Part 2 – Administration
In my opinion the best place to start understanding the workings of Drupal – a CMS with a relatively longer learning curve – is understanding the admin section. Therefore in this article we’d be going through Drupal administration section and the organization.
Content is the most important aspect of a CMS and naturally there should be a comprehensive way to create and manage the content of a site. One of the main reasons that Drupal can be used as a all purpose CMS is Its thorough approach when it comes to handing content and managing customizable hierarchies through nodes and taxonomies which we will address later. For now let’s take most important sections of Drupal content managing category.
This is the starting point of creating a hierarchy of content in Drupal with vocabularies and terms. For example if there’s a need to create an archive of news articles regarding Sri Lanka and need to tag them according to the district, we can create a vocabulary named ‘Sri Lanka’ and use terms as tags to categorize articles according to the location it occurred.
This is the main hub of Drupal that’s dedicated to managing content, which includes filtering, editing, deleting and changing the status of articles. Through this section you can decided the status of the article as to whether it’s published or unpublished, sticky (glued to the front page) or not and allowed in the front page.
There’s no use of telling that this sections is vital to managing a site because you can guess it from the title itself. If you haven’t already guessed, this is the section that allows you to configure all your basic building block materials in a Drupal site from the bottom up. There are four main sections to this category.
As mentioned in the earlier article, blocks are a basic type of building blocks in a Drupal site. You can use blocks as a visual kind of modules that can be added and moved to different areas of a site with a few clicks from this section. As a starting point you can use this section either to create blocks without using any modules (great for simple blocks) or manage existing blocks. You can then define where these blocks should appear with a list of defined url patterns or using PHP snippets. Also you can define the visibility (who can see this block?) of each of the block and some more other settings as well. Further, you’ll see drop down lists called “Region” and “Weight” for each block listed here. Region is the area that you’d like to make a block appear, such as the left side or right side bar of a site. You can define any number of these regions in your template.php and modularize the look of your site quite easily. The weight option is there to define in what order your block should appear. Going with the flow of the nature, lighter the weight of the block becomes, higher it appears and vise versa.
Menus are there in Drupal to help navigate through the site. But the specialty is that you can arrange them in to a complex hierarchy through this section. Further it allows to Create, edit and delete menu links.
Modules are the building blocks of Drupal from its core to every extended feature and it goes without saying how important this section is. You can keep track of module dependencies, install and remove them through this section.
Drupal themes are the basic and main building block of the visual representation of a Drupal site. In fact Drupal theme engine is so flexible to do almost any of your biddings that it has largely contributed to Drupal’s success as an all-in-one-go solution. Through this section we are given the chance to configure the current theme, choose enabled themes and theme materials such as the logo, favicon, site name and mission statement for each theme listed there.
This is the set of Drupal pages that allows you to configure the behavior of a [existing] Drupal site. There are some general sections built in here, but other parts are added by modules you plug in later. In fact if you someday write a Drupal module and decided to add an administrator page, it will be added to this section. Let’s go through some common pages built in with the default Drupal deployment.
This page allows you to select your administrator theme from the collection of themes you have in your themes section.
Figure 5 – A customized Drupal admin theme used in Hotelotravel.com
This section is vital when you have a large site in your hands where you need to optimize Drupal. In such a case you can save a considerable chunk of bandwidth by enabling caching and CSS compression to reduce the number of http requests you send.
This allows you to make a site off-line to do your site’s maintenance tasks. You can also define your own off-line template to make it look cool even when you are not functioning.
User management is a large part of any CMS and as usual Drupal has a great way to handle a site’s users with maximum flexibility.
This is the main user management section and it goes without saying that it’s pretty important. You can edit user profiles, filter or delete them and manage user roles through this section.
Role is Drupal way of delegating the responsibility to a selected group of users. By defining a role you create sort of a user group (even though it may have no users) with certain privileges. Later when you create users or new users are signed up, they can be added to these roles you have created.
This section is important when you manage a large site and come up with some error. But even when you are running without a hitch, it’s important to manage things like your cron tasks (if you have tasks that you need to perform regularly such as syncing your RSS aggregator you will need cron) for better functioning of the site.
This section contributes to healthy functioning of a Drupal site. You can run your cron tasks manually through this section if they are not automated. Also you can get info about your Drupal deployment such as whether your file system is writable, MySQL database, PHP and the server environment.
I guess this covers the basic Drupal admin tasks. But always keep in mind that “Trial and error” method is the best way of learning things and for Drupal it’s no exception.