Drupal FAQs

David Mercer

December 2010


Drupal 7 First Look

Drupal 7 First Look

Learn the new features of Drupal 7, how they work and how they will impact you

  • Get to grips with all of the new features in Drupal 7
  • Upgrade your Drupal 6 site, themes, and modules to Drupal 7
  • Explore the new Drupal 7 administration interface and map your Drupal 6 administration interface to the new Drupal 7 structure
  • Complete coverage of the DBTNG database layer with usage examples and all API changes for both Themes and Modules
  • Also includes an Appendix that introduces the beta release for Drupal 7. It is not a part of the book (print or e-book) but only available for free download


        Read more about this book      

Q: What is Drupal?
A: Drupal is an Open Source Content Management System used for building dynamic websites.


Q: Why should I use Drupal and not any other CMS?
A: By building on relevant standards and open source technologies, Drupal supports and enhances the potential of the Internet as a medium where diverse and geographically separated individuals and groups can collectively produce, discuss, and share information and ideas. With a central interest in and focus on communities and collaboration, Drupal's flexibility allows the collaborative production of online information systems and communities.


Q: What are the minimum requirements for Drupal 7?
A: Drupal 7 requires PHP 5.2.0 or later to run the Drupal code. You will also need one of the following databases to run Drupal 7:

  • MySQL version 5.0 or later
  • PostgreSQL 8.3 or later
  • SQLite 3.4.2 or later


Q: Where can one download Drupal 7 from?
A: Head on over to http://drupal.org/project/drupal and click on the Drupal version number you wish to download—in this case it is Drupal 7. Click on Download and then save it to your C: drive or your My Documents folder (or wherever you want).


Q: What's new in Drupal 7?
A: There are several key functionalities that made it to Drupal 7. Some of them are as follows:

  • New administration toolbar and overlay administration: After installing Drupal 7 you will notice the new administration toolbar (shown in the following screenshot) that appears on all pages if you have the permission to administer the site:

    (Move the mouse over the image to enlarge it.)

    The toolbar groups commonly used tasks together making it easier for new administrators to learn how to configure Drupal and making it quicker for experienced administrators to get to commonly-used functionality.

  • New Field API: The Field API allows site administrators to add additional attributes to a node type. It also supports translatable fields to allow for multi-lingual sites.

  • Added context information to messages during translation: Drupal 7 adds an optional context for the translation to allow developers and themers to make translatable strings less ambiguous.
  • Built-in automated cron functionality: Drupal 7 includes a new cron system that does not rely on running cron from the Unix cron system. The mechanism used is similar to the one used by poormanscron except that it runs from an AJAX request rather than delaying the response time of the page triggering cron.
  • Added a new plugin manager: The plugin manager allows automatic updates of your Drupal installation.
  • Seven theme for administration: A common complaint of Drupal administrators in previous versions was the look of the administration interface and that it could be difficult to tell when you were in the administration interface, since it used the same theme as regular content by default. To fix this, Drupal 7 has added a new administration theme called the Seven theme that is enabled by default.
  • jQuery UI to core: jQuery UI (http://jqueryui.com) is a powerful JavaScript library that includes common controls like calendars, progress bars, tabs, sliders, and more. It also includes functionality to allow drag and drop, resizing, sorting, selection, and more.
  • New Stark theme: The new Stark theme that is designed to make it easier to learn how to build a custom theme.
  • Rewritten database layer (DBTNG): The biggest change in Drupal 7, at least for developers, is the new database layer, also called DBTNG (short for Database Layer: The Next Generation). DBTNG is a big change for developers since it changes how modules interact with the database.
  • Queue API for long-running tasks: Drupal 7 adds a Queue API to manage long-running tasks. In general, any task that takes more than 30 seconds to a minute would be an excellent candidate for the Queue API.
  • New test framework: Drupal 7 adds a comprehensive test framework called testing that allows developers and site administrators to run tests against an existing Drupal installation to ensure that it is behaving properly.


Q: How has the installation process improved in Drupal 7?
A: Drupal 7 has a new installation routine. It is designed to make it easier for new Drupal users to set up Drupal. The new installation offers two types of install—the regular installation and a minimal installation.


The Minimal installation is similar to previous versions. The new Standard installation automatically enables commonly-used functionality during the installation to save time after setup.


Q: How has the interface for creating content and new content types improved in Drupal 7?
A: Improved interface for creating content: A big, but welcome, change for editors is the redesigned and updated interface to create and edit content. A sample of the interface is shown in the following screenshot:


The redesigned screen makes it easier to quickly navigate to specific sections within the content.

Improved interface for creating new content types: The interface for creating content types has been redesigned to keep all of the options in a smaller space so navigation is easier and all information can be quickly accessed.

        Read more about this book      

Q: What Drupal is like for administrators to use?
A: Ideally, the administrator would want a system that is:

  • Easy to set up and run: Can the administrator start creating a site with the minimum of fuss? Does he have to learn about other technologies before he is able to use Drupal?
  • Intuitive to work with: Once the administrator has begun finding his way around, will it be easy to learn new things? If he is not a particularly technical person, will he struggle to administer his site?
  • Flexible and easy to extend: The administrator can make a basic site, but if he wants to create a unique and sophisticated, ground-breaking site—can it be done with Drupal?
  • Secure: Has the website been successfully used in real world applications? Are known bugs fixed quickly and regularly?

These are precisely the attributes that Drupal is known for.


Q: What are the uses of Drupal?
A: The most common uses of Drupal come from the case studies page (http://drupal.org/cases) on the Drupal site and are as follows:

  • Community portal sites: If you want a news website where the stories are provided by the audience, Drupal suits your needs well.
  • News publishing: Drupal is great for newspapers and other news organizations.
  • Aficionado sites: Drupal flourishes when it powers a portal website where one person shares their expertise and enthusiasm for a topic.
  • Intranet/Corporate websites: Companies maintain their internal and external websites in Drupal because of its flexible permissions system and its easy web-based publishing.
  • Resource directories: If you want a central directory for a given topic, Drupal suits your needs well. Users can register and suggest new resources, while editors can screen their submissions.
  • International sites: When you begin using Drupal, you join a large international community of users and developers. Thanks to the localization features within Drupal, there are many Drupal sites implemented in a wide range of languages.
  • Education: Drupal can be used for creating dynamic learning communities to supplement the face-to-face classroom or as a platform for distance education classes.
  • Art, Music, and Multimedia: When it comes to community art sites, Drupal is a great match. No other platform provides the rock solid foundation that is needed to make multimedia-rich websites that allow users to share, distribute, and discuss their work with others.
  • Social networking sites: Drupal has a lot of the common features used in social networking sites. You can build a collection of social networking applications for your site or use Drupal as a white label social networking service.


Q: How has security improved in Drupal 7?
A: Security is always important to site administrators and Drupal 7 will please security-conscious administrators with several important new security enhancements including:

  • Cron is now secure and requires a key to be run from remote sites. This can help prevent denial of service attacks and overloading the server processor
  • Improved password protection including a new pluggable password system and stronger password hashing
  • Limiting invalid login attempts to prevent brute force attacks
  • Improved IP address blocking


Q: What is The Drupal community?
A: Drupal has coherent and in-depth support structures that are fairly easy to learn your way around. There are a host of categories ranging from information, polls, forums, and news to support, which can be found at the home page http://drupal.org. All the information contained in the site is well organized and easy to access from the main navigation bar at the top of the page, as shown in the following screenshot:


Q: What are Cron tasks?
A: Cron tasks are automated chores that Drupal needs to perform regularly in order to make sure that everything continues to run smoothly. In Drupal 7, they are handled automatically, but can also be run manually, if need be.


Q: What are Drupal Modules?
A: Modules are plugins for Drupal that extend, build, or enhance Drupal functionality. Some core modules are required by Drupal in order to function, some are optional, and others can be obtained from the Drupal community.


Q: Are backups essential in Drupal?
A: Yes. Backups are essential in Drupal. A good host provides software such as cPanel to help administer your site. A standard cPanel administration page looks similar to the following screenshot:

Clicking on the Backups link (see bottom section) brings up the following page that can be used to back up not only the database, but all the files along with any other important bits of information about your filesystem:


Q: Why are Clean URLs important?
A: Clean URLs are needed in order for your site to be properly indexed by Google and other search engines. Search engines use automated programs to traverse the web (called bots) and when they come across nice, straightforward URLs like the ones displayed by Drupal when Clean URLs are enabled, for example, http://localhost/drupal/about-us, they happily go about their business.


Q: What is RSS and how is it useful?
A: RSS is the abbreviated form of Rich Site Summary. RSS makes it easy to include other people's news, documents, articles, or any other content. This allows aggregators (programs that consume RSS feeds) to understand how to present content on web pages due to the way in which the RSS feed is structured.


Q: What is Taxonomy and why is it important?
A: Taxonomy is described as the science of classification. In terms of how it applies to Drupal, it is the method by which content is organized using several distinct types of relationships between terms.


Q: What is Views and how is it they useful?
A: Views is defined on the Drupal website as “essentially a smart query builder that, given enough information, can build the proper query, execute it, and display the results”.

This means that Views:

  • Takes instructions from you
  • Converts them into MySQL queries to run against the Drupal database
  • Allows you to manipulate the results to suit your display requirements

Views proficiency can really free you from having to comb through lists of other contributions that provide similar functionality. For example, there are plenty of modules that provide related content—often displayed in blocks adjacent to a given post. With a bit of effort, you will have no trouble implementing this, using Views by yourself.


Q: What are Drupal Themes and how are they useful?
A: The use of themes makes Drupal exceptionally flexible when it comes to working with the site's interface. Drupal themes consist of a set of files that define and control the features of Drupal's web pages (ranging from what functionality to include within a page to how individual page elements will be presented) using PHP, HTML, CSS, and images.


Q: What are Panels and from where can I download them?
A: Panels are a powerful and convenient way to create dynamic and complex web pages. One of the most common uses of Panels is for the landing or the front page of a website. The site prebuilder home page (http://www.siteprebuilder.com) is a good example of using panels on a page. From this, you can see clearly defined panes of content highlighting different aspects of the site.


Q: How can one make contributions to Drupal?
A: For starters, the easiest way to support Drupal is by making donations. You can also help market Drupal by writing reviews, incorporating the Druplicon onto your site, and so on. There is also a constant need for people to help test, translate, support, and document Drupal. Finally, once you have gained some experience and feel confident enough, look towards helping with Drupal development.


This article provided answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about Drupal 7.

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