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I'm new to Joomla, but not to CMSs in general(I have years of Drupal/Wordpress module/plugin development), but I am unsure of how to go about creating what a client asked for. Part of it is since I am new to Joomla, I am unsure of what to Google in order to see some examples of what I'm trying to accomplish.

Basically, I need to create a custom administrative panel/page that allows the admins to upload a picture, have it be custom formatted to their standards, and display some text next to it at a particular area of the homepage.

First, does a popular module/plugin like this already exist? If not, would this be a custom plugin, module, or administrative template? If it is a template, would it be best to create a new custom administrative template, or modifying the default one?

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This one is one of the most common requirements in almost every website. There are plenty of ready made solutions that accomplish this in a variety of ways for Joomla.

Solutions exist from simple plugins that you could use within content, simple modules or more sophisticated modules, or whole components that allow you to manage the images and have them displayed through modules into any module position.

One of the most popular solutions is the JoomlaWorks FrontPage SlideShow, that consists of a component and module that can also work as standalone. But you can have a look at this JED category and its subcategories to find something for you.

I am not sure though of what you mean by saying "custom formatted". But as Brian said, if you need simple image editing, JCE editor provides a commercial Image Manager plugin with extended capabilities such as simple image editing, effects and others.

Finally if you want to make your hands dirty and code the whole stuff, at its simplest form this could be a module with extended settings in the backend. (Module Development). In this case make sure you follow Joomla coding practices (Joomla Development Links) in order to create an efficient and safe solution and gain advantage of the framework and all those Joomla platform has to offer.

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There are modules such as JoomlaXTC's Deluxe New Pro that will load a custom view of articles in a certain category, including pulling an image. You can find it here:

http://www.joomlaxtc.com/joomla/extensions?view=item&cid=1&id=1944

The big issue would be the formatting of the image. I don't know of any automatic image formatting plugins off the top of my head, but you CAN install JCE and buy the access to all the plugins. The extended image manager plugin lets the user choose to resize an image at the point of upload. It takes a bit of instruction, but it's fairly easy to do.

The other option is to go with K2 as your article format and then use a module to load the K2 items on the front page. You can set the image size for K2 images and when you upload them it'll resize for you. I think it crops images rather than resizing them if the proportion is off, but I could be wrong. There are quite a few K2 item loading modules available or you could roll your own based on the K2 item module that exists.

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