Tutorials

Case Study: Building and Theming a 3,000 Article Site in 37 Days.

It could have been an April Fools joke.  On April 1st we got the call. "We have mockups for the design of the site, and we need the theme done in 2 weeks. After that we can discuss the XML import part of the project. We need to go live at the beginning of May."  We knew it would be a challenge, but we made it happen - on May 7th the site went live.

resources.yournaturaloptions.com home page

Using Node Reference Fields with the Node Import Module

This article is also available in French from KolossalDrupal.com.

The extremely useful Node Import module has been around for over 4 years now - which is an eternity in Drupal-land - but in recent days other newer, shinier import modules have hit the scene. While these modules certainly are useful for many applications, sometimes the tried-and-true works just fine. In this article, I'm going to show you how to use the Node Import module to import data in CSV format (comma separated values) and map that content to existing content types that include node reference, text, and integer fields - including multi-select checkboxes.

On Drupal Performance: Testing with Apache Benchmark

Sometimes in our lives, we all have pain, we all have sorrow. And sometimes we also have to launch Drupal sites into the wild blue yonder. It's during these times that we separate the grown-ups from the n00bs, and we see how well our site performs under heavy load. Many of us didn't need to worry about speed, page size, and server load in our younger years when we were building sites for Uncle Don and Aunt Sue, but eventually you get that big client, and you need some help.

Testing your site's performance

There are several ways to test, and a few metrics to acquaint yourself with. Not all metrics are created equal, but all of them are important at one time or other. In Part I of this post, you will be reading about testing with the Apache Benchmark tool on the command line.

Apache Benchmark

Adding Rounded Block Borders to Your Site's Theme

Rounded corners are all the rage - and they have been for quite some time in web design. The way they "soften" up a design make them quite attractive to designers and decision-makers. Unfortunately, implementing rounded corners in a web page is not nearly as easy as it is to implement in a mockup using an image application.

When talking about rounded corners, there are 2 distinct user cases to be considered - the first is when creating rounded corners only on the top corners of an area - this is commonly seen on tabs and block headers. The alternative use case is when all four corners of an area are rounded - this is usually seen in blocks and around content areas. This article will focus on the the case where all four corners need to be rounded. The result will be a method of adding the ability to optionally apply a rounded border to any block on your site in a way that doesn't break when the block is resized.

Tabs with 2 rounded corners and a content border with 4 rounded corners.

By the end of the article, you should be able to add this option to just about any Drupal theme - the relevant files you'll need are available for download at the end of this article.

Magically Disappearing Default Search Text

Keeping a site's design as clean as possible is something all (well, okay, maybe not "all") designers and developers strive for. One relatively easy thing that you can do towards this goal is removing the supporting (and often unnecessary) text around your site's search field. I'm talking about the "Enter search terms" or "Search this site" text that floats innocently above or next to the text input box. Is this really necessary? I don't think so.

default Drupal search block

A much cleaner way of presenting a search box is with some default text inside the input field that automatically disappears when the user moves the cursor into the field.

Event Registration with Ubercart

Ubercart is arguably the leading ecommerce module suite for Drupal. It allows site admins to sell virtually just about anything online, including physical products, downloadable products, and event admissions. Often, when selling event admissions, it is desirable for the registrant to be able to fill out a profile during the checkout process that can be posted on the site once the transaction is complete. The UC Node Checkout module was built for this purpose. This is the way last year's Do It With Drupal conference handled registrations - with these exact modules.

UC Node Checkout page at drupal.org

Setting it up can be a little tricky, as it is not entirely a straight-forward process. Ryan Szrama, the de-facto leader of the Ubercart project, demoed this module during the recent DrupalCon DC. I thought I'd take the time to reproduce what Ryan did, as it is a great introduction to this module. Keep in mind it won't be an exact reproduction, but it should be pretty close.

This article will assume you're familiar with some very basic Ubercart concepts, if you're not, don't worry, this isn't rocket science. One thing you'll need to do if you're playing along at home is to create the "keys" directory for test credit card payments - full info on this is located at admin/store/settings/payment/edit/methods in your Drupal install (assuming you already have Ubercart enabled).

Capture (the power of) the Flag (module)

The Flag module is one of those modules that in its previous incarnation (as the Views Bookmarks module) was a bit inflexible and often (at least in my cases) required some manual tweaking of the code to get it to do exactly what I wanted (no offense to the original authors, I actually used it a surprising number of times).

The updated and renamed module is a breath of fresh air - it is an ease to install and configure for any number of use cases - in this article, I'll demonstrate how you can set up a list of the best comments on your site.

The Flag module is extremely useful mainly due to its excellent integration with other Drupal modules - specifically Views and Actions (part of Drupal 6 core). It's also chock-full of AJAX-y goodness (flagging items doesn't require a full page refresh) and a plethora of configuration options.

Displaying Hierarchical Content

This article is also available in French.

Displaying hierarchical content is a common request of database-driven web sites. Drupal gives you great flexibility in doing this without writing a single line of code, using a couple of battle-tested modules. As an example, let's say you're building an automotive web site. Your site is going to have a list of automotive brands and the vehicles they build. You'd like to only have to enter each brand's information into the database once, then simply refer to that brand whenever you add one of their vehicles to the site. In this example, I have 2 brands, Chevy and Jeep, and each brand has 3 vehicles.

content hierarchy example

Drupal's powerful CCK module allows you to define different content types for your web site. The Node Reference module, included with the rest of CCK, allows you to set up hierarchical relationships between content types.

Using Display Attachments to Provide a Consistent Summary in Views 2

The "summary" list is Views is a really handy feature, but unless it is properly configured, it can lead to an inconsistent experience for end-users. The goal of this post is to demonstrate how a little bit of configuration can provide a very consistent user experience.

Here's a quick example of what I'm trying to avoid: consider the following content type called, "Food":

As you can see, it is a very simple content type, with only a single added field, "field_food_type". This text field is set up to require the user to select one of its options.

When creating a view to show all "Food" nodes, there might be too many to display all at once - you'd like to break up the view by food type in order to allow the user to drill down to the food they're looking for. Using a single Views 2 "Page" display, this is easy to do - just add an argument for the food type and have it display a summary when no argument is present:

This will result in the showing only the food types when the page is displayed with no arguments:

When one of the food types is clicked on, you'll see a list of matching foods:

This works great and is easy to set up if this is what you're looking for. However, I find that often I'd like the summary and a listing of matching content to be displayed at all times. When there is no argument present, then I want a paged list of all the content as well as the summary. When an argument is present, I want the filtered content but I still also want the summary. This can be quite easily done using a display attachment.

Creating a Fading Image Slideshow in Drupal 5

I recently had a site that I do volunteer work for ask me if I could create an image slideshow for them on the home page of their Drupal 5.x-powered site. They wanted to showcase various large images on their homepage fading from one to another, as well as be able to control what images were contained in the slideshow. The solution had to be easy to use and maintain as they don't have a dedicated IT person on staff.

Moving the comment form without hacking core

One of the most frustrating things about Drupal's current architecture is that comments, and the form to post them, are attached to nodes and don't easily allow you to move them around in your TPL files. There really should be an easier way to just place them anywhere you'd like. Most times this doesn't get in your way, until you want to do some fancy layouts where your content is split into multiple columns on the page.

Rebuild your node_comment_statistics table

If you're like me, most of your projects are redesigns of existing sites. And if the site is already on some kind of CMS, this means importing content from the old system into Drupal, and to make it easy you'll do it with MySQL directly.

There are pros and cons about this approach, which I am learning, and one of the cons is that content created by the database may not always get plugged into all of Drupal's various tables. Sure, you got the text into node, node_revisions, can your CCK tables, but there is more than meets the eye.

Import Hundreds of Taxonomy Terms using AWK

Today's challenge: your editors just handed you almost 200 taxonomy terms to add to the site, and you don't have the time or inclination to hit the taxonomy/n/add/term page for the next 2 hours or so... AWK to the rescue!

Doing a simple CSV export of the term_data and term_hierarchy tables, you've got a pretty simple structure:

term_data
tid,vid,name,description,weight

term_hierarchy
tid,parent

What you'll ultimately generate here is a file that stores everything you need to know about importing these terms via a CSV - the term names, the weights, good IDs, and the TID of the parents.

2048,#the current value of the sequences for term_data
term,34,Blogs,#a helper line
x,1,Drupal,All about Drupal,-5
x,1,Modules,Ways to extend Drupal,-4
x,1,Themes,Making your install pretty,-3
term,35,News,#a second helper line
x,1,International,,0
x,1,Local,,0
x,1,Hyperlocal,,0

In this file, we've got 3 types of data:

  1. The starting value for sequences
  2. The id of the parent term for the next several rows, starting with the word "term" followed by the TID and the plain English name just to help us get organized
  3. The new terms, with an "x" where the new TIDs will be placed, and the VID, Description and Weight all filled out.