Every book is a journey, and here we are at the beginning. You may be standing in the bookstore, having just opened this book to the first chapter, wondering whether this is the right book for you, or whether you should be reaching for the 1,200 page 'encyclopedia' next to it. This is the sole information-only chapter in this book. All of the other chapters have hands-on activities to help you get up to speed quickly.
You might be wondering what 'Drupal' is! So, let's start out by telling you where we're going, why we're going there, and whether it's in your interest to come along.
In this chapter, we will outline:
What Drupal is
What a Content Management System is
Who the intended reader is
What you will be doing in the chapters
A high-level description of how Drupal is organized
The traditional model for a web site has been a file for each page. The 'home page' might be a file named
index.html, and for the About Us page, another file named
about.html. This model works fine for an unchanging (static) 'Hello—here is what we do—come see us—Bye' site, but for a site where the content changes often, or a site where showcasing content is what you do, it's a horrible model for someone who is not a web site developer to maintain.
With a CMS, the goal is to segregate the content (the text and images) from all of the cryptic computerese, so that in many cases, adding and editing content is no more complicated than creating a document in your favorite text editor.
Learning guide—(User's Guide, Developer's Guide, Administrator's Guide) contains a narrative approach for learning the topic, in its entirety, from start to finish. The audience is a reader who is new to the topic.
This book is a quick-start guide. In the world of Content Management Systems, the administrators run the site and keep it on-line, the Content Editors create, edit, and publish content, and the Users view the content. This book best-serves the Content Editor. It's not an exhaustive blow-by-blow account of every aspect of Drupal like an 'encyclopedia' would be, but instead, it's a small selection of information and activities aimed at imparting knowledge in an efficient and interactive manner.
The chapters in this book have some activities incorporated into them, where in we will:
Take text and create Drupal content from it
Edit and format the content using HTML, CSS, and a Rich Text Editor
Add teasers, links, images, sounds, and videos in order to spice things up
Add downloadable content
Use a PHP snippet
Define custom URLs and tags in order to be ranked more favorably by the search engines
Create a blog entry, both online and offline
Create an ad block
Create content via email
Create custom content presentations—Views
Define the roles necessary for a creative team and their capabilities
In a way, Drupal is like a house. The look and arrangement may vary, but there will always be certain types of rooms that every house has (such as a kitchen, a bedroom, and a place where the 'administrative' things take place, such as the hot water heater, water shut-off valve, and so on). With Drupal, you begin with a framework. It comes with some standard themes that affect the way it looks. Custom themes can be created or obtained to alter the look even more. Having said that, there will always be two parts to a Drupal site:
There are various parts to the front end, many of which depend on the arrangement of the content, and many parts to the back end in the way of administrative pages. Because of the condensed format of this book, we're going to jump around quite a bit, so let's take a little time now to look at a site. Think of this as the 'getting started' guide that you get on a folded piece of paper with your new computer or stereo component, and that includes an illustration and a description of the component's buttons and switches.
First, let's take a look at what the home page (the front page in Drupal parlance) of a Drupal web site looks like. We'll look at two: an "out of the box no changes have been made" front page, and a front page for the site that we'll be using throughout the book, http://musictohealby.com.
The following screenshot shows the Drupal front page of a newly-created site. There are a few areas on the web page to note, and these have been highlighted with large numbers:
1. The header area—here you will find the site name, logo, and the banner. Some sites also have a few links in this section, or a few words excerpted from content as a link to the content.
3. The left navigation area—although some pages may have a right-hand navigation area (or both right-hand and left-hand, or none) this is usually where the user login panel, if used, will be, as well as additional links to site locations.
4. The content area— content appears in predetermined sections of the page, called regions. There is almost always a main content region. There can be additional content areas, and other regions for what are known as Blocks, which are used for ads, small amounts of content, and other things.
It may not look like much, but the part that you don't see is the powerful 'engine' under the Drupal hood that allows a developer to turn this into a rich site. The following screenshot shows the same engine with a custom theme applied to it and some content added.
Areas 1 to 4, in the screenshot that we have just seen, represent the same areas as they did in the screenshot preceding it. However, you can see that in (2) there are two sets of links in the top navigation area, (3) has links in the left-hand navigation area, (4) has several content areas, and (5) has blocks in the right-hand navigation area.
The back end of the Drupal framework is known as the admin panel, and it's here where most of the business takes place. The following screenshot shows the main administrative menu of the site that we'll be using. It has some sections that are supplemental to what the menu would have after a new installation.
The following is a short description of the use of each area. You can treat this section as a reference. The main understanding to take from it is that almost all of the functions that you will need to perform as a Copy Editor are done through the administrative panel.
This section appears in the left-most navigation area, but not in the main admin area. This is because, technically, it's not an administrative function. This is where articles and the like are created.
The Content management area is where the Content Editor is going to spend most of his or her time. Eventually, you will learn the URL shortcuts to these areas. For example, the Content section, where nodes are edited, is reachable via
Drupal gives you the ability to allow site visitors to comment on content. You can control whether the visitor has to be registered to do this, and whether comments will be published upon being created, or whether they must be approved of.
This is the area where existing content can be edited, 'published' for others to see, revised, and 'promoted'. It makes a piece of content available to appear on the front page. This is probably where 99% of your time will be spent.
Drupal can have functionality added to it as (free) options, known as modules. This module allows content to be created via email. There will be an activity regarding this capability in Chapter 8.
Some CMS sites are created to allow visitors to register and create their own content, for example, a social site for writers. This section allows you to set standards for 'posts', which are contributed content.
You may have run into 'tags' on other sites. These are categorical terms used to group items together, and to make it easier to search. This section allows the creation of 'vocabularies' that will contain such terms.
Before you start adding users, you'll want to configure the way in which users are added. User management allows you to create a user account, and administer the privileges for the user, on your Drupal web site.
We won't go through every option listed in this section, but here is where you can view dynamic reports that will be useful for administering the site, including the all-important Status report, which reveals the 'health' of the site.
This section controls how your site looks and feels.
URL aliases allow you to specify what the URL of a given page will be, rather than using the Drupal defaults, which are not very user-friendly.
The front page will show more than one piece of content at a time, if there is more than one content area defined. However, having a page that shows multiple pieces of content, based on a common category or topic, is often required. A View allows this. They are created and maintained here. Views are not a part of the core Drupal installation. They are provided by an add-on module. However, for any site with templated content, or pages with a multifaceted layout, Views are a must-have.
As you can see, Drupal provides a rich environment for publishing content for your visitors or members. Publishing content for a new Drupal installation can be accomplished in very little time.
In the chapters that follow, you will find carefully-selected discussions and activities, which are aimed not at making you a Drupal expert, but at giving you much breadth and a little depth in understanding what capabilities are available to you, just like someone giving you a tour of the town to which you're considering moving.
In Chapter 2, we'll start some hands-on activities, where you will learn about creating content for your Drupal site.