I've recently been working on a site that, eventually, will allow users to register and pay for attendance at events in the calendar. After running the site for a few years on my own PHP code the time came to move hosting and something about my code wasn't happy on the new server (PHP/MySQL version changes) so I decided to take the moment to see if Joomla would provide the functionality I wanted.

I know Joomla well enough to build simple sites, but this would involve using some plugins to drive the calendar system. At first I tried iCagenda.

iCagenda Joomla calendar plugin

iCagenda proved to be a solid plugin for calendar management. It provided a clean interface for both admin and front end views of events and listings. Its small calendar widget is spot on for slotting into a side bar on the page. The event listing is clean and tidy with information very easy to find.

I could add attachments (entry forms for postal registrations) to each event easily at the time of editing.

Unfortunately, iCagenda didn't provide the paid online registration feature I was looking for.

MijoEvents and MiwiShop

MijoEvents/MijoShop are produced by MiwiSoft (used to be MijoSoft). It seems MiwiEvents is not the plugin I'm using, but MijoEvents. Even though I'm sure the domain used to be MijoSoft rather than MiwiSoft. Confused?

MijoEvents has an impressive feature list and after an email exchange I decided to give it a go. It's paid software rather than free like iCagenda and that fee includes a level of support. Everytime I've created support tickets I've had a quick response from the MijoSoft team. On the other hand - I didn't have to contact the iCagenda developers at all, it just worked.

I've stuck with MijoEvents, it feels like it should be able to fulfill what I need, but it will need some work.

First of all the features that I will make use of:
  • Easy event registration for users
  • Custom registration fields - this was crucial for me
  • Integration with Paypal (and other payment gateways that I haven't tried yet)
  • CSV export of data
Features I'd like to see added:
  • Attaching files to events so a user can click a link in the event page and download the file (MijoEvents allows you to email a user with a file on registration - not really what I'm after)
  • Copy entry configuration from individual to group config

Pros and cons of MijoEvent/MijoShop bundle system

During the 12 months or so I've been trying to prove MijiEvents is suitable for our events management/entry system I've hit numerous little issues. Unfortunately I can't find a complete history of support tickets to list here.
  • Recently these have included issues with the automated updates (told by support sometimes the distribution server of overwhelmed - do they need a better server or are they simply not investigating my issue?) - there is nothing to suggest why the update fails
  • Group registration failing after upgrade - turns out this was down to a template override, which I'd put in place to fix a display issue previously
  • After an update I was unable to create new venues because of SQL issue 
  • Jan/2015: Another update failure, this time a MiwiShop update took out my events calendar. The plugin said there was an update, so I updated. Seems that update wasn't compatible with the existing DB structure. MiwiSoft plugins don't report problems when I go to the MiwiEvents/MiwiShop control panels. Response from MiwiSoft - uninstall plugin/reinstall. Now I can't save shop config (which seems to have been lost)
  • May/2015 - seems if a customer registers twice, ie 2 people, one gets overridden by the other. Customer still pays for 2, but one gets "lost" somewhere! So I get paid for both entries but only get the data once. Raised ticket with MiwiSoft to be told "this is how it works"! ie it won't be fixed
  • June/2015 - In an attempt to fix another issue, the MiwiSoft support guys asked me to install an update to MijoShop. I asked for reassurance that it wouldn't break my site. Rather than reply they went ahead on applied the update themselves - guess what, registration no longer works for events!
  • Dec/2015 The 2.0.0 installation tells me there's a 2.0.1 to install. So I hit the button to upgrade, it fails.

    • Error: Unable to open archive
    • Warning: Install path does not exist.
    • Message : MijoEvents upgraded successfully (though it actually hadn't!)
    • Turns out subscription has expired, would be useful to have a message to say so! We'll see if upgrade works after renewal.
  • Dec/2015 Took advantage of a discount code to renew subscription, 2.0.0 -> 2.0.1 appears to have gone smoothly. Hopefully shape if things to come, wait and see if users complain in next week or so!
  • Jan/2016 2.0.1 upgrade has been far from smooth
    • PHP syntax error on Paypal checkout - how did that get into production code?!
    • I thought I had disabled functionality where user must register/login during checkout, that seems to have re-enabled itself and I'm being told by support it can't be turned off
    • Still getting problems with bad character escaping when creating custom fields (include a '&' for example in a display value and it will break registration for the event)
  • Mar/2016 Issues with registration again. User managed to pay for 6 entries but data lost. Guessing down to inadequete character escaping.
I've still got a number of minor layout niggles, in what is essentially a straight forward installation. I don't really want to override templates for fear of the same issue I had before with upgrade breaking because I'd overridden a template.

MiwoSoft have been quick to respond to tickets when in the support period. Anytime I've asked a question (via email/twitter etc) outside the support period I've been told to buy support, no matter how simple the question might be.

I'm not keen that part of the support process includes providing MiwiSoft with an admin account for my site for them to use.  Having said that, I'm not sure how else that could provide support for problems. I guess I've felt some of the problems should have been caught in testing rather than fixing in live.

We've just gone live with our first event to allow real registrations rather than just test events, so we'll see how well it holds up. After my experiences of the last 12 months I feel like I'm waiting for the first call from someone with a problem registering rather than being able to leave the software to do its thing.

As far as I know, the MiwiSoft event calendar/registration Joomla is the best that is out there for what I need, Calendar management with paid registration. 
Support is generally good - if you're in the paid support period.

Overall MiwiSoft Calendar Joomla plugin shows great potential for the future, well worth trying it for your organisation, but room for improvement. In terms of feature list, the Mijo Events extension is leagues ahead of anything else, but I can't help feeling it isn't very well tested. I'd be surprised if they claimed to have an automated regression pack.

If everything worked as it should this would be a great Joomla extention for calendar management, however as it is I feel like MiwiSoft are using my site to test their software and fix as they go along.

I am looking forward to iCagenda offering the features I want so I can migrate away from MijoSoft products.