Installing Magento Extensions Using the Connect Manager

Overview 

Here we have a detailed explanation of the new Magento extension installation process using the Magento Connect Manager 2.0.  Magento has introduced the new Connect Manager since version 1.5.0.2 to simplify the installation process for 3rd party extensions. This installation process would apply to pretty much any 3rd party Magento extensions that are packaged for Connect Manager.

Thie installation process described here applies to Magento version 1.5.0.2 or newer! Older versions of Magento utilize Magento Connect Manager 1 or do not have Connect Manager at all so the installation procedure described below would not apply.

All our own Magento extensions by Activo are now using Connect Manager 2.0 for installation, so you can use the instructions below.

 

BACKUP BACKUP BACKUP

First of all, and it should come without surprise: before installing ANY 3rd party functionality, make sure you back up your store files AND the database! You can use System > Tools > Backups in your Admin panel to perform the backups.

Magento is very complex system and it is not uncommon for various extensions (especially from different vendors) to conflict with each other. Also with a miriad of configuration options it is very easy to misconfigure your store site in a way that it will crash after some new functionality is installed. There is no Roll-Back feature in Connect Manager, so if anything goes wrong during the extension installation the only thing you can do is to try to uninstall it and hope that the original store files and the database is OK

We also strongly recommend having a STAGING or DEVELOPMENT server where you can test all new functionality before releasing it onto your production server. From our own experience we found it pretty handy to have your staging environment as a virtual machine (VM) either on Amazon AWS or on yourown servers. In this case you can take a snapshot of your VM at any time and, if new functionality does not work or messes up something with your installation, you can just restore your VM back from the snapshot to the state where it was before. We provide free development/staging server license for any of our products that  you have purchased.

 

Installation Process

First of all you need to download the installation package. If you purchased extension form Activo, you can log into your account at http://extensions.activo.com/ and find the installation package link at "My Downloadable Products" section.

The installation package is a specially crafted archive that follows the PEAR conventions for PHP packages. The files are packed with tar utility and compressed with gzip. It will always have the .tgz extension. 

*Note: please read this first if you are using Apple Safari to download the installation package. By default Safari browser tries to open the "safe" file extensions, this includes the .tgz packages. Therefore it will uncompress the package upon download into a .tar file, which makes it unfit for installation with Connect Manager. To prevent this behavior in the menu bar, go Safari > Preferences. In the "General" tab, uncheck "Open 'safe' files after downloading". This will stop Safari from automatically unzipping the files. Read more on Stack Exchange here.

For the free community extensions, you can just obtain the installation key from Magento Connect and Connect Manager will download it automatically for you.

Make sure your Magento server contains all the components required by Magento as well as meets all the specific compatility requirements listed by the extension docuemntation.

Before you continue any further, make sure to remove the older versions of extension first if any of the previous versions were installed and you are installing the new version. If the older version was installed not using Connect Manager for installation, you will have to go via FTP and manually remove all extension files. 

If there are any files left on the web server from the older version of your extension, Connect Manager will not be able to overwrite them and your installation process will fail! This may leave your store in the maintenance mode and would render your extire store and even the Admin panel. Please refer to the "Troubleshooting and FAQ" section below to see what to do in this case to restore the access to your store.  

After you downloaded the installation package, log in to your store Admin interface and go to System > Magento Connect > Magento Connect Manager. Please note that you will be prompted to log in with your Admin panel password once again at this point.

If you downloaded the installation package, click "Choose file" button, under the "Upload pakage file" section and click "Upload". For free extensions, you can jsut paste the extension key (the one you got from Magento Connect) into the "Paste extension key to install" field and click "Install".

This will start the installation process and you should see the progress log at the black console screen at the bottom. Once installation is done, please click "Refresh" buttong directly under the console.

Remember that Connect Manager will put your store in the maintenance mode for the time of the installation, which will render both your storefront and the Admin panel unaccessibles until the installation is over. You should be aware of it if you have a busy front-end.

After you clicked "Refresh" you should see the new extension in the list of existing extensions there. Once the extension is installed, click the "Return to Admin" link at the top right to return to the Admin panel. 

Now let's go to System > Cache Management and refresh the Configuration cache -- check the checkbox next to "Configuration", selection "Refresh" under Actions drop down menu and click "Submit". Some extensions may require you refreshing the Layout and HTML blocks caches as well, so it is generally a good idea refreshing those as well.

However just refreshing the Configuration cache is not sufficient, you have to log off your Admin panel and log in back again before you can go to the configuration pages of the extension.

This would  conclude the installation process, your extension should be now installed and you can start configuring and using it.

 

Screencast

Here is a simple screencast outlining the basic installation process. It should be pretty much the same for all extensions using Connect Manager form installation.

 

FAQ

Here you can find the answers to the commonly asked questions regarding the installation of 3rd party extensions and common pitfalls our cutomers have experiences in the past.

Q: I was trying to install a 3rd party extension, but the Connect Manager have crashed in the imiddle of the process. Now I cannot access neither my store, nor the Admin panel. I am getting the "Service Temporarily Unavailable" message. What do I do to restore my server back?

A: Connect Manager puts your store in the maintenance mode for the time of installation of the new extensions to prevent the possible damage from executing the partially installed extensions.. Sometimes, when the installation fails, it would not remove the maintenance flag and the store remain unavailable (both front-end and the Admin panel). To remove the maintenance flag and restore the web server functionality you will have to log in via FTP and remove the empty "maintenance.flag" file at the web root directory. 

Q: I installed the new extension, but cannot see if it is installed, where do I look first?

A: Once extension is installed you should see it in thelist of the installed extensions in the Connect Manager. Alternatively, you can go to System > Config > Advanced > Advanced and see if you can see the new extension in the list under "Disable Modules Output".

Q: I installed the new extension, however it does not have any effect on my web site.

A: There are number of various reasons why the new 3rd party extension would not work on your web site. It may conflict with the customized theme or with any of the 3rd party extensions.

Usually it is very difficult to troubleshoot these kind of conflicts, therefore we would recommend to use some professional installation services.

However there is one thing you should check first:

Many store owners use the "Compile" option on their Magento store. The Compile option allows pre-compiling and packing in all the store files to speed up the store a little bit. If you are using the "Complie" option on your site you need to recompile your site after you install any new extension there. To recompile your store go to System > Tools > Compiltaion and if Compilation State shows that your site is compiled, click "Run Compilation Process" button. 

 

Additional Resources

Here are some additional reading on Magento Connect Manager:

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