Putting Drupal to Work

Drupal is a simple but powerful CMS. However, you'll probably want to configure it. Learn how to tweak Drupal's settings to your liking.

Last week, you installed Drupal and were left hanging at the point of basic configuration. This week, you’ll take the short path to Drupal setup. Of course, you’ll only see a fraction of Drupal’s capabilities in this tutorial but you’ll have enough information to discover the rest on your own. For those of you who don’t know, Drupal is an open source content management system (CMS) that powers some of the Internet’s most high profile sites. Do a Google search to find out who but trust me, you’re in good company.

Getting Started

You can advertise your Drupal site to your users by sending them a link to the URL: http://server_name/drupal6. There, a user can register himself, receive a confirming email, and login right away. However, by default, users must have approval granted by the Admin user. To begin configuring users and Drupal in general, connect to your new Drupal site at: http://server_name/drupal6. See Figure 1.

Figure 1: The Drupal Site Login Page
Figure 1: The Drupal Site Login Page

Login with your administrative username and password that you setup last week and click the Administer link in the left-hand navigation pane. See Figure 2.

Figure 2: Drupal's Administrative Functions Page
Figure 2: Drupal’s Administrative Functions Page

User Management

Select User management in the navigation pane. Click the Roles link to add an author role to the roles list. Adding an author role will allow users assigned to that role to post stories to the CMS. Without assigning any roles, users can only login to the system and do nothing else. Enter author or contributor or whatever name you want into the Name field and click the Add role button. Next, you’ll assign the author role privileges so that users associated with that role will have the ability to create content.

Click the Permissions link to assign permissions to the author role. Some of the permissions you add to a role are a matter of preference but at a minimum, you should add the following so that authors can write and edit content. Scroll down to the node module section and select permissions as shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Setting Permissions for a New Role (Author).
Figure 3: Setting Permissions for a New Role (Author).

Additionally, you can allow users to change their own user name by selecting the change own username selection in the user module at the bottom of the Permissions page. Click the Save permissions button when finished.

To setup users, click the Users link in the navigation pane. As you’ll see, there’s likely only the admin user account available in the list. But, here you can add users manually, approve pending users, delete users, assign user roles, set permissions, and create access rules.

When users register, the system sends a confirming email including a single-use password to the user. The email also contains a login link and information about changing passwords. Look at the sample command line email below.

bdavis,

Thank you for registering at 192.168.1.250. You may now log in to
http://192.168.1.250/drupal6/?q=user using the following username and
password:

username: bdavis
password: s4agWxHYGE

You may also log in by clicking on this link or copying and pasting it in
your browser:

http://192.168.1.250/drupal6/?q=user/reset/7/1304346497/65ee281efe79bf0e0e2130ef

0151ec58

This is a one-time login, so it can be used only once.

After logging in, you will be redirected to
http://192.168.1.250/drupal6/?q=user/7/edit so you can change your password.

Drupal users don’t have to have local accounts on your system. Anyone who has access to the Drupal system may register as a user. However, without administrative intervention, they can’t create content until you grant the author (or other role access) role to them.

Add the author role to new users by selecting usernames from the list, select the author role from the Update options dropdown menu, and click the Update button to assign the role. See Figure 4.

Figure 4: Granting a Role to New Drupal Users
Figure 4: Granting a Role to New Drupal Users

After the update, you’ll see the assigned roles in the user list as shown in Figure 5.

Figure 5: New Drupal Authors (Users) Listed
Figure 5: New Drupal Authors (Users) Listed

Other Administrative Tasks

Other than working with user accounts, you’ll spend a considerable amount of time managing user comments and managing content. Perform these tasks under Content Management. You’ll have to remove or edit inappropriate comments and posts on a regular basis. You should create a Moderator role or an Editor role to handle these tasks and assign that role to someone in your organization.*

As primary administrator, you also have the ability to change the look and feel of the site by using the tools under Site building. Here you can change Themes, install and setup new Modules, add or edit Menus, and setup Blocks to enhance your site’s functionality. Most of these operations are cosmetic or functionality-related changes but the real meat of the Drupal system is in the Site configuration area.

Under Site configuration, you’ll find configurable Actions, Date and time, Error reporting, File uploads, Input formats, Performance, Search settings, Site information, Site maintenance, and more.

One important bit of information that you need to know as a Drupal Administrator is that any site that allows user content and comments requires constant surveillance and maintenance. It’s not an “install once and forget it” service. It’s an ongoing effort to maintain appropriate content, maintain security, maintain a supportable service, and maintain your sanity while doing it all.

Finally, as Administrator, you can run various Reports under the Reports area. You can check log entries, 404 errors, 403 errors, search phrases, check on updates, and check out a general status report of your Drupal site.

There is also an extensive Help system available to assist you in making decisions about modules and their configurable options. Use this Help system before posting any questions or “it doesn’t work” entries into the Drupal forums. Don’t say you weren’t warned, if you do it anyway.

Drupal is a serious CMS and the developers take it seriously. So, if you have a problem, you should expect a response. Security is also of primary concern to the development team. To keep track of Drupal’s security advisories, edit your drupal.org profile and subscribe to the security mailing list. Most of the security problems associated with Drupal are due to local site custom modules and not with the Drupal system itself.

* It’s suggested that you assign this role to someone you don’t like.

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