Book Review: Visual Quickstart Guide Drupal 7

I actually started this review of Visual Quickstart Guide Drupal 7 by Tom Geller (Peachpit Press) with some trepidation. You see, it has been quite some time (epochs) since I was a noob, not that there's anything wrong with being a noob! It's just that I felt to do justice to those reading a review, I need to review it from the standpoint of a reader who is depending on the material, and yet, to do so, I need to understand what someone with little Drupal experience will find useful, so really, I needed to be of two minds while digesting Geller's writing. I'm happy to be able to write that he made the job easy.

A first experience with Drupal can be daunting, and especially if it's a first experience with a content management system (CMS). With the old, static type of web site, some files and images were uploaded to a server, the web site was up and running, and that was that. With Drupal, and, in fairness, with any powerful accommodating software framework, every feature means something that needs to be understood and configured. Often, as is the case with Drupal, this also means an approach that seems alien, and a vernacular that seems equally alien.

Geller has a knack for covering a large volume of information in a condensed space without making the reader feel rushed. He manages to take what could be a technical 'bible' of information and distills it into a practical guide.

Geller takes the reader by the hand in Chapter 1 and leads him through obtaining and installing Drupal and its database. Chapter 2 introduces Drupal's admin panel, how to configure the settings needed initially, enable the theme and move the site to a new location, if needed.

Chapter 3 introduces the concept of content, the meat of any Drupal site, and shows how to create content of the additional types provided with a Drupal install. It also covers the CRUD (create, read, update, delete) operations involving content. Chapter 4 moves further into the concept of content by discussing the creation of custom content types, as well as adding spice to the content with formatting and images.

In Chapter 5 the topics include creating content that can be used for interaction with the user, using taxonomies to categorize content, making use of and creating additional text filters, and making use of the inbuilt facility for creating presets for formatting and/or transforming images. Chapter 6 covers indexing your content for searching, as well as the two more important forms of non-content (in Drupal terms) content: menus and blocks.

Geller weaves the user through Chapter 7 and the myriad world of user accounts, user roles and permissions, which are essentially access rights. In Chapter 8 he presents tidy and concise coverage of the Drupal theme and how to manipulate it, itself a topic worthy of a book on its own. In the final chapter, Geller introduces the reader to one of the main strengths of the Drupal community, the galaxy of modules available to extend Drupal's features.

Bottom line: Visual Quickstart Guide Drupal 7 by Tom Geller makes getting up to speed for the first time in the seemingly alien universe of Drupal so easy a Klingon could do it!

1 comment

by Mirinda (not verified) on Wed, 2011-10-12 10:39

Tom Geller's new book Drupal 7: Visual Quickstart Guide is a concise, dense sitebuilder/administrator's guide to Drupal 7. It provides a pretty decent task-oriented overview of D7 sitebuilding and administration. It's a manageable size for almost anybody, about 210 pages of primary content.

Overall summary: The book does well what it sets out to do, which is provide a user-interface task-oriented introduction to Drupal 7 for sitebuilders and administrators (in a reasonable size package). That approach has innate drawbacks, but so does every other approach, right?

Praise:

The book is connected well to the community, and provides real-world techniques, not just "search drupal.org". He mentions great sources of information like drupalmodules.com, and suggests how to use d.o effectively, and mentions key "everybody knows about them" contrib modules that a new sitebuilder should know about.

It has great coverage of community issues. The appendix on getting and giving help is wonderful and thoughtful and so necessary in a book like this. It would be easy to leave it out when you're trying for an easy-to-manage book, but it was retained. Thanks. And the "Drupal Terms and Culture" glossary is great, although I'm sure it could be expanded.

Gripes:

There is a fair bit of oversimplification (as there almost has to be in a book this size). It tries to handle installation of Drupal on Windows, Mac, and Linux in simple step-by-step instructions... and of course that usually requires far more background than could possibly be provided in a book of this scope. Another example of oversimplification is installing a module directly from the UI. It works. But Tom chose wysiwyg module as an example, which requires advanced stuff after installation. And it doesn't mention that. But still, it's amazing that you can do a web-based module/theme install in D7!

There is occasional inaccuracy, but nothing huge that I noticed. (It's wrong about the default user creation settings being wide open, but they were changed a long time ago to "Visitors, but administrator approval is required". But I know about that because it was my patch. Overall, it seemed balanced, knowledgeable, and correct.

Most pages are half screenshots and half step-by-step walkthroughs of administration tasks. They take on almost everything in the D7 interface. The screenshots are painfully small in some cases, as if the book had been planned for a larger format.

Overall, a difficult job well done.
Review from Mirinda, http://thejojobaoil.com/
Site Owner, Drupal developer

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