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Mambo Quick Start Guide

Author:  Russell Walker (


The following is a brief introduction to the Mambo Content Management System. Use this guide to quickly get to grips with the basic operation of Mambo, and as a reminder of how to achieve common tasks. Once you get the hang of the basics, it is recommended that you familiarise yourself with some of the more advanced features detailed in the official documentation, so as to get the most out of your website. Text presented in bold is just to highlight key words or points, and to help you scan quickly through the document.

This guide assumes that you already have Mambo installed on your web server. For information about how to install Mambo, see the official documentation and the forums on the Mambo website (, and

Basic Principles – Important!


Before you can understand how to operate Mambo, you need to understand the basic principles that underlie the system. If you skip this section, you will probably have difficulties later on.


As a ‘Content Management System’, Mambo is about organising your website content. This means you have to think about your website in terms of the content structure, rather than the end result (the web pages). The actual ‘look and feel’, or theme of your website is completely separate from the content – the colours, fonts, alignment, positioning, etc. are all governed by the template you apply rather than being built-in to your content. Thus, by assigning a different template to your website, you can give it a completely different look and feel without having to amend any of the content.


Creating a template is a fairly technical exercise (but not too difficult) which requires some knowledge of XHTML and PHP. If you don’t know anything about those two languages, you are probably better off using one of the many freely-available open source templates – or hiring a professional to design a template for you according to your requirements, or in line with your existing ‘corporate image’. For details on how to install and apply a template, see appendix A at the end of this document (you might not need this if someone else has already set up the system for you).


After you have chosen and installed a template, you can begin to work on the content. Your content can be organised into sections and categories:


Sections are containers that hold one or more Categories.

Categories are containers that hold one or more Items.

Items are the articles that make up your actual website content.


For example, if you were a financial advisor who wanted to publish articles that give advice about different investment options, you might have a section called ‘Investments’, containing categories such as ‘Life Insurance’, ‘Savings’, and ‘Stocks and Shares’. Within the ‘Life Insurance’ category, you could store various items relating to that category, such as ‘Endowments’, ‘Annuities’, etc.


To add a new article to your website, you will have to assign the article (or item) to a category, and the category to a section. This means that you must think carefully about what sections and categories to create before you start adding content. It is possible to move things into different categories and sections after you have created them, but it is much easier and less time-consuming to think about and define your content structure first, and then add your items.


After you have defined a section, added a category to it, and added an item to the category (details on how you actually do this in Mambo come later), the item will not be visible in your website unless you publish it. This is handy, because it means you can store content in your website which nobody can see until you are happy that it is ready for general release. You can also specify in Mambo that an article be published on a particular date in the future, and expire on another date – which allows you to control the release of time-sensitive information.


Even when a section, category, and item are all ‘published’, you still need a way for your visitors to navigate to the content they want. This requires you to build a menu system, and link your content to it. Your menu system does not have to exactly reflect the structure of your sections and categories, although this is usually the easiest way to do it. The section/category/item structure is mainly there for your benefit as the administrator. The visitors to your website will see your content by means of your menus, so these are like a controlled ‘window’ into your content.


To summarise then, as an administrator, you build and view your website’s content in a hierarchy of sections, categories, and items. When you are happy with your content structure, you create menu items, and link these to your content. A menu item can point to a section, a category, or directly to an item. Where a menu option links to a container (ie. a section or category), the end user will be presented with a list of the items contained within that section or category when they select that menu option, as well as any introductory content you may define for that section or category.

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