Drupal newbie notes

Notes from my early experiences in using Drupal.

Update September 2022: after becoming one of Drupal’s abandonedusers, I’ve moved from Drupal to WordPress. Phew!!!

Just posted this to drupal usability forum [1 Dec 08: adding some edits based on further experience, lest others stop by and read this]:

When I was first told of cms in early 2004, was told re Drupal: but had a look at drupal, and couldn’t make head nor tail of “nodes” etc, and didn’t see I could readily make site as I wished: chiefly with articles with images.
I found Mambo, used this and successor Joomla.

Now having another look at Drupal – partly as I’ve been asked re doing site that would involve info with various categories for individual items. [I’ve since switched to run sites on Drupal; meant “migrating” three sites from Joomla to Drupal, as I covered in another article here]
A few thoughts here; ups and downs, some ideas. (and not useful to just post and tell me I’m welcome to do the coding – I’m aware of that, but dunno code I’m afraid)

Drupal has progressed, and can see that can indeed make belting sites, with images, videos, the works.
But oh dear, this main site…. (I’ll post to documentation re this [did so, but didn’t make iota of difference; Drupal site remains resolutely dull, not showing off the power of the cms; but does seem unified, as if even contributed modules are part of Drupal project])

Install was easy.
Easy enough to create a basic page, choose from range of themes. And – presto! – a basic site.

But also a fair amount of hassle. Yes, a learning curve to be expected, but still not a cinch.

First, to get usability as I’d wish, need fair numbers of modules.
Some of these would seem fundamental – such as pathauto, the module for meta tags.

I installed fckeditor, had some troubles, but about ok.
But – alarming to add image with editor, and find it didn’t show in pages. Had to look around to find out about Filtered HTML, and fact that (for some reason) this stripped out my images.

Seems I can’t edit list of Filtered HTML tags.
Given – if users add content – potential security issues with Full HTML – I wonder if editing tags list would be helpful (as was case w 4.7)
Tried the image assist fix: another module to install.

Wanted forum.
Here, too, needed more components. [Now using Advanced Forum module, which seems to be continually improved.]
And, as also noted on this site, could use more functionality for this site. For instance, I post this, but won’t learn of replies unless I check back; emails are handy. Yes, seen there’s group working on the forum [not hugely active tho?!]

So one thing that could help, I think, might be some packages of Drupal, such as:
Drupal for SEO – with pathauto, chance to add meta tags
Drupal for SEO, with forum.

Compared to Joomla, I think it’s strong point there’s built in forum, working with search, and with URLs (tho so far, my forum URLs not working out with keywords from titles: dunno why), plus w sitemenu etc.

It was also great to install menalto gallery, and find it fits nicely, with the gallery URLs working like a charm (unlike w Joomla). [hah! – that all changed when moved from Drupal 5 to Drupal 6, for which Gallery Module yet to be properly ready; ah well… – now have Gallery standalone]

I saw re changing the primary and navigation menus (not sure what the secondary menu is about).

But rather bamboozled by creating extra menus; with Joomla sites, I have a few menus, most of which only appear in sections they apply to. Yes, could easily make new menu; but then no list of menu items to choose from – I’d hoped for something like the navigation menu.
Hunted for info – and found a couple of fairly nifty fixes, which are kind of hidden away within modules re context and sitemenu (on quick glance at info on these, not easy to notice they made blocks that can be used as menus).
There clearly is power here. [Especially the power in Views, which I’ve mostly used for creating custom menus with aritlce titles auto added]

For choices of where blocks appear, maybe would be possible to select from a list of taxonomy terms. (Something else I’m used to w Joomla) [but not too bad to me, now; can give pages etc where block to display; or not to display, and use * for wildcards]

Ah, taxonomy. Got me fairly baffled, as some other things in Drupal. Learning to see the power in the taxonomy system, but not so sure re how to implement.
Found recent change to taxonomy selecting (using checkboxes etc): but yet to discover how to get it to appear on one of my pages. [taxonomy still a bit befuddling, but major power here, esp if use Views etc]

Themes: good to see there are several varying themes to choose from. Maybe drupal folks could do more hype re Garland theme, and being able to select colours.
I’m yet to try changing themes more than this; seems quite an issue. Even placing image across top of screen not so obvious to me just now. [as noted below, I use ddblock at present; and w Zen theme. Themes still mostly weak for Drupal compared to Joomla – often very unpretty! I know that supposedly easy to theme, but tough and time consuming to me]

Tried adding Chinese characters in v few places (I’m in Hong Kong, don’t know Chinese writing but some visitors will): worked easily. Again, unlike my current Joomla sites – with one, had Chinese displaying, but upgraded Joomla and the characters became garbled.

Right, those are my notions for now. Back to having look at the site I’m working on while learning Drupal (not the one that needs the various categories per item) – www.cheungchauhk.com – and Drupal.

Later: Drupal moved on, towards Drupal 8; aimed at bigger, corporate type users. But good grief!; no longer small user-friendly, if anything the opposite. I did try; even moved a site to D8 and had it function somewhat, but various issues. Tried Backdrop; that didn’t go too well. Eventually learned re FG plugin to help migrate from Drupal to WordPress; worked from me, though had to make several changes afterwards – and I find WordPress far friendlier, with a whole lot of functionality.


  1. Drupal newbie
    Hi Doc.,

    I am newbie for drupal 6.6 since 10 days and I struggle exactly with the issues you reported for the Themes and Headers.
    (spanning pictures accross).
    I admire your headers where you have a different photo on each page.
    Can you please let me have a hint – how to do this – or point me to a link.
    Otherwise I find your info here extremely useful in particular assessing working with modules for pictures and the adsense issue.

    Good and useful work. Thanks a lot.

  2. random headers for drupal w ddblock

    Hi Helmut:

    Thanks for the comment; glad you’ve found some of the Drupal info useful!

    I’m using the ddblock module for the random header images.
    Set to display just one image (or may see more than one image load as page loads; a minor glitch; maybe also helps reduce load on viewer’s browser); but when load another page, random choice from a folder with images.

    Images around 1200 pixels wide, I think.

    Block placed in header – with a Zen theme; turned off most other header stuff in theme (site name etc; now also trying with primary menu off, so page not too big at the top).

    I have smaller images for ddblock in left column.

    Hope this helps!


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