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July 17 2008

Essential Drupal Plugins

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(a somewhat long post)

After recently finishing a website in Drupal 6, I’ve rediscovered some of the best modules available for the CMS.  Drupal is a pretty slim CMS out of the box, it does some basic CMS and menu things, but becomes super powerful once you start integrating a few of the great modules out there.  The tricky part is often identifying which ones to get.

Anyway, heres my list of modules I’d reccomend for almost any site.  A lot of SEO things + content management tools and a few extras which I found useful.

  • CCK (Content construction kit, allows you to create new content types in Drupal, so instead of a simple page or news item you can tailor new content types to suit your material.  Essential for most sites).  CCK is very powerful and handy for most sites.
  • Admin Menu adds a drop down menu to the top of the admin pages.  The drop down menu has links to all of the admin sections, seriously speeds up administrative tasks.
  • Front Page allows you to easily create a unique front page on your site.  Most Drupal sites use the same template for most pages and simply hide/show blocks of content and content types.  Front page allows you to easily create a unique front to the page.
  • Global Redirect checks the current URL for an alias and does a 301 redirect if not being used.  Drupal has node urls which can be changed to clean aliased URLs.  Problem is Drupal maintains both the node address and the alias.  Bad for SEO, where engines might see the duplicate pages as spammy content.  Global Redirect fixes that, essential for SEO.
  • Google Analytics quickly throws analytics onto the site.
  • Image is a module which allows you to quickly create images and image galleries for your drupal
  • TinyMCE and IMCE.  TinyMCE module is a pretty compact rich text editor for Drupal.  IMCE adds image upload and manipulation capabilities to that.  Very handy!
  • Local Menu.  One of the issues I have come across (one I haven’t ‘really’ solved yet) is that when I need to pull out children of a specific menu item it can be difficult.  I know there are functions in the Menu API for it, but I haven’t been able to get it working.  Local Menu allows you to quickly create a variety of menus, including menus built on the current page.  Great for quickly display links to subpages of the current node.
  • Nice Menus.  Quick and easy suckerfish menus.  Easily configured to handle vertical and horizontal menus.
  • Node Privacy by Role.  In Drupal, blocks can have complex permissions based upon user roles and the current page.  Node privacy by role allows you to also add permissions to Nodes (pages), great if you have a certain page which only ‘managers’ or ’staff’ should see.
  • Nodewords allows you to get hands on with page meta tags.  Handy for SEO.
  • Page Title allows you to create unique title tags for nodes, something drupal doesn’t do out of the box.
  • Path Auto can automatically generate aliases for nodes (pages).  You can manually add wildcards or alter the url for each node.   Great for SEO, Essential !
  • Search404 performs a search instead of a 404, so a mistyped url goes to search results for the term.
  • Site Map provides a human readable SEO friendly site map (not a Google XML sitemap, just a human one)
  • Views allow you to modify the way information in nodes is rendered.  This one is essential if you plan to offer a few variations of the info in your content types.  This with CCK is the way to present any kind of information.
  • Webform.  One of the first things I did in Drupal was wonder how I should create a custom form.  At first I thought I might have to get into the forms api to do it, but webform can create some very complex forms very easily.  Its easy enough to use that clients (with a little bit of training) could create their own forms.

I used a few other things (weather module, xml sitemaps), but the above are the most crucial in my opinion.  Also the contemplate module looks great, but this project didn’t require anything that powerful.  Drupal 6 has a pretty small learning curve really, once you find the modules you need, simple sites can be churned out quickly and they have the powerful admin that drupal offers.  All good!

July 08 2008

Drupal 6 fun!

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A recent project has required me to get back into Drupal, which I had some experience using last year (Drupal 5).  Initially its a pretty bare bones systems in some regards.  Not really tailored to SEO or complex views.  But once you have discovered which custom modules to install, the power of the CMS really explodes.

The CCK modules are seriously powerful, numerous SEO modules, numerous image and RTE modules.  The Admin is very user friendly, always good for the clients and Drupal 6 has an improved UI.

The only issue I have had with Drupal 6 so far (coincidentally I had the same issue on Drupal 5) is messing with the navigation system, attempting to get navigation to tertiary menu items displaying correctly.  By all accounts the menu_navigation_links() function should be able to pull out child menu items, but as of yet I have had no luck.