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My Drupal book has arrived!

on Fri, 12/23/2005 - 12:04

Today I received a very nice package in the mail; my Drupal book is finally available!

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When I first met Dries Buytaert, in February in Antwerp, we discussed the need for a book explaining how to use Drupal. We agreed that such a book would be a great asset to the many people who are becoming interested in our great software. Since I had already decided that it was my goal to write a Drupal book, I expressed this to Dries. Soon after the conference, Dries was approached by Matt Wade, an editor at Apress, about writing 1/3 of a book about building online communities. The other 2/3 would discuss phpBB and WordPress, two other immensely popular projects that address different niches. As Dries was too busy with his studies to write a book, he introduced me to Matt. The result was a project that lasted until October; writing the first book about Drupal. I knew that I would need lots of support, and therefore asked James Walker to be the technical editor. This turned out to be a very good move, as James is a "Drupal Rockstar" who always knows the smallest technical details, and has worked with many many clients and other people to know which parts of Drupal are hard to grasp, and where the hidden sticking points are. He helped me decide how to present the many concepts and capabilities that are not always intuitive.


What's inside?

This book covers Drupal from the point of view of someone who wants to build an online community. Tasks like installation are covered in detail. I scoured the Drupal forums to get a feeling for what kind of problems people run into when installing Drupal and tried to address as many as possible. You can download the table of contents.


Concepts and tools like the taxonomy system get special attention. I wanted to not only explain how to use taxonomy, but to mention some of the possible reasons to do so as well. I gave lots of detail when it comes to using the taxonomy REST API that lets you query any Drupal database and get results either as HTML or RSS.


Since modules play a vital role in Drupal, I spent two chapters talking about them. First, I cover all of the core Drupal modules, providing comprehensive documentation. Then, in a separate chapter, I pick a handful of contributed modules and do the same for them. In particular, I discuss the installation of contributed modules in a general way so that installing modules should never again lead to dead ends or surprising situations. I tried to pick modules that work well together. For example, the img_assist, image and tiny_mce modules are each great, but they are the most powerful if used together, and this is the way they are presented in my book. Likewise, flexinode, event and location modules are each great pieces of engineering, and very popular, but really start to shine when used to make custom events that are location aware and appear in the events calendar.


With Drupal 4.7, the default theme engine is PHPTemplate, and I cover this in great detail. In fact, I think that I am most happy with the chapter that covers themes. There is so much power in Drupal's theme system, and I have a feeling that seeing it all laid out on the table, with examples and helpful tricks, will change the way people think about theming Drupal. Thanks Steven Wittens for your help with this chapter! PS. This chapter will be a great help to anyone who wants to participate in the upcoming Drupal theme competition!

Important things, Cool things

The final chapter deals with maintaining your site, and doing really cool things with it. The maintenance part deals with backups, upgrading, test sites and server administration stuff. Important and useful. The cool things are Drupal's multi-site functionality, database sharing, and a brief survey of the "Drupal community" to see what's out there and what resources the Drupaller has available.


Many people helped with these efforts. Dries and Morbus Iff both reviewed chapters; contributors like Matt Westgate, Gerhard Killesreiter and Moshe Weitzman looked at excerpts that dealt with work they had done. Writing this has been a fantastic experience for me, and I have a lot of new-found respect for authors of all sorts. I had read many times from new authors that "it is harder than I expected". Well, I had adjusted my expectations accordingly, expecting it to be harder than expected, and I was unexpectedly surprised with how hard it turned out to be. But well worth it in the end! Building Online Communities with Drupal, phpBB and Wordpress is available at