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Quickest way to learn Drupal

  • January 28th 2013

Fast, highly customizable, secure, and open source, Drupal is the third most popular content management systems in the world. It’s used by many large scale corporations and government bodies such as Warner Bros. Records, The Economist, and most famously it is used by The White House for its site. Learning Drupal however is considered rather tougher than other CMSes like WordPress.

So the question arises what’s the quickest way to learn Drupal? Well the answer is simple; to learn Drupal in the least amount of time you need three things, dedication, practice and most importantly an Internet connection.

There are thousands of resources available on the Internet that are dedicated solely to teaching Drupal. Available in nearly all types of media such as videos, books, blogs, documentations, podcasts etc., these lessons can teach you Drupal in no time. The only problem is that most of the free resources are not very organized. So here we compile different resources that will act as a step by step guide to learn Drupal as fast as possible.

The initial steps

Now before we start with the lessons it is important to figure out why you want to learn Drupal. If you want to build a simple blog and get over with the site construction part, fast learning is ok. But if you want to master Drupal there is no shortcut other than practice and experiment. So it is important to figure out why you want to learn Drupal and for what you may be using it for.

Now most of the lessons we present here are made on the assumption that you know some basics about programming and website building. In addition we assume that you have preliminary knowledge about PHP and HTML.

What is Drupal?

Now with that said lets get down to business. The first step in learning Drupal is to learn about what is Drupal.

As we said earlier Drupal is an open source and thus freely available content management system. It’s maintained by a huge community of developers, coders, and testers and is distributed under GNU General Public License (GPL). To learn more about Drupal visit the following links

However to get a thorough understanding of Drupal it is recommended to visit Drupal.org documentation page (http://drupal.org/documentation) and more specifically Understanding Drupal { http://drupal.org/documentation/understand } page of the documentation.

Installation

Alright now that we have some idea about what is Drupal, let’s get down to installation. First download the latest version of Drupal. Visit Drupal.org and click download and extend, or go to this link directly http://drupal.org/project/drupal.

Now since you are in a learning phase it is advisable to first install Drupal on a local server, testing it thoroughly, and then making it live on the web. Here are some tutorials on installing Drupal on a local host.

Installing Drupal on local host creates a safe environment to test out your Drupal skills and chisel out the final structure of your site. After testing thoroughly on local host you can upload it on your domain using any FTP agent. Read this for more information

What to make

Before we start with the actual building of a site, we must have a complete picture of our site in our minds. So it is better to realize what you want to make before making it. Study lots of case studies and see how different sites are structured and what their salient features are. Drupal showcase and Drupal.org case studies section are very helpful sites for that.

Administration of the site

Now since you have installed the software, you are the default administrator of the platform. You have all the privileges and thus play a very important role for the site. So it’s important to secure the root user. It’s advised to choose a difficult password and username as the root administrator. To learn more about security and administration consult the Drupal.org documentation on administration.

A module named Drush {http://drupal.org/project/drush} is also a great tool in securing the admin of your site.

Themes and Modules – The basics of site building

The next step in learning Drupal would be to understand what a theme is and what a module is. In short theme and modules dictate the look and functionality of a Drupal site respectively. Building a site using Drupal requires a clever usage of modules and themes. There are thousands of themes and modules available freely on the net and choosing the right one may create a difference between an efficient piece of engineering and a resource drainer, so choose carefully. After you have decided the function of your website, you can choose the proper module to add to your site to give it desired functionality. Read the following documentation on modules

It is also important to understand the role of nodes, navigation, and content structuring in Drupal. The Drupal.org documentation {http://drupal.org/documentation/structure} on this topic is very comprehensive so we highly recommend you to thoroughly read it.

After modules come themes and choosing a right theme is just as important. Read the following documentation to learn more about themes.

Finishing up

By now may have realized that the documentation on Drupal.org about Drupal is very useful in every aspect of the site building. Also now that you have understood the basics of Drupal let’s take a breather and contemplate what’s next. The next steps would be to create and design your own custom modules and themes, but that requires great knowledge of PHP, HTML and JavaScript. So foray into those domains only after you have mastered these programming languages. If you want to further go into the topics we advice you to consult dedicated Drupal books. Pro Drupal Development by John K. VanDyk is an all time favorite. You can also subscribe to paid Podcasts and tutorial videos such as Lynda.com’ Advanced Drupal 7 Training

{http://www.lynda.com/course-tutorials/Drupal-7-Advanced-Training/97405-2.html}