Drupal Version 7 Beta: A Web Developer's First Look

By Scott Clark

The Drupal Group this week announced the beta release of its flagship CMS, Drupal 7. We decided to give it a try, and we'll let you see the results in this first look at the much anticipated content management system upgrade.

Understand that even the Drupal Group doesn't believe the beta release is ready for prime time. On the download page, they firmly state, "This is not stable, and production sites should not run this code." That said, it's stable enough to be released in beta form for developers to test out, and that's just what we aim to do here. And new features? From the Drupal 7 beta announcement, this release features "A revamped user interface, a new admin and default core theme, image handling in core, fields (CCK!) in core, module and theme upgrades from within the browser, an automated testing framework with over 24,000 tests, improved security and scalability, revamped database, AJAX, and file systems, jQuery 1.4, jQuery UI 1.8, RDFa, and literally gazillions of other things!"

Once you have downloaded and extracted the Drupal 7 software, you will need to upload it to your web server. Your web server will also need to be running PHP version 5.2, and as always, before you begin the actual installation procedure you must first create a MySQL database (Drupal also works with MariaDB, PostgreSQL and SQLite). This is usually accomplished through the CPanel of your web host. It's a point-and-click process that only takes a couple minutes, and once it's set up, you will be provided with the information you'll need to install Drupal, including:

  • Database name
  • Host name
  • Port (usually 3306)
  • User name
  • Database password
If you already have Drupal installed, your job is even easier. Upload the files, open your web browser to the test site location, and type in "upgrade.php". The installation process went okay until it got to the module installation--it didn't like that I had the CCK module already on my server from a previous installation. I deleted the CCK directory, and we were back in business. Here's what it looked like at that point:

Once you have filled out the form fields in the previous screen, you will be taken to your site's home page, which at this point, doesn't show you much:

Now we are ready to add some content and see what the administration interface looks like. Clicking the link to "Add New Content" took me to a page that informs me that I haven't added any content types yet, with a link to do just that. Houston, we have a problem. After trying to add a content type, I was presented with the following error message:

Okay, that's not fair to the fine folks at Drupal. I went ahead and deleted everything on the test server, uploaded the Drupal 7 files again, and started over. Such is the life of a beta tester. Once we got that done, we went through the process described above, and got to the same point we were at--time to add some content.

This time, it allowed me to automatically create an Article, or a Basic Page, as these content types were already available. And the admin menu was now available at the top of the page, with all the normal admin features available via a drop down list. Very nice! When I went to add an article, here's how it looked:

I added a title for the article, some tags, and some text, and now the home page is updated with that article, as shown here:

The admin console page has changed quite a bit as well since the previous version...it's a lot easier to get to the sections you need to access, even without the top admin menu bar:

In our next installment we'll delve into the Themes section, and we'll also take a look at the new Module section, and will get into the various updates that this version of Drupal provides. So far, so good. Obviously there are issues to work out, but Drupal 7 is coming along nicely, and will be a significant upgrade for most developers who are eager to take their Drupal website to the next level.

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