Drupal 7 is harder than I thought

This blog has been in existance for a long time using various technologies over the years.

At first it was a simple html site, hosted on my Road Runner account. I was first learning HTML then, and css was largely not supported by most browsers. I was just learning HTML back then. It took me forever to learn it too. I played around with simple javascripts to add extra functionality. It was good enough to land my first job on the web.

A few years later, when I was laid off and looking for work, I upgraded the site. I rethemed my site in Dreamweaver utilizing its templating system, and OBDC database connections. I essentially built myself a really, really rudimentary CMS at a time when they were either primitve, overly complex, or ridiculously expensive. (Think Vignette.) The site was upgraded and entirely in ASP using an IIS server. Eventually, I bought my own domain and hosting services because Road Runner wouldn’t allow me to do what I wanted to do.

I learned a lot in those days about configuring a local server on my workstation. It was tedious and annoying work that was outside the scope of my knowledge. I also dabbled in Flash and created a Flash intro, which was all the rage back then.

I allowed the site to be idle for a long time. Eventually I upgraded again and this time, rethemed it using WordPress. I had already been using WordPress for work and I wanted to really get a solid understanding of its underpinings. So I converted to that and proceded to build my own theme by following a tutorial written by Small Potato. In building the theme, I really got to understand WordPress really well.

Over the years, administering the site I learned so much about WordPress. While I am not PHP progammer, I can honestly say, I know WordPress very, very well.

Where does Drupal fit in?

I’ve been working in Drupal on and off for several years. I have found it always to be overwhelming with a steep, steep learning curve. We are using a highly customized version of it at work, version 6. I’ve been working in it every day for over a year and while I do understand it a lot better than I did, I feel like I don’t have any real facility in it.

I decided the only way I’m really going to learn this thing well is to build my own site in it. I decided to go with Drupal 7 since it is the current version and it is going in the direction of the future. While my knowledge increases in Drupal 7, I have no doubt it will also improve my knowledge in Drupal 6.

So far, it’s rough going.

I haven’t done much customization to this site. I have been experimenting with how much I can do through the GUI and modules. This should be the end goal though I am sure many hardcore Drupalistas may disagree. So far, I find the ability to do what I want by this method wanting. There are so many modules that I would like to use that simply have not been upgraded to version 7. Many that have are still in dev version, and this is, over a year since Drupal 7 launched. That is a shame. I’m not sure what it takes to port a module from D6 to D7. In WordPress, many plugins still work without the maintainer doing an intervention at all. In Drupal, each module has a .infofile that specifies what version it is for.D7 is ‘smart’ and automatically will not allow you to install a depreciated module. I wonder how many modules are so deeply tied to the core that they require extensive work to port to D7. Since I have never written a module, I can only wonder.

I know that this site, at present looks awful. I haven’t even tried to theme it yet. I’m still trying to get a handle on core functionality. But I have a to-do list that is subject to change, probably expand as I discover more and more issues:

  • Expand Bulk Operations to allow bulk update of taxonomy and authorship.
  • Add view that will allow an archive of articles by “category” which is an artificial vocabulary I created in the taxonomy to categories articles by topic. (Not to be confused with tags that are used more granularly).
  • Get control over where the “read more” starts and ends.
  • Get control over how to size embedded pictures and thumbnail pictures. ;Also control of auto-positioning on the page.(May have to do with theming).
  • Add proper menus. If I use the Bartik theme, my menus show up. But since they aren’t really ready, I haven’t bothered to activate those regions in this theme.
  • Build a new CCK type that allows short snippets of text without a title. In WordPress they are called Asides.
  • Create a logo for the site
  • Refine paths and URL structure
  • Retheme the site – I want the site to use HTML5, utilizing responsive design concepts. This will more likely have many sub-tasks.

I’m sure this list will grow as I get a better handle of this.