Why is my Joomla article locked and can’t be edited?

You started working on your Joomla site and are getting familiar with the backend. After a couple of days, your backend experience is tainted with icons resembling a lock. What is that and why is it preventing me from entering my Joomla articles? In this article you will learn what is the lock icon that appears on articles and the ways to use it to your advantage.

  • What does the lock icon mean?

    The lock icon indicates that e.g. an article is locked. This is a security feature activated automatically when an article is edited to prevent more than one person from editing it at the same time.

    Without this feature multiple admins could easily unknowingly overwrite each other’s changes if they happened to edit a piece of content simultaneously.

    More commonly articles can be marked as locked when an admin edits an article and then exits the backend of Joomla without clicking the Close button … more on this below.

    What types of content can be locked within Joomla?

    You might see the lock icon next to any of the following items – all of these can be locked by Joomla:

    • Menu items
    • Articles
    • Categories
    • Custom fields
    • Module
    • Some third party components

    When does Joomla lock an item?

    As soon as you open an item (e.g. article or menu item) to edit it, this item appears as locked in the list view for other administrators. If you hover over the lock icon you can see the administrator’s name and the exact date and time they edited the item.

    Image of an item will remain locked if the administrator doesn’t exit/close the item properly once they’re finished editing.
    Info about the person edit­ing the item

    As mentioned above, an item will remain locked if the administrator doesn’t exit/close the item properly once they’re finished editing. This is by far the most common cause of locked items.

    What do we mean by ‘closing an item properly’?

    When you finish editing the article, it’s your job to tell Joomla:

    Hey Joomla!

    I’m finished now, and I need a coffee!
    You can let someone else modify this now if they need to!

    – You, probably…

    Here are a few common scenarios that leave an item unnecessarily locked even after editing is complete:

    If you don’t let Joomla know you’re done, it assumes you’re still actively modifying the article and blocks anyone else from editing.

    • Simply closing the browser tab
    • Hitting the back button on the browser
    • Navigating to a different tab without clicking ‘close’
    • Going for a coffee break and the session timing out

    What are the proper ways to close an item?

    To tell Joomla that you’re finished and to allow others to edit an article there are several proper ways to exit an article:

    • Click on the Save & Close button when you’re finished making changes
    • Click on the Save & New button to save your changes and start with a new article
    • Click on the Close button to close an article without saving your changes
    Image showing several proper ways to exit an article as 'Save & Close', 'Save & New' and 'Close' button.
    Buttons responsible for removing the lock icon

    Opening an article that is marked as locked

    Attempting to open a locked article directly will result in an error message:

    Error message as result of attempting to open a locked article directly

    Instead you’ll have to “check-in” the article to make it available for editing. Fortunately, this is really easy to do, and as always in Joomla there are a variety of options available.

    Checking a locked article in

    If you are a super user in the backend there are various options:

    1. Check-in a single item
      Simply click on the lock icon to check-in into the article, then wait a second or two for the page to reload.
    2. Check-in a multiple item
      Select multiple locked items and click on the Check-in button. After a few seconds these will become available for editing.
      Image showing how to check multiple menu items.
    3. Use the Global Check-in Option
      Navigate to System > Global Check-in in the administrator menu
      Image showing how to navigate to System, Global Check-in in the administrator menu

    Here simply mark everything and click on the Check-in button. This will check in all locked items across the whole Joomla website.

    Image of the Check-in button. This will check in all locked items across the whole Joomla website.

    Well, this was a short but sweet article about one of core Joomla features. We hope reading this helped you in being a better Joomla developer.

    There are much more articles waiting for you on our Insights page!

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