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Drupal Installed - Now What? - An Introduction

Already done with your Drupal Install

This has been covered in plenty of places, so I won't rehash it. The canonical review of installation is provided in a Drupal Handbook article on installation. There are also easier ways to getting Drupal installed like using the Drupal managed service from Bryght which installs everything for you.

Introduction to Using Drupal

Ok, now it's installed, now what? Well, this is more of a description of the process that I have followed than a recommendation, but here goes...

Start with the Settings

The first place to explore is the Admin > Settings. Most of the items in here are self explanatory. If not, try out different settings and see how your site changes. Worst case scenario is that you just redo the installation - which wasn't that hard anyway, right? Plus, you could use the practice.

The first things I change on a new site:

  • enable clean urls - which depends on certain php settings, but is really useful to make clean-linking from outside of your site
  • Error reporting - to the screen and the log for now, but change it to just the log when your site goes live
  • File paths may need tweaking - but that hasn't been my experience

Drupal Modules

Next, it's time to experiment with the "modules". Now, don't let the name fool you, there are some "modules" which are included in Drupal core and are not enabled. These are considered core modules and it is the very rare case that you will find a bug in a released version of these core modules. These modules are documented in the Drupal handbook page on core modules and features.

There are also contributed modules. Contributed modules include at least one ".module" file and can also include css and php files. Sometimes they will require changes to your database which will generally come in a ".mysql" or ".pgsql" file. It's hard to say what the complete list of Contributed modules is. In an email to the developers list on the subject of categorizing the contributed modules, Kieran Lal provided the following list:

  1. Most downloaded modules about 40
  2. Modules with administration help documentation. -about 80
  3. Modules with project pages - about 200? <-has the advantage of allowing us to categorize all the project modules
  4. Modules checked into the CVS contributions directory - Several hundred?

There are also lists of favorite modules either created for that reason or created as part of an announcement of a project underway to create a new distribution/hosting service/Programmer's Drupal.

You can also look at the list of modules in use by CivicSpace and <a href="" title="Bryght supported modulesBryght or even this handy (but slightly outdated) comparison chart.

So, you can browse through those lists to see the most popular and then read the Project pages and the handbook to get an idea of what they actually do. However, modules are generally light on descriptions of WHAT they can do because they typically do LOTS of things. For example, Flexinode can do about a thousand different things. It's a crazy module. How could you possibly make a list of all things that Flexinode allows you to do?

So, the best way to go is to experiment. In your site go to the administer>modules section. Enable the items that sound interesting to you. Generally, these will create new access levels so you will also have to go to administer > access control and read through these to see if you want to enable any of them. Now, go to a settings page for that module (if there is one) and look at all the available settings. Try them out, switch them back, see what you like or don't like.

You may find you want to use a contributed module. Getting these to work involves just a little more effort than a "core module". You just have to download the module, install it (the modules generally have installation instructions in a README.txt or INSTALL.txt file), enable it in the modules menu, provide any appropriate access control, tweak the settings, and you're all set.

Blocks, themes, taxonomy, oh my!

There are lots of other features in the system that are worth investigating. But these are some of the most basic and they are items that you are probably going to want to change.

Drupal Blocks allow you to place content on different parts of the page. A block is a container for different information - Menus, "Recent Stories", "Random Images", and similar information. As of Drupal4.6 these blocks can be placed anywhere on the side of the typical themes. In Drupal4.7 there is greater flexibility to place them in different locations in the page depending on the theme.

Speaking of themes, Drupal Themes are an important topic since nothing will scare away users like a default or ugly theme (note to self - improve your own theme...). There are lots of themes you can download from the edit June 19th: new Drupal Theme Garden Drupal Theme Garden. One of the most popular is Box_Grey which is an easily customisable theme.

Taxonomy is something which can take a little while to get your head around. It's a system of categorizing the nodes in your website. Nodes is just a fancy word for "pages" so don't get worried about that. I use the Taxonomy sytem to keep track of which people are involved in a node on my site (e.g. me, nikki, both of us, friends, etc.) We also use it to keep track of the subjects in the stories. This is similar to the sites like Flickr or Technorati that use "tags" to allow people to group things together.

Access Control

I've mentioned the Access Control section a couple times, but it's worth mentioning it on its own. If you are logged in and using the "uid=1" account, which is the first account created on the site, then you have access to everything. If you are a different user, then you will have to create a role for yourself and give that role permissions to do everything. You can create as many roles as you want and assign them different responsibilities. The default roles are "anonymous" and "authenticated user". These are for visitors to your site or a user that has logged in, respectively. Some public sites may not have many "authenticated users" if they are just for other people to read and maybe post anonymous comments. Other community sites my have lots of authenticated users and you might need to create a higher level of "moderators". This is all possible and relatively straightforward.

Drupal Introduction Wrapup

That's about it. Probably something got broken along the way or maybe even you are curious how to do something new. Fortunately, there are plenty of Drupal Support options available for you.

People Involved: 


This is a great tool and

This is a great tool and resource which I'm sure has helped a lot of people. I'm surprized that there are few articles for a new user for Drupal which are explained in detail. If you are aware of such tutorials please let me know.


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Top most needed drupal modules

I have found that the top downloaded modules are perhaps not always the most recently posted ones. I've just ran into this site named:, and it offers to Drupal implementers a quick way to find modules of Drupal. There is a simple rating as of most downloaded and most visited. I wished there also were a most downloaded this month, and so forth, so popularity is not skewed by aged modules.

Thanks for your post, it was most helpful too.

Brilliant article!

Thank you very much for this post! I am currently preparing for an internship position involving Drupal-based websites and this has been incredibly valuable source. Perfect for someone who needs to learn to affect and structure Drupal projects before learning to install (not overly daunting)!!