Using Drupal - Choosing and Configuring Modules to Build Dynamic Websites

As someone who looks after a few websites in his spare time, Drupal is a project I've taken interest in lately as a way of giving the people whose sites I maintain easier ways to update their sites. Given the
amount of customisation in the core install, and the expandability through the community add-on modules, this new book from O'Reilly seemed a good starting place to learn more about Drupal.

However, I have to start this review with a little rant... O'Reilly is a publisher whose books I have used a lot in the past and so come to trust and respect. Sadly, Understanding Drupal disappointed on the
quality front. I am not usually one who picks up on errors in books, however I was quickly spotting issues here: text missing, transposed URLs, incorrect definitions of acronyms and incorrect code examples were the first 4 errors I spotted. And that was just in the first 90 pages. There are errata on the book's website, and it is scarily lengthy! This is a first edition, but the list still gives the
impression that very little proof-reading and/or editing went into this book. Additionally, there are 6 authors credited on this book...were they not checking each other's text?

OK, so rant over; and so let's get down to the book itself. After a brief overview of Drupal we are straight into the system with a "Jumpstart" chapter. This covers most of the basic core Drupal
functionality. Because of this, the chapter is a little lengthy - just over 80 pages in all. Thankfully, there is the usual O'Reilly detailed Table of Contents, and each function is individually headed. Subsequent chapters introduce new modules from the community to show how these can be added to a site to provide additional functionality, such as a photo gallery, job advertising, and online commerce.

In order to help the text appear relevant to the real world, each chapter is written in the form of a "case study" where a hypothetical client is introduced along with a set of requirements. The text then
takes the reader through the steps of setting up the new module and fine tuning the configuration. All the examples used in the book are also available from the book's website.

Overall, despite the concerns over the care taken when proof-reading this book, the overall impression is generally positive. New features are introduced one at a time so as not to overload the reader, but the interactions between core elements and add-ons are clearly explained, particularly useful given Drupal's in-depth permissions system! The Table of Contents is detailed so it should be easy to find details on a particular module of interest, and the online materials are useful for working through a practice before working on a live site.

Score: 6 out of 10 [Would probably have been an 8 if it weren't for the proof-reading issues!]

Neil Shaw


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