Viewing Access Levels or User Groups?

What is the difference between Viewing Access Levels or User Groups in Joomla! ?

When it comes to ACL, Joomla! can (seems to) be a complicated beast. To complicate things, there are two levels of ACL that you can use on your site, both with a different purpose. To help myself (and others like me) I’ve tried to summarize what the both of them are used for.

Viewing Access Levels

Viewing Access Levels are configured in your back-end, by going to Users > Access Levels. By default, three ‘Levels’ have been defined: Public, Registered and Special. If you’ve used Joomla! before this should be a good indicator of what WAL’s are being used for.

By setting a module, article, or menu item to Registered you’d make sure that only registered users, who are logged in, can see the item. Setting it to ‘Special’ would only allow Super Administrators to see / access it. By making your own WAL’s you can fine tune this even further. You can create additional WAL’s. These can then be used to hide or show content to specific groups of users.

Example: You could create a WAL ‘Guests’ for unregistered users, if you want to show certain content to non-members only (like ads, a “Sign up now! message…). Or you could create multiple WAL’s – sales, support, marketing –  and assign them to subcategories for “News” so that, when your staff visits your “News” page they’d only see relevant news.

User Groups

User Groups define what a user can DO on your website – what features would be available to them. You’re probably already familiar with the standard User Groups, like “Registered” (Can log in to the site), “Author” (Can create posts), Administrator (Can log into the back-and where he can access features) or Super Administrator (Can do pretty much anything).

User Groups allow you to refine this. Using them, you can allow users to create articles in categories or edit / publish / delete them.  You can grant or deny permissions to Users in various components, using these User Groups.

Example: You create a Category called “Blog”; since your marketing department wants to start blogging. However, they’re not allowed to edit / delete regular content. To allow them to create posts, edit and publish them, create a new User Group, called “Marketing Bloggers”. Use the Category ACL to allow them full control of this category, so they can have their way. 

There is much more to Joomla!’s ACL. I’ve written this post, particularly to remind myself of the difference between WAL’s and User Groups. If you found this post useful as well… That’s great, feel free to leave a comment!


7 thoughts on “Viewing Access Levels or User Groups?”

  1. Thanks for the post, it’s helping demisitfy some of the complexities of user management slowly. It seems like one of the more rather obtuse parts of the joomla admin world…

  2. Quick question –
    I would like to grant viewing access separately per article. This is a site for sharing building projects with investors, each project should be shared with a separate (sometimes overlapping) set of users (investors). The main list of projects (each an article) is to be on the main page, exposing selectively the list of projects as relevant.
    From this list, users can click on an article to get into a project dedicated page, again, accessible for view only for permitted users.

    Any advice on how to administer that?


    1. Hello Etai,

      Assuming you’re using Joomla! 2.5 or 3.0 you can do the following:

      – Create a Viewing Access Level per set of users.
      – Assign this VAL to the individual article (usually it’s set to “Public”).

      Users would then only see the specific articles that have been assigned to them.

      Does that make sense?

  3. I just cant make it work. All I need is to set 2 access levels. level1 and level2 the level1 has access to group X and the level2 will access the group X plus group Y. I followed all step by step but is not working. when you are not log in it wont let you access none of the pages that is good. but when you sign in it will let you see all doesn’t mater what level you are.

    can you please advice?

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