Creating a submenu

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In Joomla!, submenus can be shown either as one menu with two or more levels or as completely separate menu modules. This is useful for drop-down menus and for showing sublevel menu items in separate positions on your template. To show how to do this, we will step through creating parent level menu items and sublevel menu items and then see how to show those items either within one large menu with drop-down navigation or as separate parent and child items.

For this tutorial, begin by logging into the Joomla Administrator. If you are unfamiliar with how to login see this article: need link

Step 1 - Create Your Categories and Articles

In our example, we will create top level menu items for "Dogs" and "Cats". Under Dogs, we will have "Collies" and "Pomeranians". Under Cats we will have "Burmese" and "Russian Blues". So the structure of the our sample menu items will be as follows:

  • Dogs
    • Collies
    • Pomeranians
  • Cats
    • Burmese
    • Russian Blues

If you are following along in this tutorial, you will first create your Article Categories: "Dogs" and "Cats". See this tutorial if you need help creating an Article Category: need link here.

Then create 2 articles within each of the categories: "Collies" and "Pomeranians" within the "Dog" category and "Burmese" and "Russian Blue" in the "Cats" category. See this tutorial if you need help creating an Article: need link here

Step 2 - Create the Parent Level Menu Items

To create the structure, we need to navigate to a menu. If this is a new menu, you will need to create it. See this tutorial on how to create a menu:

Once you have your menu located in the Menu Manager, you will add a menu item using the System Links → External URL for each category: "Dogs" and "Cats".

Please note, there are other menu item types that can be used for the parent level navigation structure.

Here are the steps to create sample Menu Items using our Pets example data. For more information on creating Menu Items go here: need link 1. Navigate to the Menu Manager by clicking on Menus → Menu Manager J3x-Edit-Main-Menu-en.jpg

2. In the toolbar, click on "New" J3x-Edit-Main-Menu-Toolbar-new-en.png

3. For the purposes of this exercise we are creating "placeholder" links using the System → External URL menu type for the "Dogs" and "Cats" parent level menu items.

So, in the new Menu Item click on the Menu Type select button:


4. Click on "System Links" then scroll down and select "External URL". J3x-Create-Sublevel-Menu-System-External-Url-en.png

5. Add the Menu Item Title ( "Dogs" ) and type in a hashtag "#" in the Link box. J3x-Create-Sublevel-Menu-Menu-Item-External-Url-en.png

6. Save your menu item.


7. Repeat steps 2 - 6 for the "Cats" Parent Level item.

Step 3 - Create the Sub Level Menu Items

Now you will add menu items using the Articles → Single Article to create menu links to the individual pages "Collies", "Pomeranians", "Burmese", and "Russian Blues". For each Menu Item created, we will set the parentage to "Dogs" or "Cats".

For more detailed information on how to create a Single Article Menu Type click here:

Please note, there are other menu item types that can be used for the sublevel navigation structure.

1. In the toolbar, click on "New". J3x-Edit-Main-Menu-Toolbar-new-en.png

2. In the new Menu Item click on the Menu Type select button: J3x-Add-Main-Menu-Select-Type-en.png

3. Select Articles → Single Article from the list displayed.


4. Returning to the Menu Item Detail page, click on the Select Article List.


5. Select the "Collies" article for this example.


6. On returning to the Article Detail page, fill in the Menu Item Title. Then click on the Parent Item select list located in the far right column. Find and select the "Dogs" parent item by scrolling through the Parent Item List. Note that menu levels are displayed with dashes: "-" (single dash) is the highest level, "--" (two dashes) is the second level, "---" third level and so on.


7. Click on the button "Save and close" up in the top green buttons.


8. Repeat steps 1-7 for articles "Pomeranians" with the "Dog" parent and articles "Burmese" and "Russian Blues" for the "Cat" parent.

When you are finished with the "Menu Items" section, the Menu Item Manager should look very similar to the following:


Step 4 - Set the Levels in the Menu Module(s)

At this point, we have our Articles and Menu Items done. Now we need to update the Menu Module. In Joomla!, the Menu Module determines three main things: a) what the menu looks like; b) where on the page it will show; and c) on which pages it will show.
We will do two examples. In the first example, we will set the parameters that create a drop-down menu while showing only the top level parent items. In the second example, we will add another menu module that appears in the left column and shows only the second level menu items.
Note: these examples use the Protostar Template which is included with the core Joomla install.

Example 1 - One Menu Module With Second Level Items As Dropdown Menus

To show this as one module, follow these steps:

  1. Navigate to
    Extensions → Module Manager,
    click the "New" icon in the toolbar, and select "Menu".
  2. Enter the Title as "Pets Menu" and Position as "left". (Left top, )
  3. In "Select Menu" select "Pets" from the drop-down list.
  4. If you are using the default "rhuk_milkyway" template and want the menu to look like the other menus, in the Advanced Parameters enter "_menu" for Module Class Suffix.
  5. By the "Show Sub-menu Items" click on the "No" button.

Now, navigate to the front-end home page or refresh/reload it. You should see the Pets Menu as shown below:

Submenu example3.png

Click on the Dogs Menu Item. The selected article displays and the Dogs menu expands to show the two submenu items, Collies and Greyhounds. Note that the default in "Show Sub-menu Items" was to always show sub-menu items. We changed it to "show off". Click on "Collies" and again the article changes. (Or it would if we had different articles for each Menu Item!) The screen should look like the one below:

Submenu example4.png

Notice that the Breadcrumbs now shows three levels: Home, Dogs, Collies. Because we used submenus, Joomla! "knows" that Collies is under Dogs.

Separate Menu Modules

Now we will change our example to create three separate menus -- one for the top level (Dogs and Cats), one for the Dogs (Collies and Greyhounds), and one for the Cats (Tabbies and Siamese).

Note: Make sure that your Menu Items each have a unique Alias value. If you use the Copy command in the toolbar of the Menu Item Manager to create these Menu Items, the Alias will be the same as the item being copied. In this case, just edit the Alias value to make it unique (for example, the same as the Title). If you have duplicate Alias values, the menus will not work correctly if the parameter SEF URLs is set to Yes in Global Configuration.

To do this:

  1. Open the Pets Menu in the Module Manager and change the Title from "Pets Menu" to "Pets Menu Top Level Only".
  2. Select the Left Top Position (position 7).
  3. Under the Module tab "Select Menu" drop-down to "Pets" or "Pets Menu"
  4. Set the Start Level to "1" and the End Level also to "1".
  5. This is optional. It allows your template to apply special a menu style to the menu (a border, for example). In Advanced Module Parameters put "_menu" in Module Class Suffix.
  6. For sub-menu "Dog", (in extensions menu select Module Manager (if you are not already there!)), click New and select Menu, and set the title to "Dogs Submenu".
  7. Set the Position to "Left top [position-7]".
  8. Now this part is very important. We only want this submenu to show when we are in one of the Dogs Menu Items. So, in the Menu Assignment box, select the three items "Dogs", "Collies", and "Greyhounds", as shown below:
    Submenu example5.png
  9. Under the "Module" tab, select the menu name "Pets Menu".
  10. Set the Start Level to "1" and End Level also to "1" again. Try 2 for a spot of weirdness.
  11. This is optional. In Advanced Module Parameters, set Module Class Suffix to "_menu".
  12. For the "Cats Submenu", repeat steps from 7 to 12 except step 8. In the Menu Assignment box, select the items "Cat", "Tabbies" and "Siamese" (so this menu will only show under these Menu Items).

At this point, we have three menu modules all pointing to the Pets Menu. The only differences between them are (1) the Start and End Levels and (2) the Menu Item Assignment.

Now, in the front end, navigate to the Home page. The "Pets Menu Top Level Only" menu should show. Select the "Dogs" Menu Item. Now, the "Dogs Submenu" should show as a separate menu, as shown below:

Submenu example7.png

Click on the Collies Menu Item and notice that again the Breadcrumbs shows the hierarchy of "Home", "Dogs", and "Collies".


Using this same technique, it is easy to create third-level sub-menus. You just make the Parent Menu Item a second-level sub-menu. Then you could use the same technique to create a separate Menu Module with Start Level of 2 and End Level of 3. This would show only the third-level Menu Items.