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Learning Drupal: Back to basics

a picture of some cool pipes by tinou from flickr's creative commons by attribution listings

Drupal is powerful, it's undeniable. What's worrying is that you can get pretty far without understanding much about web development. This poses some challenges for novice web developers.

By simply installing the Acquia Dev Desktop you can quickly mock up a great new site with a dizzying array of features which would take you probably thousands of hours to code by hand. That is also not counting the years it would take you to build the relevant developer skills. The Dev Desktop includes a web server, scripts, database software, libraries - and all the components of Drupal itself wrapped into a nice little control panel package.

And that is the cool (also scary!) thing about Drupal, you can really hit the ground running if you're brand new to web development. What you want to avoid is hitting the ground with your face.

Recently, I received a question from a new Drupal user.

I am able to access my website from my computer Acquia Drupal Control Panel at localhost:8082 How do I pull my domain name example.com to localhost:8082 so the public can access? Also I would like to build multiple Drupal websites with different domain names. How do I accomplish this goal using Acquia Dev Desktop?

I've seen similar questions before. This person is a novice in web development and possibly just starting on a new career. While they have created a possibly magical and amazing website with Drupal, they are stuck because they don't know how to get it online. Or later, after they do get a host, they don't know how to maintain and update the site.

What do you need to know first?

When I get asked questions like this from novice, I am taken aback. So... where should we start? Even if you use the web everyday, no one expects you to understand how it works. I relate this to my knowledge of plumbing. OK, I can turn on the faucet, but I haven't got a clue of how that water gets from the reservoir.

However, as a novice web developer you need to start understanding the plumbing of the web as well. There are so many great resources about learning Drupal which jump right into using it as an end product, and don't carefully explain that underlying plumbing.

I made this short video to explain some of the concepts underlying Drupal to a novice developer. Sorry about the sound in the beginning, it gets a bit better. Before you watch this one, you might also want to check out this quick video from Doug Vann about How the Web Works.

Acquia Podcast 29: Ben Finklea on SEO in Drupal

One of the strong points of Drupal is its built in search engine optimization capabilities right out of the box. Ben Finklea is the founder and CEO of Volacci, a firm that specializes in SEO for Drupal sites, and in this episode we talk about SEO in Drupal, the SEO Checklist module, the status of the Drupal 7 version of his book on SEO in Drupal, and some upcoming SEO training Volacci is doing with Acquia.

Show notes:

Acquia Podcast 28: Leisa Reichelt on Design in Drupal

Ever since her introduction to the Drupal community as part of the drupal.org redesign, Leisa Reichelt has been an active participant in the issue of design in Drupal. In this episode we discuss her involvement in the drupal.org redesign and D7UX projects, as well as the Prairie Initiative (including where the name Prairie comes from), her new project for improving the design of drupal.org to make it more useful and welcoming for new users.

Multiple sites per server on Acquia Dev Cloud

When we announced Acquia Dev Cloud at Drupalcon Chicago last month, we said it was primarily designed for professional developers who build and deploy multiples Drupal sites. Today, we are delivering one of the key features behind that promise: the ability to click to create and manage multiple sites on a single Dev Cloud account.

In case you haven't had a chance to watch the Dev Cloud webinar, here's a quick summary of what Dev Cloud offers:

Acquia Search Available for Drupal 7

On Monday we made a series of module and service releases to bring Acquia Search to Drupal 7:

  • The Apache Solr Search Integration project version 7.x-1.0-beta4 includes a number of new features, API improvements, and fixes, including changes to the Solr schema.
  • Acquia Network Connector project version 7.x-1.1 now includes the Acquia Search module which integrates the Drupal 7.x version of Apache Solr Search Integration with the Acquia Network
  • The Acquia Network was updated to auto-detect your module version and use the correct set of Solr configuration files when you first enable Acquia Search
  • The Acquia Netowrk also now offers a settings page where you can manually select from a list and your selection will be propagated to the Solr servers.

This release of Apache Solr Search Integration sets the stage for the virtual code sprint starting this Friday, April 8. The sprint will encompass topics including integration with Facet API, integration with Views, UI improvements, and expanded test coverage. Sign up to participate in the Sprints group. If you look at the CHANGELOG.txt you'll see that we had at least 58 different issues that we worked on for this release. If you are running Apache Solr yourself, you will need to update your configuration files and re-index your content.

This screen shot shows the administrative UI with Acquia Search enabled:

Acquia Podcast 27: Ben Kaplan on the Janrain module

With all of the social networks out there that you want to integrate into your site, wouldn't it be nice if there was one central service that could integrate will all of them? Well, now there is. In this episode I talk with Ben Kaplan (aka BenK), one of the co-maintainers of the Janrain Engage module.

A fresh look at the Media Gallery module for Drupal 7

Yesterday, we made a shiny new beta release of the Media Gallery module on drupal.org.

A more usable Drupal

At the beginning of the D7UX project, the very first screencast by Mark and Leisa revealed confusion over Drupal’s installer. Overnight, patches were created to remove the confusion. This situation reveals how fantastic the community is at rising to fix issues that are backed by data.

Virtual Code Sprint for Apache Solr Search Integration

Would you like to help get the Apache Solr Search Integration module to a stable and feature-full release for Drupal 7? We are planning a virtual code sprint for Friday April 8 through April 13. That spans a weekend with the expectation that some sprinters will be able to more actively participate during a weekend, and others during work days. The sprint will encompass topics including integration with Facet API, integration with Views, UI improvements, and expanded test coverage.

Starter tips to engage with the Drupal community

It is very common for people to have a hard time starting out with Drupal and gradually improve their relationship with it–I mean both the software and the community! I'm going to take the liberty here of sharing some of the insights I have gained over the years that can help you in and help you through the tough spots.

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