Drupal 6 Content Administration

By J. Ayen Green
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About this book

Often a company hires a web designer to build its Drupal site, and then takes over running the site in house. This book is for the Content Editors concerned with the ongoing creation and maintenance of the site content.

In a few hours, you'll have the knowledge needed to maintain and edit your web site as a content-rich place that visitors return to again and again. There are many books available to help you administer a Drupal site, but this is the only one specifically for Content Editors. This book doesn't cover designing or creating a site. However, anybody who has built their own site but needs some help using the article management features will also benefit from it.

This book is a quick-start guide, aimed at Content Editors. The author's experience enables him to explain in an efficient and interactive manner how you can keep your site up to date. The book begins with a discussion of content management and Drupal and then teaches you how to create content, add elements to it, and make the content findable. You will then learn to set up the framework for a creative team and the various options for editing content offline, their benefits and pitfalls.

This book helps you to quickly and easily solve problems, and manage content and users for a web site. It will help you become a more effective and efficient manager of Drupal-based web sites.

Publication date:
June 2009
Publisher
Packt
Pages
196
ISBN
9781847198563

 

Chapter 1. The Grand Tour

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.

What will I learn?

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

 

What will I learn?


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

 

What is Drupal?


"Drupal is a free software package that allows an individual or a community of users to easily publish, manage, and organize a wide variety of content on a web site."

That is an excerpt from the Drupal web site. To paraphrase it, Drupal is a CMS ( Content Management System) engine. It is used to create and administer CMS web sites.

 

What is a Content Management System?


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.

 

Who is the target reader?


There are basically five types of computer books that can be bought on a given topic:

  • Pocket guide— contains the bare essentials of the topic (like a 'cheat-sheet'). The audience is a reader who is very familiar with the topic.

  • Reference manual —contains a summary of the most-used features. The audience is a reader who is already knowledgeable about the topic.

  • 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.

  • Encyclopedia—contains every aspect of the topic. The audience is typically a software developer, graphics designer, or someone who needs to use the subject technology at the expert-level.

  • Quick-start guide—contains a targeted subset of the topic. The audience is a novice wanting to jump-in with their sleeves rolled up.

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.

 

What will I do in the chapters?


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

  • Create revisions

  • 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

 

A guided tour of Drupal


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:

  • The front end— this is the part of the web site that a site visitor sees, where the content is presented

  • The back end (or Admin panel)—this is part that the site staff see, where the workings of the site are controlled, and the appearance of the site is adjusted

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.

The Drupal front end

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:

A brief description of the areas on the web page that we have highlighted is as follows:

  1. 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.

  2. 2. The top navigation area— this is typically where the main links to other pages on the site will be.

  3. 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. 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 Drupal back end

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.

Create content

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.

Content management

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 /admin/content/node.

Comments

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.

Content

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.

Content types

There are two types of content available initially, a Page and a Story (article). New types can be created. For example, the calendar in the Music To Heal By front page uses a content type of Event.

Mailhandler

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.

Post settings

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.

RSS publishing

People can subscribe to your site and be notified when new content is published. Think of it as a free, on-demand direct mail campaign!

Taxonomy

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.

User management

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.

Access rules

From here you can control which users and domains can access your site.

Permissions

Most actions performed in Drupal have an associated 'permission' that grants a type of user an ability. Permissions will allow you to differentiate the capabilities of one type of user from another.

Roles

Roles are the types of users, such as editor, administrator, and so on. They are created and managed here, and the functions that they are allowed to access are defined via permissions.

User settings

Here, you can define whether users can register for the site, and if so, whether they receive a welcoming email.

Users

Here is where user ID's are created and are assigned to a user role.

Reports

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.

Site building

This section controls how your site looks and feels.

Blocks

Blocks are small pieces of content, such as advertisements. They are created here, and assigned to regions on the page.

Menus

Menus are the navigation links on the page. You can create as many menus as you need.

Modules

Modules are the code that makes the site work, and the add-ons that give the site more functionality. They are controlled from here.

Themes

A theme is a visual design for the site, and what makes the basic Drupal installation site different from the Music To Heal By site. They are configured here, and then enabled.

URL aliases

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.

Views

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.

Site configuration

The Site configuration options are used for the Drupal site's configuration, and are meant for the site administrator. File system settings, error logs, site settings, and even shutting the site down for maintenance are done from here.

 

Summary


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.

About the Author

  • J. Ayen Green

    J. Ayen Green is a software architect, developer, author, poet, and rascal. He is the author of titles including Drupal 7 Views Cookbook, Drupal 6 Content Administration, and Drupal 6 Attachment Views. Green enjoys nature, critters, photography, the arts, experiencing other cultures, riding horses, and discovering new ales. He and his wife, Sofia-Aileen, make their home in Atlanta when they're not traveling. Track him down @accidentalcoder or theaccidentalcoder (dot) com.

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