Tutorials, reviews, case studies and other tips to help website owners and website developers master the Joomla content management system.
Forcing files to download with Skyline Simple Download
Right now if I want to link to an image, a PDF or an MP3, those files would open in the browser window. But what if I knew that my visitors would like to save those files? Some files that open in the browser are easy to save (PDFs), but others are difficult (MP3s) and the explaining the process to site visitors is messy as the steps vary from one browser to another. There are various Joomla document management extensions that will help, but these seem overly complicated if all you want to do is provide a simple link. If you understand and have access to the root of your web server, you may be able to adjust the MIME settings for certain file extensions, but that will affect all files using that extension.
Skyline Simple Download is a component and plugin that makes this job easy. Once configured, you can create a special link that looks the same as any other link, but when clicked, the linked file is downloaded instead of displayed in the browser. Here is an example:
- This links to an image that is displayed in the browser (in a new tab or window)
- This links to the same image, but when clicked, it is downloaded
The extension also has the ability to display a file listing from a particular directory with the same download functionality.
Skyline Simple Download is a commercial extension that at time of writing costs US$15.00. As I unashamedly charge for my advanced tutorials, it might be hypocritical for me to suggest that this extension should be free. But there are many far more complex Joomla extensions that are provided for free and if it were me, I would have taken a different approach. The developer could have provided a basic free version that only has the first function i.e. the simple download function. A pro version could have included the directory listing feature along with a security function. A lot of membership sites would love to be able to provide secure download links for files such as ebooks and it would be easy to justify investing in a commercial extension with this ability. Skyline Simple Download does encrypt the file URL as you can see in the above examples, but I can't see the benefit. A visitor can still take that URL and give it to someone or publish it. [Have I missed something here? Comment below.] If you happen to be looking for an extension that uses expiring links in conjunction with the Amazon S3 service, see S3Media Stream.
Right now Skyline Simple Download is compatible with Joomla 1.5 & 2.5. It worked perfectly, although I hit two hurdles. Firstly you need to specify the file types that you want to allow. There is an Options page in the component and although some file types are already listed, you may need to add additional types such as mp3 and jpg. Secondly the directory listing option requires you to specify the directory path. There is a Base Download Path that may need adjusting, also found on the Options page. Compared to some Joomla extensions, the documentation is reasonable. Settings are handled in the component and the required code is inserted into articles or modules using the standard plugin formatting. Examples are provided.
If you're looking for a simple method to force files to be downloaded and you don't mind shelling out a few bucks, Skyline Simple Download is a great solution.
Have you ever needed to do this? What solution do you use? Please comment below.