Drupal Newbies and Contributed Modules

The Newbie Issue

DrupliconI received an interesting e-mail the other day through the contact form at my site regarding the social bookmarking "features" I have for my posts.  The questions asked to me are quite common among new users of any Web content management system.  While the questions in this particular e-mail I received would be more appropriate to be asked and answered in the forums at Drupal.org, there were some things in the message I felt the need to address though my blog.

The first e-mail went like this:

I am new to Drupal publishing, and I noticed your "Bookmark/Search this post with: Delicious Digg Google Yahoo Technorati Icerocket " feature. How did you code that? Or- where could I find out how to do that? I have searched Drupal.org but find it frustrating to search, and searching for modules is so frustrating I gave up. Scrolling through the categories is about the best I could do. I found the Submit to Digg one- but your system seems so much more simple.

The second e-mail though is what caught my attention and depending on interpretation somewhat alarmed me.

hi - right after I wrote my note I looked at your code a little harder and figured it out! sorry for the bother!

For the record in order to get those links to the various social bookmarking sites, I use the service links module, a Drupal contributed module.  What concerned me about the e-mail is that when the writer looked at the source code of my web page, I'm not sure if he concluded the correct module to use with his CMS or how to "hard code" the links manually into his site.  Either way,  new users of Drupal tend to make things more difficult on themselves then need be.  This is my attempt to simplify things for those of you for those just trying out Drupal for the first time and are having a hard time hunting down those extra features.

My Perspective

While I'm not a newbie user of Drupal, I am very much a newbie when it comes to developing and contributing code for Drupal.  Heck I'm still learning how to use the Subversion version control system for another project that I have yet to really learn how to work with Drupal's choice for version control, CVS.  It is not that CVS would be difficult to learn (I have taken some initial steps to get there), but the lack of personal desire to take a step back (IMHO) from where I want to go with version control.  What I'm getting at is when it comes to developing for Drupal, I'm a newbie.

Knowing that I'm a newbie to developing for Drupal, you can hopefully conclude on your own that most of the unique features you may see at my sites are not unique at all.  For the most part, I use the modules readily available through Drupal.org by those much more talented than me.  While some of the contributed modules can be buggy, overall I've found a majority of the modules to work exactly the way you expect them to work.  About the only thing I would encourage for those that are not good at troubleshooting their computer problems is to be sure to backup your files and databases before experimenting with modules you have not tried before.

While the Drupal documentation are quite good in explaining how to install contributed modules along with the summaries of core and some of the contributed modules, I can understand why someone new to Drupal may be overwhelmed with the sheer number of available modules.   The following are two suggestions I give for hunting down the modules you need for Drupal as quickly as possible.

Drupal Module Search Tips:

  • Display a list of module by name.  If you have the bandwidth, instead of searching the modules by categories, display the modules by name.  You can then use your browser and it's find feature to help find the modules that might best help you out.
  • Use the Advanced Search feature on the Drupal search page.  Starting in Drupal 4.7, I've considered the search functionality in Drupal to be one of the very best I've seen in a content management system.
    1. When you're on the Drupal search page, enter the keyword(s) for the feature(s) you're looking for in a module.
    2. Under the Advanced Search feature, be sure to select project for Only of the types.  By selecting project for type you will narrow the search down to only those pages related to the Drupal core, contributed modules, and contributed themes.
    So for example, if I type in "digg" for my keyword under "containing any of the words" and then select "project" for type, what I get is a very small list of modules that have anything to do with digg and social bookmarking.

Contributed Modules used at CMS Report

I currently use about a dozen contributed modules for my site, though I could likely only really need a few of them for the features I really need for this site.  I've broken down my current list of modules in use into three categories.