar to creating a template override for a module. In both cases, you create a folder called templates/.../html/. For example, the folder for a "mod_login" template override or alternative layout for the cassiopeia template would be templates/cassiopeia/html/mod_login/.

There are two important differences between a template override and an alternative layout. The first is the file name. For the template override, you would name the file default.php to match the core file name. For an alternative layout, you use a different name. The only rule is that the file name should not have any underscores in it.

The second important difference is that, unlike template override files which are used automatically whenever the module is displayed using the template with the override, an alternative layout file is only used if you select it as a parameter in the Module parameter settings.

A worked example - mod_login

  • Go to System  Site Templates  Cassiopeia Details and Files
  • Select the Create Overrides tab.
  • From the Module list select the mod_login item.
  • In the Editor tab, select html  mod_login to see your newly created copies of the mod_login output templates.
  • Rename default.php to something else without an underline, expires.php in this example.
  • Rename default_logout.php to expires_logout.php.

You now have two files with exactly the same content as the originals. Change the content of expires_logout.php to add a message informing the user at what time the session will expire after each page load.

On line 16 immediately beneath the existing use statements add the following:

use Joomla\CMS\Factory;

$config = Factory::getContainer()->get('config');
$lifetime = $config->get('lifetime', 0);
$time = time() + $lifetime * 60;
$endTime = date('H:i:s', $time); // time() returns a time in seconds already

And on line 36 immediately following the line containing an endif statement add this code:

<p class="text-center">
Your session will expire at <br><?php echo $endTime; ?>

Close the Cassiopeia files. Select Content  Site Modules and open the Login module. In the Advanced tab, Layout item you will find that you have a choice between -- From Module -- / Default and -- From cassiopeia Template -- / expires.

screenshot of modules login form showing alternative layouts

One way you might use this feature is to have two Login forms, one with Public access and the other with Super Users access, In the latter select the expires option and only Super Users will see the reminder of session expiry time.

It is important to understand that if specified in the Module parameters screen, an alternative layout file for a module will be used for that module regardless of what template is used to display the page where the module is shown. It is therefore the administrator's responsibility to make sure that the layout file will work as desired in any templates where this module may be shown.


You can translate the file name using Language Overrides. Try the following procedure:

  • Select System  Manage panel  Language Overrides
  • Select your language and the Administrator location.
  • Select the New button and fill out the form. In this example the language key is TPL_CASSIOPEIA_MOD_LOGIN_LAYOUT_EXPIRES and the text might be Login / Logout with expire time
  • Save and Close and go back to the Login module form.

screenshot of languages edit override form

The module layout selection form field with expires translated:

small screenshot of alternative layouts example

Component Alternative Layouts

Component alternative layouts work similarly to module layouts. A file is placed in the same folder where you would place a template override file. For example, to create an alternative layout for an article for the template "cassiopeia", you would put a file in the folder templates/cassiopeia/html/com_content/article/. As with module layouts, the file must not be named the same as the core file and must not include underscores in the name. Additionally, there should not be an XML file of the same name in this folder. (We'll discuss XML files below under Menu Item Alternative Layouts.)

You can set a global value for component layouts in the Options window of the component. For example, in the Article: Options window, there is a Choose a Layout parameter as shown below:

screenshot of articles options form with alternative layouts list

As with module layouts, the component layouts are shown as parameter options in the individual component edit screen. For example, for an article, the parameter shows in the Articles: Edit Options tab as shown below.

screenshot of article edit form showing alternative layouts list

As with other parameters, the Use Global setting will use the setting from the Options parameter. The From Component's Default setting will use the component's default layout. Alternative layouts that you have created for different templates are shown under each template heading.

File names may be translated. The line below:


will translate a file called "mylayout.php" as "Title Only No XML".

You can have more than one file for a layout. The initial file must be named without underscores and any additional files must have underscores.

Component alternative layouts may be used with articles, contacts, or news feeds.

Component alternative layouts are only used when two conditions are met: (1) they are specified in the component parameters; and (2) there is no menu item for this specific component. For example, if you have one or more menu items of type "Single Article" set up for a given article, then the alternative layout for that article will not be used. Instead, the layout specified in the menu item will be used. This is consistent with the general way that component parameters work, where the most specific (in this case a single-article menu item) overrides the less specific (in this case, the article parameters).

Category Alternative Layouts

Category alternative layouts work like component layouts. The rules for specifying layout files are the same. The only difference is that the folder is the category folder, not the component folder. For example, a contact category alternative layout for cassiopeia would go in the folder templates/cassiopeia/html/com_contact/category.

You can set category layouts globally, in the Options screen of each component. Below is an example from the Contacts: Options / Category form:

screenshot of contacts component options form showing alternative layouts

Category alternative layouts show up when you add or edit a category in the Component: Edit Category / Options form as shown below.

screenshot of contacts edit category form shwoing alternative layouts

Category alternative layouts may be used for articles, banners, contacts and news feeds.

As with component layouts, a category layout will be used only if:

  1. it is selected in the global or category parameters.
  2. there is no menu item specifically for the category.

If there is a menu item set up for a specific category, that layout selected in the menu will be used instead of the alternative category layout.

Article Category Blog and List

For articles, there are two core category layouts available: Blog and List. Each of these layouts appears in the Articles: Options form Category tab under the "From Component" heading. Alternative layouts also appear in the list allowing Blog or List or alternative template layouts to be selected as the default category layout either globally or when editing a single article category.

screenshot of articles options category showing alternative layouts

This means that, like other layout options, you can control whether article category links use blog or list layouts. It is important to understand that, like other layout parameters, this option will only take effect when there is no single-category menu item for the category.

Alternative Menu Items

Alternative Menu Items have one important difference with the others. To create a menu item alternative layout, you must include an XML file whose name matches the initial layout file. For example, to create an alternative menu item called "myarticle" for an article in the cassiopeia template, you would create two files in the templates/cassiopeia/html/com_content/article folder called myarticle.php and myarticle.xml. If you wanted to include more layout files, you would add these files with underscores in the file names.

The XML file uses the same format as the core Menu Item XML files. This allows you not only to create a customized layout for this menu item but also allows you to create customized parameters. For example, you could hide some parameters or add new parameters.

Alternative Menu Items show up when you select a menu item type in the Menu Manager as shown below.

screenshot of menu item selection list

Alternative Menu Items are used and work the same way as standard menu items. Since they are already based on customized layouts, template overrides do not apply to alternative menu items.

As indicated above, menu item layouts take priority over component or category alternative layouts.

Translation of alternative menu items is done with the following tags in the XML files. The format is "TPL_"<template name>_<component>_<view>_<menu item name>_<tag type>. For example, these lines below will translate the title, option, and description for an alternative menu item called "catmenuitem".

    TPL_CASSIOPEIA_COM_CONTENT_CATEGORY_VIEW_CATMENUITEM_DESC="Description for cassiopeia custom category layout."

These strings have to be added to administrator/language/overrides/en-GB.override.ini but you can use the Language Overrides form described above.

The catmenuitem.xml would start with:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>

Controlling the Template for Alternative Menu Items

As discussed above, the presence of an XML file makes an alternative layout a menu item. The format of the XML file is the same as the format for core menu item XML files. With this XML file, you can add the parameters you wish to include for this menu item. They can be the same as one of the core menu items, or you can omit core parameters or add new ones. Note that if you add new parameters, these can be used in the layout file but will not be used in the core model or view files.

It is also possible to override parameter settings for core parameters. One example of this is to control which templates an alternative menu item layout can be displayed with. In some cases, you may want to allow a custom menu item to be displayed with any template for the site. In other cases, you may wish to limit that menu item's layout to one specific template. In this situation, you would just add the following parameter to the menu item's XML file:


This will override the core template_style_id parameter. Setting the template equal to "cassiopeia" in this case will limit the user to only selecting template styles for the "cassiopeia" template.

Further Information

  • Template Basics
  • Cassiopeia Template Folders and Files
  • Cassiopeia Template Customisation
  • Template Overrides
  • Template Layouts
  • Cassiopeia Template Simplified - A Case Study - a simple template based on Cassiopeia