Sometimes you think that getting a free component will do a cheap upgrade on your site. In some cases the product is fine but support is poor, there are cases where the product is poor but the support is fine and there are also cases where both are fine (or bad), but as far as I have noticed there are not so many situations where the product and the support are stable and acceptable (short or long term) with a minimum of effort.
O yeah, of course I see the blessings of Open Source software, and despite the things I’ve said before I usually try some free products when I’m searching for new functionality on a site I’m building, but many times I’ll end with a commercial product and wondering myself why I’ve spend so many hours with struggling getting the free products to my needs, stable and workable.
I promised myself to take some time to review a recent implementation of a calendar component. Calendars are widely used on Joomla websites and a lot of flavours are available when searching the JED. In the past I’ve tried (again :-)) a few free flavours, but in all cases there was no 100% satisfaction for me. I’m not a programmer myself, but fully professional involved in IT matters and able to find my commercial, technical and functional way in website development, an additional part of my IT skills.
Basically I was looking for a way to connect Microsoft Exchange data to the Joomla environment, especially: connecting Exchange calendar data to a Joomla calendar. With this functionality I could make it possible for my customer to link all events from a specific Exchange account and display them at the front end in Joomla.
I’ve searched a long time, but I did not found any component with this functionality. In a search with the search string ‘Outlook’ on the JED (the nearest chance to get possibly to Exchange) I’ve found DPCalender from Digital-Peak , and after reading their information about the calendar and the existing plugins for integration of external sources like Ical, Jomsocial, CSV, Google calendar, JEvents, JCalPro and Facebook it wasn’t too difficult to conclude that these guys must have professional knowledge of integration!
I’ve contacted them with my question about my Exchange needs and before I knew it I had an positive answer from a guy called Laoneo with a proposition to work together on this as a custom job.
The whole process of development took about a month before I could install the first version of the Exchange plugin, and that was for me also the first time to make myself comfortable with the DPCalender component.
Wauw! Rarely see a component that was installed and built so professional, stable and intuitive. A very well done Dutch translation (and may more), immediately available after installing the component. Very functional modules like a mini calendar, a count-down calendar, Google maps module and upcoming events module besides the plugins for Ical, Jomsocial, CSV, Google calendar, JEvents, JCalPro, Facebook and…. Exchange! Note: you can link a total of nine Exchange calendars!!
Furthermore I’ve tested that their software is really fully responsive, great for mobile use! Everything is highly customable and there are a lot of views to display information on your website. The most important I can ‘feel’ when working with the software is how stable it is, very well programmed, very well documented and working flawless.
The developer is from Switzerland, speaks English very well and he has made with this calendar and all the modules and plugins a real Swiss army knife, a must have for your site if you need a calendar component!
I’m not saying this too often, but I’m serious when I say that if you need a professional calendar component with all thinkable options than get your hands on a copy of DPCalendar. For a very decent amount of money (from as cheap as from $39) you have it all.
And if you need a professional built Exchange plugin based on the professional SOAP-api to view your Exchange calendar data in DP calendar: as far as I could find Laoneo is the only one who has it for Joomla this way!
No (positive) critics at all? Oh yeah, two!
1. The developer is sometimes a little short in his answers, but I recognize that kind of behaviour from professional high IQ’ed developers, they are great in doing their technical job but doesn’t talk too much, they rather work, eager to find a solution for your question instead of circling around the question with a lot of words….. The best part is however: you will get an answer on every question and more important: a professional solution!
2. Because my question meant custom work for them I have paid a part of the development costs (worth the money for me), but the good news for all you readers of this review is that this mean that you can have the Exchange plugin for free when buying a DPCalendar Premium subscription and believe me, I give it to you wholeheartedly!
Chapeau, five stars fully worth and therefor my pleasure to write an extensive review here !