Learn About Drupal Core Libraries with Core Developer Alex Bronstein
Many libraries, such as the New York Public Library, are using Drupal as their primary CMS. Library Journal recently asked Bronstein some questions about his involvement with Drupal, the Core Libraries and the upcoming version 7.
Bronstein, a Software Architect at the web-development company CraftySpace, became involved with Drupal through his work as a freelance web developer. After working through several iterations of a CMS that he created himself, he began working with Drupal, and began to use it exclusively as he worked on library websites through his company's Library Business, called YourLibrarySite.
He spoke with Library Journal about the development of each version of Drupal, stating that it usually "takes two years to develop a new version of Drupal. During the first year and a half the code is said to be 'thawed' and everything is on the table. This is the time to innovate, suggest new features and functionality, and restructure how the system works. The code is then 'frozen' during the last six months, although often this happens in stages until all the code for version is frozen. The purpose of freezing the code is to shift the focus of development from innovating and creating new things to getting the release cleaned up, stable and ready to be released. Typically there is an alpha release, beta release, and release candidate(s) before the actual release."
The interview reveals some important aspects of Drupal that web developers should focus on, particularly the use of Drupal modules. Besides the Drupal Core modules that come with the basic installation, he says "there are 5000 additional modules that can be downloaded from drupal.org. No one needs all of them, but some very impressive web sites have been built with 20-100 carefully chosen modules. Determining which modules to use from the 5000 available can be daunting to someone just starting out with Drupal."
Bronstein recommends looking at the top ten Drupal modules to start with, then move on to other useful modules including the WYSIWYG module, which enables developers to choose from different editor interfaces, the Panel module, which is useful for complex layouts, and the Zen module which is helpful for developers who wish to create their own subthemes. He also mentions two modules that his own company developed: Flexifield, which "allows you to build compound repeatable fields," and Promos, which "provides a convenient UI for managing small bits of content that can appear on a single page or be re-used across multiple pages."
When asked about the upcoming release of Drupal 7, Bronstein stated that it will be more useful to developers right out of the box. It will be easier to use, feature improved contextual links and a better workflow for content editors. He said Drupal 7 will also include Testbot, an automated testing system which checks to see if any particular patch breaks any other features of the CMS. Often by upgrading one module, developers find that the entire system is broken, and have to backtrack, removing modules one by one until they find the culprit. Testbot should rid the CMS of that issue. Another area of improvement in version 7 will be themes and rendering, which will be of high interest to mobile developers.
Library Journal's interview naturally includes a focus on the use of Drupal as the CMS of choice for libaries, and Bronstein reiterates the case, stating that "Drupal has lots of strengths. The framework is highly extensible, which makes it very flexible. The community and development process foster an environment which is innovative. In addition, Drupal has the redundancy of many people working on the same problem from different perspectives. This fosters a diversity of ideas and, as a result, innovation."