Drupal 7 review

These days, traditional websites based on hand-crafted static pages are fading away, rapidly being replaced by sites based on content management systems (CMS), and in particular, by sites created with the three main open source CMS tools: WordPress, Joomla and Drupal. After three years of development by over 1,000 contributors, this latest release of Drupal is set to make a few waves.

Perhaps the biggest advantage of the CMS approach is that all you need to create the site and its content is a browser. However, before you get to this stage, you need to install the system on your server, and this can be complicated. Drupal 7 has simplified its manual installation process and also promotes pre-packaged distributions which should encourage more web hosts to offer one-click installs. In terms of server requirements, Drupal 7 now demands PHP 5.2.4 or above and, if you’re using MySQL for your database, you’ll need version 5.0.15 or higher. Nowadays, neither requirement should prove a problem and both should enable better performance and easier coding.

The biggest criticism of Drupal has always been its usability, so this is the main focus of the latest release. The improvement is immediately apparent in the new administration interface. Now, when you log in to the site, a menu bar appears providing links to the most common administrative tasks: managing content, structure, appearance, people and so on. Below this is a new shortcut bar to which you can add your own links. You can also create shortcut sets and target these at different users and roles.

Drupal 7

Previously when you clicked on an administrative link, it would take you straight to the relevant page. Now, in Drupal 7 the default setting is for the page content to be loaded into an overlay which provides a slicker and tighter experience. This positive impression is reinforced by a host of other JavaScript-based UI improvements such as in-built support for horizontal and vertical tabs, streamlined default site and admin themes and a general streamlining of options, that’s most evident in the redesigned Add Content and User Permissions overlays.

Unlike rival ready-to-go content management systems, each Drupal site tends to be built on a custom mix of contributed modules and setting these up used to be a pain. Version 7 sees a huge improvement here: the new Modules overlay provides greater feedback as well as convenient links to help, permissions and configuration, and where previously you needed to turn to a separate FTP application to install new modules, you can now upload them from your computer or by entering an FTP-based URL.

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Software subcategory Web development

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