Drupal is Not For the Faint at Heart
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Drupal is Not For the Faint at Heart

The CMS Drupal - its beginning, how it works, and difficulty level.

Drupal is an open source modular CMS (Content Management System) that combines forums, blogging and a community engine all into one package. It is written in PHP and is database driven. Drupal can be used in conjunction with MySQL, MySQLi and PostgreSQL. The CMS is an extremely powerful open source program that can save businesses, organizations and individuals lots of time, money and sweat. Drupal is not for the novice web site designer and can be mind-bogglingly complex if one is not well versed in PHP frameworks and modules.

Beginnings

Dries Buytaert, owner and creator of Drupal, had originally created the program as a message board. The open source project was officially released in 2001. Buytaert had opened up a web site for the project with the domain name of drop.org (no longer functioning). He had intended on registering dorp.org ("dorp" translating to "village") but the mix up in spelling eventually turned out in his favor. "Drop" in Dries' native language is "druppel" and this became the commonly known name Drupal. Drupal has since gone on to become one of the most widely downloaded CMS programs around. From 2007 to 2008, Drupal was downloaded over 1.4 million times.

Framework

Core modules are prepackaged within the basic Drupal program and can be enabled or disabled by the web site administrator as needed. Beyond the main administrator account assigned to Drupal upon installation, users can be created with similar administration privileges. Specific sections and modules can be restricted from users and anonymous visitors. Categorization of content is handled by taxonomy, which works similar to keywording. Within the basic core set of Drupal modules one can find blogging, forums, RSS feeds and even an aggregator.

Modules and themes

The key to Drupal and overall web site enhancement is the addition of modules. Even the most basic of Drupal-driven web sites will have a few modules added. Modules are relatively easy to install into the Drupal Framework. Properly configuring these modules can occasionally be a challenge if the module has been poorly developed and written. It is always safest to choose modules that are well liked and have proven over time to work properly and effectively.

At last count, Drupal offers over 4,800 different modules. With categories covering media, syndication, e-commerce and dozens more, chances are specific web site requirements will be found within the modules listed. Third-party developers are constantly adding new modules on a continuous basis as well.

A majority of the themes created for use with Drupal utilize the PHPTemplate or Xtemplate engines. On occasion, one might find the odd theme that is PHP coded and not engine-dependent but these are rare. The advantage to engine-based themes is their ability to separate CSS and HTML from the base PHP coding.

Difficulty

If one plans on building a rather complicated web site using Drupal, the learning curve starts to rise drastically - the more complicated the web site, the more one should learn about the inner workings of Drupal. This is due to the complex nature of modules that require much more configuration and dependencies on other modules. Theme modification or creation is no easy task either. There are some very unique file and folder layouts with respect to Drupal that all theme creations (and modules, for that matter) need to adhere to or the entire CMS can become inoperable. Many novice web site builders are used to places such as Ning, Yuku and Multiply where design layouts and CSS can be edited either on the fly or within strict design tools available. Drupal operates in an entirely different way and should be researched and learned thoroughly prior to attempting any modifications of existing files.

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