How Drupal works

Before we start building our social networking site, it is important to take a step back and look at Drupal a bit more in detail, to see how it works and the thought process behind it. Having a better understanding of this will help when planning, expanding, and managing our site!

An abstract framework

Although in the previous chapter, I described Drupal as a content management system, it can more accurately be described as a content management framework. While it is still a content management system, that is, it is a system used for managing content within a web site, Drupal places more emphasis on easy customization and configuration.

Drupal is an abstract framework, because instead of focusing on specific solutions and situations, it focuses more on generic problems and their solutions, which makes it useful in many situations. Further, with a little customization, it can be tailor-made to provide specific solutions.

Nodes

Nodes are what make Drupal an abstract framework. Most content types within Drupal are variants of a central concept within Drupal—the node. While different types of node (that is, different Content Types) are managed and handled differently, they are all stored together in the database. The Drupal web site explains this best on their general concepts page:

The main building block of Drupal is a node. The word 'node' does not suggest that it is a part of some network. On the contrary, you should think of a node as a single puzzle piece that is placed onto the site by one of your users, or even yourself. A node can be part of a forum, a blog or a book, and by using the Content Construction Kit, you can create as many custom node types as you want. Remember that each node has a type, referred to as a Content Type. It also has a Node ID, a Title, a Body, a creation date, an author and some other properties. It is stored together with all other nodes in one big "shoe-box" known as a "table" in your database.

For more information on this go to http://drupal.org/node/198 2 8 Drupal — General Concepts

[r-^TX The Content Construction Kit mentioned above, is a third party module, I and is not available out of the box. I

Although Drupal only has Story and Page nodes available when it is first installed, the optional core modules that comes included with it, have provisions for the following nodes:

• Pages of a collaborative book (similar to a Wiki)

• Comments (although these are not nodes) which allow users to comment on nodes

Nodes and content types are sometimes used interchangeably in this book. - [36 ] -

Content flags

When managing the content (which we will look at shortly), we can set various "flags" or statuses on the content including:

• Published — indicates that the content is visible to site visitors.

• Unpublished—indicates that the content is not visible to site visitors.

• Promoted — indicates that the content has been promoted to the front page of the site.

• Not promoted—indicates that the content has not been promoted to the front page of the site.

• Sticky — indicates whether the content has been marked "sticky". Sticky content is displayed above non-sticky content, even if some new content has been posted to the site.

• Not sticky — indicates that the content has not been marked as "sticky".

Let's take a brief look at exactly what they mean, so that we understand these concepts when we come to use them later.

Published and unpublished content

Obviously, this isn't something that can be illustrated via a screenshot; the content is either visible to our users or not visible to our users. Of course, users with permissions to see the unpublished content will be able to see it!

Promoted and not promoted content

If content has been promoted to the front page, then it will appear on the front page of our Drupal site. The following image illustrated pages that have been created for the news items promoted to the front page.

Michael

My account Críate content ■ Administer Log out ieen promoted t tpage!

Michael

My account Críate content ■ Administer Log out ieen promoted t tpage!

Preparing to launch!

Dinospace is currently gearing up to launch!

Content that hasn't been promoted to the front page obviously isn't displayed there. The content is split into a summary, which is shown on the front page. The rest of the content is read by clicking the read more link associated with the content.

Sticky and not sticky content

Content which is sticky appears above other posted items at the top of a page, for instance, we have some sticky content which has been promoted to the front page, and beneath it is some newer content that was not made sticky.

DinoSpace!

Michael

Important Sticky News!

° My account

c Create content

DinoSpace is looking for users to help improve the site, email us on mich a el® dinospace.net for more information.

& Administer

More news!

This is the newest news item.

Log out

More news!

This is the newest news item.

Front page news

This content has been promoted to the front page, which is why you can see it on the Front page!

Read more

Collaboration

Drupal supports multi-user collaboration easily. It allows the content to be created, edited, and commented upon by multiple users, depending on how it is configured. Users can also share files and images, and also contact each other privately. These basic collaborative tools are built-in to Drupal, but their usefulness to our site depends on how we configure them.

Terminology

Drupal makes use of a technical vocabulary that has been documented in detail. Although I've tried to explain new phrases, words, and concepts which occur throughout the book, there may be some which I have neglected to cover in as much detail as they deserve. A detailed list of Drupal terminology is available online at http://drupal.org/node/937.

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