Diving into Drupal
Drupal (http://www.drupal.org) is a top open source Web CMS. Drupal has been
around for years and has excellent architecture, code quality, and community support. The
Drupal terminology can take time to sink in. But it can serve the most complicated content
FastCompany and AOL’s Corporate site work on Drupal:
Here is the About Drupal section on the Drupal web site. As you can see, Drupal can be used
for almost all types of content management needs. The goal is to allow easy publishing and
management of a wide variety of content.
Let’s try out Drupal. Let’s understand how steep the learning curve really is, and why so
many people swear by Drupal.
Time for action-putting Drupal to the test
- Download and install Drupal.
Installing Drupal involves downloading the latest stable release, extracting and uploading files to your server, setting up a database, and then following the instructions in a web installer. Refer to http://drupal.org/gettingstarted/ if you need help.
- Log in as the administrator. As you log in, you see a link to Create Content. This tells
you that you can either create a page (simple content page) or a story (content with
comments). We want to create a simple content page without any comments. So
click on Page.
In Drupal, viewing a page and editing a page are almost the same. You log in to Drupal and see site content in a preview mode. Depending on your rights, you will see links to edit content and manage other options.
- This shows the Create Page screen. There is a title but no WYSIWYG editor. Yes,
Drupal does not come with a WYSIWYG text editor by default. You have to install
an extension module for this.
- Let’s go ahead and do that first.
- Go to the Drupal web site. Search for WYSIWYG in downloads.
- Find TinyMCE in the list. TinyMCE is the WYSIWYG editor we have seen in most
- Download the latest TinyMCE module for Drupal—compatible with your version
- The download does not include the actual TinyMCE editor. It only includes hooks to
make the editor work with Drupal.
- Go to the TinyMCE web site (http://tinymce.moxiecode.com/
download.php). Download the latest version.
- Create a new folder called modules in the sites/all/ folder of Drupal. This is the
place to store all custom modules.
- Extract the TinyMCE Drupal module here. It should create a folder named tinymce
within the modules folder.
- Extract the TinyMCE editor within this folder. This creates a subfolder called
tinymce within sites/all/modules/tinymce.
- Make sure the files are in the correct folders. Here’s how your structure will look:
- Log in to Drupal if you are not already logged in. Go to
Administer | Site building | Modules.
- If all went well so far, at the end of the list of modules, you will find TinyMCE. Check
the box next to it and click on Save Configuration to enable it.
- We need to perform two more steps before we can test this. Go to Administer |
Site configuration | TinyMCE. It will prompt you that you don’t have any profiles
created. Create a new profile. Keep it enabled by default.
- Go to Administer | User management | Permissions. You will get this link from the
TinyMCE configuration page too. Allow authenticated users to access tinymce. Then
- We are now ready to test. Go to the Create Content | Page link.
- Super! The shiny WYSIWYG editor is now functional! It shows editing controls below
the text area (all the other CMSs we saw so far show the controls above).
- Go ahead and add some content. Make sure to check Full HTML in Input Format.
Save the page.
- You will see the content we entered right after you save it. Congratulations!
What just happened?
We deserve congratulations. After installing Drupal, we spott ed that it did not come with
a WYSIWYG editor. That’s a bit of a setback. Drupal claims to be lightweight, but it should
come with a nice editor, right?
There are reasons for not including an editor by default. Drupal can be used for a variety
of needs, and diff erent WYSIWYG editors provide diff erent features. The reason for not
including any editor is to allow you to use the one that you feel is the best. Drupal is about a
strong core and fl exibility.
At the same time, not getting a WYSIWYG editor by default was an opportunity. It was our
opportunity to see how easy it was to add a plug-in to Drupal. We went to the Drupal site
and found the TinyMCE module. The description of the module mentioned that the module
is only a hook to TinyMCE. We need to download TinyMCE separately. We did that too.
Hooks are another strength of Drupal. They are an easy way to develop extensions for
Drupal. An additional function of modules is to ensure that we download a version
compatible with Drupal’s version. Mismatched Drupal and module versions create problems.
We created a new directory within sites/all. This is the directory in which all custom
modules/extensions should be stored. We extracted the module and TinyMCE ZIP files. We
then logged on to the Drupal administration panel.
Drupal had detected the module. We enabled it and configured it. The configuration
process was multistep. Drupal has a very good access privilege system, but that made the
configuration process longer. We not only had to enable the module, but also enable it for
users. We also configured how it should show up, and in which sections. These are superb
features for power users.
Once all this was done, we could see a WYSIWYG editor in the content creation page. We
used it and created a new page in Drupal.
Here are the lessons we learned:
- Don’t assume a feature in the CMS. Verify if that CMS has what you need.
- Drupal’s module installation and configuration process is multistep and may require
some looking around.
- Read the installation instructions of the plug-in. You will make fewer mistakes
- Drupal is lightweight and is packed with a lot of power. But it has a learning curve
of its own.
With those important lessons in our mind, let’s look around Drupal and figure out our way.
Have a go hero-figure out your way with Drupal
We just saw what it takes to get a WYSIWYG editor working with Drupal. This was obviously
not a simple plug-and-play setup! Drupal has its way of doing things. If you are planning to
use Drupal, it’s a good time to go deeper and figure your way out with Drupal. Try out
- Create a book with three chapters.
- Create a mailing list and send out one newsletter.
- Configure permissions and users according to your requirements.
- What if you wanted to customize the homepage? How easily can you do this?
(Warning: It’s not a simple operation with most CMSs.)
Choosing a CMS is very confusing! Evaluating and choosing a CMS can be very confusing. Don't worry if you feel lost and confused among all the CMSs and their features. The guiding factors should always be your requirements, not the CMS's features. Figure out who's going to use the CMS—developers or end users. Find out all you need: Do you need to allow customizing the homepage? Know your technology platf orm. Check the code quality of the CMS—bad code can gag you. Does your site need so many features? Is the CMS only good looking, or is it beauty with brains? Consider all this in your evaluation.
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