Helpful hints for Drupal newbies

An article about helping you, help yourself.

When I first started using Drupal in 2007, the one thing that really attracted me was the awesome community that has sprung up around it. No matter what you need, there always seems to be someone out there who is not just willing, but HAPPY to help you out. However, if you're like me, you are sometimes scared to ask the obvious questions. So, that is where this article comes in.

When I have free time, I will often hang out in the Drupal post installation forum to lend some advice. Many of these tips are inspired by things I see there frequently. Hopefully this helps a few people.

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Google is your best friend

Sometimes, I am amazed at exactly how easy it is to find an answer for Drupal questions. Perhaps people are used to having a hard time finding what they are looking for with other open-source projects. Thankfully, Drupal is very well represented on Google. 

Before you ask a question on Drupal.org, enter the title you intend to use into Google proceeded with "DRUPAL+". More often than not, this will give you the information you seek — Especially when you're posting a question that you think must have a simple answer.

For example, here is an actual thread title from the Drupal.org post installation forum

how do i update my website core and other mods?

A simple Google search for "Drupal+how do I update my website" would have provided this user with the answer he needed as the very first result. As an added bonus to the community, each time you use Google to find your answer, you make one less new page for others to weed through when they need help.

 

There is a lot of good info on Drupal.org, knowing where to look is the trick

Drupal.org can be a very complex site to explore, especially when you don't know what you're looking for. Understanding what the various sections are intended for can really help you speed up your search.

The Documentation section is a great place to start if you are trying to understand concepts or how things work. It is broken down into several top-level guides. More often than not, you can find the basic answers you need here.

The Forum is a great place to go if you want to chat, of have a specific question that you can't find an answer to. As I stated in the previous section on Google, do yourself (and everyone else) a favor by performing a search before posting your question. Make your title as clear as possible so that people can easily decide if they can help you prior to entering your post. Also, keep in mind that this is a voluntary effort — you might have to wait a little while.

If a module seems to be broken or not functioning properly, understand that every module you download on Drupal.org has it's own issue queue. This is the best place to go when you are having problems with a module to ensure that the module developer sees it. To get to a module's issue queue, visit the module's page and you will see issues in the right sidebar.

 

You're not the first person to need access control

Believe it or not, a lot of people need to limit access to portions of their website. Because Drupal is an open system, there are multiple ways for you to do so. To help determine what the best approach for you is, check out this overview of node access modules.

As an added hint, when you are searching for information on these modules, the keyword you wand to be using is "node access".

 

Eventually, you will have to update your site

No one likes running updates on their site, but it is something you are gong to have to do. The two main reasons you need to do updates are for security patches and newer, better modules. Thankfully, there are a lot of tools to help you out.

  • If you are comfortable working with the command line, Drush makes updating your Drupal site easy and fast. However, if the command line scares you, stay away from it.
  • Before you do anything else, backup your site. Thankfully, the Backup and Migrate module makes it very easy for you to get a backup of your site's database. So if something goes terribly wrong, you can simply restore it. Additionally, check out the Backup and Migrate Files module to backup any files you have uploaded.
  • Read this page to understand how to upgrade your Drupal core and modules.

 

You're not crazy, 50% of your site requirements can completed by using Views (unscientific statement)

On of the first modules that nearly every Drupal site-builder installs is Views. Unless you have a very simple site, Views can solve many of the content listing problems you might have. Basically, you use Views to create lists of stuff. For instance, lists of: nodes, users, comments, images, files and more. It doesn't stop there, either. Many other module developers also integrate their modules with Views. 

Because it is so powerful, Views will likely be one of your biggest hurdles. But don't get irritated, take the time to learn how to use views and you will be happy you did.

A brief list of Views modules I think are very helpful

  • Views Bulk Operations allows you to add common bulk controls to views. For instance, if you wanted to unpublish all the nodes created by a user named Tom, you can create a view that shows only Tom's nodes, select them all and then unpublish them all in one button click.
  • DraggableViews allows you to create lists using views, then re-order the display of them by drag-and-drop.
  • Views Slideshow allows you to create slideshows of content including, but not limited to, images. 

 

You catch more flies with delicious bacon than you do with vinegar

I shouldn't have to remind you of this, but more than anything else, be polite. No one likes helping a jerk.

 

This is a list that can go on forever and I'm sure a future installment or revision will take place. If you have any tips you would like to share, please add them in the comments below!