When you very first log in to the Back End or Administrative Menu of a Joomla 3.+ site, you will arrive at the Control Panel which is also known as the Dashboard

The Control Panel Sections

NOTE: This page has been updated for Joomla 3.+ using the isis Administrative Template

Top Bar:

Joomla Icon along the top barJoomla Icon: At the upper left is the Joomla Icon. This will quickly take you to the Control Panel at any time if you are at a different screen

dropdownmenu Dropdown Menus: Along the top are the dropdown menus, System, Users, Menus, Content, etc.  These menus are present on every page in the administrative interface of the site. You can quickly go from one section to another. 

sitename Front End Access: to the far left of the top navigation bar is the name of your site. If you click on this name you will open up a new browser window displaying the home page for your site.

Account Access Dropdown IconAccount Access Dropdown: This dropdown will tell you the name of the current user. You can access your own account settings or logout from this icon.

controlpaneltitleTitle Bar: The next bar down tells you which administrative screen you are on at the moment. If you are on the Dashboard, this will say Control Panel. This title changes with each administrative screen.

Left Column: On the Control Panel screen, this holds a list of quick links so you can get to commonly used area of the Administrative Menu. 

Logged-In Users: This tells you who all is logged into your site. If you have many contributors or subscribers, this can be important information.

Popular Articles: As you site grows and is accessed by the public, Joomla will keep track of which articles have been visited the most and display them in this section.

Recently Added Articles: This allows you to see which articles have been created most recently - for easy access and also to help you manage content if you have several contributors.

Bottom Bar: Along the bottom of the page you can quickly view the front end of the site, see how many visitors are on the site at that moment, see how many Administrators are logged in and if there are any messages. You can also log out from here. On the far right you can see what version of Joomla is installed for the site.

The Joomla 3.+ Control Panel

Screenshot of the Joomla 3.2 Control Panel