A roundup of Drupal sites essential modules, and resources for your website
I've spent most of the past year of my life immersed in web development software called Drupal. I admit, it may be a little much, to be thinking about Drupal day and night--dreaming, even, in Drupal. I promise, though, that you can have a Drupal website without having it take over your life. I know, because I have built websites for people who simply ... use it. They don't go to Drupal meetups. They don't get online to chat about Drupal questions. They don't fly to distant cities to attend Drupal conference--why, they don't even spend all hours in the Drupal Issue Queue. They just post information to their website about their upcoming events and go on to enjoy their day.
You can choose your level of participation with Drupal, ranging from hiring someone to create your site to a quick weekend do-it-yourself site to the total immersion blessing/curse of complete Drupal geekout. Whether you are a website user, administrator, designer, or developer, there is a place for you in the Drupal world. This column offers pointers to great Drupal resources. As a Content Management System, Drupal is used to display content on the web and--for people with appropriate permission--to add and edit content.
Top Three Drupal Websites
Get an account at Drupal.org. This will enable you to post to the site and track other site users' posts; drupal.org is heading towards a half-million users. Perhaps you'll become User 500,000.
Download Drupal. You have a choice of working with Drupal version 5 or version 6. I haven't yet built a full-fledged version 6 site, preferring the comforts of the long-established Drupal 5. By 2009, though, I expect, most new sites will be built in Drupal 6.
Also get an account at groups.drupal.org. It's common to use the same username across both of these accounts, as well as on IRC (chat.)
Meetups are fun and a great way to get your questions answered, if/when you have them. The best resource for meetups is groups.drupal.org. Find the user group nearest you. (In the unlikely case that there isn't already one near you, feel free to start one. You don't have to be a Drupal "ninja" to commune with other drupalers. Beginners are always welcome.)
Conferences. At the time of writing, the location of the next Drupal Conference sponsored by the Drupal Association has not yet been announced. However, if you do a Google search for DrupalCon 2008, you will find it. (I'm hoping it'll be near me, in Washington DC.)
There is also a commercially sponsored conference with many of the Drupal luminaries that you may be able to catch, depending on when you receive this issue: Do It With Drupal (www.doitwithdrupal.com). The conference will be held in New Orleans, on December 10, 11, and 12, 2008.
Drupal Association. Consider a membership to the Drupal Association, available at http://association.drupal.org/.
Planet Drupal, at http://drupal.org/planet, streams blog posts about Drupal from around the world. Today's news signals that Bob Dylan is using Drupal. He is one of millions.
A quick way to get started with chat is to install the ChatZilla add-on for Firefox. It's tempting as a newcomer to get onto chat and start asking questions at #drupal. However, your questions about Drupal administration should be posted at #drupal-support. The #drupal channel is devoted to discussion of the drupal.org website itself, coding and managing items in the Drupal Issue Queue. Note, that there is a character on chat named "Druplicon." Druplicon is a robot, designed to answer a lot of basic questions. (I, and I'm sure many others, have asked Druplicon "How did you know the answer to that so fast!?") The rest of the participants are quite human, with all the quirks that humanity brings. Sometimes, chat can be an extremely quick and fun way of getting help with questions, while other times, it can be a fruitless endeavor. Spend some time reading other posts to get a sense of chat etiquette, and you'll likely have increased success. Also, be sure to read How to use IRC effectively at http://drupal.org/node/108355.
GHOP and SOC
Google is extremely supportive of Open Source software, sponsoring the Google Highly Open Participation (GHOP) contest for teenagers and Summer of Code, typically for college students. These projects have become foundries for great Drupal coders, as well as great Drupal code.
Drupal Really Open Participation (DROP)
The DROP project is homegrown by a teen, Charlie Gordon, who wanted to continue the good work of mentoring developers, even in the absence of Google funding. You won't win cash awards if you take on a project at DROP, but you will win points in the Drupal community and great new skills.
I've been storing technical notes and screencasts at drupal-tips.org. The notes are mostly for my own edification, but you may find something useful there, as well, especially in the screencast links.
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid = -46035048440 34540440
This is a terrific video of a presentation at Google on Drupal. (Be sure not to miss the two knock-knock jokes in between presenters.)
Drupal Dojo is an online learning resource, created by and for Drupal users.
This fantastic site searches, downloads, and reviews Drupal modules. Entrenched drupal.org users vocally complained that the project wasn't developed at drupal.org, but the site is so great that most of those complaints seem to have died down. The Module Finder link is a terrific resource.
Once upon a time, I gave the long-standing Wikipedia entry for Drupal some "love," detailing many of the resources contained in this column. I thought it was a comprehensive encyclopedia entry then and even won points in the "DROP" project for the work, but now, many months later, it seems to have been heavily edited with a large focus on Drupal drawbacks. The complaints have merit. It is true that there is a learning curve for Drupal, no doubt about it. I've had a number of clients say their site is "easy" to work with, though. To a large extent, the learning challenges depend on how much customization you require. If you want functionality not already found in existing modules, the learning curve can be mighty steep, indeed. On the other hand, existing modules are extensive, and they do the vast majority (plus more) of what website developers need.
Lullabot podcasts are quite informative. The first 15 minutes (or more) of a lullabot podcast are usually devoted to informal chat about upcoming events. If those events are long past, feel free to skip ahead. If you only listen to one of the more than 50 podcasts, #40 is the one that gets my vote. You can listen to it at various stages in your learning curve and learn more each time you hear it.
Install a Local Web Server on Windows XP
These are likely to help you get started with Drupal. If you run into any permissions or database setup barriers, do call upon your local unix or database or Drupal gure, who will be able to help you with a few minutes of support.
Install a Module
Tempting though it is, it is not good practice to download contributed modules into the existing site module directory--that is reserved for core Drupal code, where it can be cleanly upgraded when security upgrades are available. Create a new directory for your contributed modules, under site/all, called (sensibly enough) modules. You may also create a sites/all/themes directory while you are at it. The links above will give you further detail on standard module installation practices.
What Modules Should I Install?
You can't go wrong if you install these modules, along with a Drupal core installation:
BUEditor - http//drupal.org/project/bueditor
Calendar - http//drupal.org/project/calendar
Content Construction Kit (CCK) - http//drupal.org/project/cck
Drupal Administrative Menu - http://drupal.org/project/admin_menu
(Drupal Administrative Menu is usually the first module I install.)
E-mail - http://drupal.org/project/email
Embedded Media Field - http://drupal.org/project/emfield
Imagefield - http://drupal.org/project/imagefield
NodeWords - http://drupal.org/project/nodewords
Pathauto - http://drupal.org/project/pathauto
Token - http://drupal.org/project/token
Views - http://drupal.org/project/views
Views Bonus pack - http://drupal.org/project/view_bonus
WebForm - http://drupal.org/project/webform
Consider installing these:
Admin Role - http://drupal.org/project/admin_role
Audio - http://drupal.org/project/audio
Backup and Migrate - http://drupal.org/project/backup_migrate
Devel - http://drupal.org/project/devel
Events - http://drupal.org/project/events
FeedAPI - http://drupal.org/project/feedapi
Google Analytics - http://drupal.org/project/googleanalytics
Image - http://drupal.org/project/image
Imagecache - http://drupal.org/project/imagecache
Nice Menus - http://drupal.org/project/nicemenus
Nodequeue - http://drupal.org/project/nodequeue
Panels 2 - http://drupal.org/project/panels
Poorman's Cron - http://drupal.org/project/poormanscron
Service Links - http://drupal.org/project/service_links
Simplenews - http://drupal.org/project/simplenews
Tagadelic - http://drupal.org/project/tagadelic
Ubercart - http://drupal.org/project/ubercart
XML Sitemap - http://drupal.org/project/xmlsitemap
Many people use either TinyMCE (http://drupal.org/project/tinymce) or FCKeditor (http://drupal.org/project/fckeditor) as their content editors inside Drupal. That last module name is not a typo. It's the initials of the developer of the software, Frederico Caldeira Knabben. The editor is pronounced "eff see kay editor." My preference is BUEditor. It's easy to install and easy to configure.
Communing with Drupalers
Tonight, I'm hosting a Drupal gathering. I look forward to meeting fellow Drupalers in my area. Actually, speaking of fellows, 90% of the Drupal community are male. The women have a lovely group online called DrupalChix, http://groups.drupal.org/drupalchix. Ladies (coders and newbies, all) be sure to subscribe.
by Marjorie Roswell
Marjorie Roswell is writing a book about Drupal Views, due out Spring 2009 from Packet Publishing.