Mambo book review

The Mambo content management system is generally easy to install, set up, configure, and use, but that doesn’t save you from the complexity of designing and managing a large Web site. Mambo may be easy to install, but the post-install configuration has so many facets and possibilities that it’s easy to drown in the details. Wiley Publishing’s new Mambo book accelerates Mambo site development by providing new Webmasters and small publishers with the requisite details and tips to get a Mambo site into production the way they want it in a short amount of time.

Writing analysis

Mambo is the first Wiley Visual Blueprint book I’ve read, and I very much enjoyed the way it is laid out. Mambo-specific material aside, the book is easy to read and follow, information is easy to find when you’re looking for something specific, and it’s attractively designed in a pseudo-blueprint style.

The author writes clearly, and I only found one typographical error; that’s pretty good compared with most other technical books I’ve reviewed.

This book deals specifically with the (yet to be released as of this writing) Mambo version 4.6, though most of the book’s content should be relevant to all recent Mambo releases.

You can read Mambo cover-to-cover or use it as a reference. The book progresses naturally from an explanation of terminology at the start to adding third-party modules and components at the finish, which makes it very easy to follow along with while you’re installing and configuring the software on your computer.

Putting the book to the test

As someone who works with Mambo every day, I didn’t think there would be much for me in this book, but as it turned out I learned a number of things from it. A lot of the time you can blunder through a system like Mambo and learn to use it through trial and error over a long period of time. When you only understand Mambo based on context (how it looks like it’s used) and not on theory (how it should be used), you miss a lot of details — and I certainly did. The Mambo book gave me a more complete understanding of the Mambo Open Source CMS.

Obviously there are better ways to learn than just blundering through the installation and configuration on your own, but until now there have been few good, up-to-date resources available to new Mambo users. There are forums, scattered articles and documents, and the official documentation, but that’s a lot of information to pore over, and some of it may be in conflict. The Mambo book explains every piece of Mambo succinctly, so there’s no need to experiment or go hunting for information on the Internet — you look up what you want to know and the book tells you in one or two pages, complete with a screen shot and an example.

I only found one significant error in Mambo: the section on search engine-friendly URLs shows an example that could not have been created with the standard Mambo SEF component. I contacted the author and he admitted that this was an error — the URL shown was created with a third-party Mambo add-on. This is not particularly harmful; all you’d really need to do to work around them is download the same add-ons that the author used. Also, the section on backing up and restoring the Mambo database using MOStlyDBAdmin only applies to Mambo version 4.6 or higher; again, that is a future release as of the publication of this review.


Mambo is the book I wish I’d had when I first installed and configured the Mambo Open Source CMS. Some things you can’t learn from a book — like how to write compelling content or how to administrate a forum — but for anything related to installing, configuring, maintaining, and customizing this content management system, Mambo is easily the best single source of information. The content is appropriate and concise, and the book’s layout and style are outstanding. Definitely recommended for anyone who has just begun or will soon begin to use the Mambo CMS.

Title Mambo
Publisher Wiley
Author Ric Shreves
ISBN 0470040564
Pages Paperback, 334 pages
Rating 9 out of 10
Tag line Your visual blueprint for building and maintaining Web sites with the Mambo Open Source CMS.
Price (retail) U.S. $23. Buy it from

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Copyright 2006 Jem Matzan.

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