Thursday, February 18, 2010

Basic, Essential Drupal Modules

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Today’s post will cover some basic, essential modules that are generally recognized as “required” for most types of projects. Having worked previously with other packages such as DotNetNuke, I’ve learned that the Drupal core team takes a different approach – probably due to its Unix heritage. For example, DNN comes out of the box with a membership profile system built in which means all sites get this whether they need it or not. Drupal core offers a basic user profile for registering users (i.e. username, password, email) and nothing more. There’s also a core “Contact” module that allows you to add additional fields, photo, etc. However, you need not install or configure this unless you want the added functionality.

While it is possible to find or build a large, full featured module containing a lot of functionality the tendency with Drupal is to compose features using smaller modules that serve a single purpose like the canonical Unix “pipe”. In this way your installation contains exactly the features you need and nothing more. One such module is the Content Construction Kit or CCK which allows you to define new fields and attach them to “nodes” which are the generic, published content your site uses. Like the “pipe” it is a simple module on the surface yet the possibilities are limitless – you can define and build an entire site schema representing all the “things” (objects, entities, content) you need to store and display. CCK also recognizes and supports the “Advanced Help” module to give administrators more in depth help if it is installed. Views is another module that goes hand-in-hand with CCK and allows you to build queries to generate pages, blocks, feeds, etc.

Here’s my list of the basic, essential Drupal modules, as of 6.x:

CCK The Content Construction Kit allows you to add custom fields to nodes using a web browser.
Calendar This module will display any Views date field in calendar formats, including CCK date fields, node created or updated dates, etc. Switch between year, month, and day views. Back and next navigation is provided for all views.
Date This package contains both the Date module and a Date API module. The Date API is available to be used by other modules and is not dependent on having CCK installed. The date module is a flexible date/time field type for the cck content module which requires the CCK content.module and the Date API module.
Demo This module allows you to take snapshots of your site. It turns a Drupal installation into a sandbox that you can use either for testing modules or setting up a public demonstration site for a module / extension / theme (you name it). Whenever you need to reset your site to a saved state a click of your mouse will do so. With cron enabled, a Drupal site can be automatically reset to a chosen snapshot in a definable interval.
Image This module allows users with proper permissions to upload images into Drupal. Thumbnails and additional sizes are created automatically. Images could be posted individually to the front page, included in stories or grouped in galleries.
IMCE IMCE is an image/file uploader and browser that supports personal directories and quota. Since its first release, IMCE has been used as a file browser in many popular rich text editors such as FCKEditor, TinyMCE, WYMEditor etc.
jquery_ui A wrapper module around the jQuery UI  effects library that lets module developers add swooshy, swishy effects to their code...This is a utility module that won't do anything on its own. See README.txt for how your module can use it to add jQuery UI effects to your pages.
Node Export The export module allows users to export an existing node and then import it into another Drupal installation. The idea is similar to the way you export/import Views or Content Types.
Views The Views module provides a flexible method for Drupal site designers to control how lists and tables of content (nodes in Views 1, almost anything in Views 2) are presented.
Wysiwyg Wysiwyg module allows you to use client-side editors (a.k.a. WYSIWYG editors) to edit content in Drupal. It simplifies installation and integration of editors and allows to assign an editor to each input format. Wysiwyg module replaces all other editor integration modules and no other Drupal module is required.

NOTE: The above descriptions were not authored by me – I simply pasted them from their respective project pages which each module above links to.

The nice thing about the modular approach is that you can skip the modules you don’t need. Not going to allow folks to do rich-text, HTML-savvy editing? Don’t include Wysiwig or IMCE! Prefer a different tool for the job? Use it instead!

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