Tagged: PHP

Review: Using Drupal

drupalThis is a review of the book “Using Drupal” by a myriad of authors.

I picked up this book because I’ve been evaluating possible migration alternatives for an existing website that requires a mixture of CMS, light-DAM and user community features (blogging, wikis etc). The playing field seems pretty big between Joomla and Drupal (from a PHP side of things) so I decided to get the highly recommended “Using Drupal” book and read it over.

This is a great book. For those of you new to Drupal it starts out by laying out the groundwork of why trying to build and maintain your own custom website from the ground up (self built) is so much work. And likewise how Drupal solves so many of those low-level grunt work stuff so you don’t have to worry about it. The first few chapters give a good overview of the basics of Drupal covering such things as Nodes, Blocks, Navigation, and content. The book caters to all skill levels, and those with more experience can jump directly to the focused module content that they are interested in. In fact this book does an excellent job of taking a “solve a problem with a module” approach. The nice thing about this book is that it shows how to use the most popular and best Drupal modules (plugins) to solve the most common tasks. Such as exposing blog or wiki functionality, managing custom content with custom attributes, providing filtered views etc. It does all of this by walking the reading through detailed steps of how to use a module, which they can follow by reading.

I think the best thing about the book is that is filters out all the module noise that is out there on the Drupal modules site. There are literally thousands of modules for so many different features, it is nice to have a book which tells you “this is what the experts use” for various tasks. The book also covers some advanced topics such as I18N, actions & triggers and custom themes.

Overall I learned quite a bit about the capabilities of Drupal by reading this book. I Recommended it, specifically to Drupal newcomers or intermediates… go get it! You will walk away with a pretty good feel for what Drupal can do, which is quite a bit.

P.S. If you have need to store custom content with all sorts of custom meta-data fields and attributes. Immediately go to the chapter on the CCK. What a slick tool. Having written a totally dynamic taxonomy system in the past that supported inheritance based content types, custom attributes and data types, I can appreciate the work the CCK guys put into their module (except that: they lack inheritance… maybe someday that will get added.)

Review: Wicked Cool PHP

wikcoolThis is a review of “Wicked Cool PHP” by William Steinmetz and Brian Ward

Ok, let me sum this book up quickly: This book is for beginners.

To be more specific, this book would be absolutely perfect if your job (as a beginner) was to create a PHP website with some interactivity however you were locked in a room with a computer with PHP/Apache/Mysql installed, but zero Internet access to get further help online. This book would likely give you everything you need to get that website built using PHP. You could walk out of that room with a working website, using ONLY this book as a reference to get it done. (assuming your Apache/Mysql installs are good to go)

That said, I don’t think that is a knock on the book. The book is excellent, it is just for folks who are new to PHP. It covers a ton of topics with a “cookbook” like feel. The book is short at 181 pages so it has just enough info to get you going with very common everyday PHP tasks that someone needs to do when creating a PHP web app. It covers file access, sending email, working with forms, text/html, user/session tracking, and using cURL to talk to web services. It also gives 3 mini project examples (a poll system, greeting card system, blog system).

My recommendation. If you have zero experience with PHP, purchase this book today. I recommend it for beginners.

If you have some php experience, or have built a system in other langs and can get around online documentation… I would skip it.