Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Drupal: Making Life Easier with Installation Profiles

This is the first in a series of blog posts we'll be writing about Drupal, the open-source Web content management platform that I have come to know and love over the past year or so. If you have used Drupal, if you are evaluating different CMS solutions out there, or if you don't know what I'm talking about, read on and keep checking back for more posts about this popular and powerful community-driven software.

For this first post, I will skip over the question "What is Drupal?" and let you visit drupal.org to get some basic information for yourself. Once you have that, come on back...

OK. You're back. Let's get started.

So, what's the first thing you do with software? You install it. Right! This process for Drupal has a few requirements, which I will gloss over in this post, but if you've run any LAMP-based software, you should be good to go (see "Helpful Links" below). Now, whether you're new to Drupal or you've gone thru the installation process many (MANY) times, you should know that Drupal has a very helpful aspect built right into its core: Installation Profiles.

An installation profile "turns on" functionality and pre-configures a Drupal installation so that, instead of starting with a blank slate after install, you have a customized installation tailored to your needs and closer to being production-ready. For a developer, this is an ideal scenario - installation profiles help us eliminate redundancy in our work. Because, really, who wants to do the same ten or twenty tasks every time you start a new project? I sure as heck don't. Also, for a Drupal newcomer (welcome!), finding an installation profile can be helpful to jump-start your site.

Drupal has a directory of contributed installation profiles here. You may find a helpful profile in this list that fits the kind of site you want to build. However, if you don't find the perfect profile, or if you find one that's good but outdated, don't despair! Look for a similar profile, or go ahead and download the outdated one. Install Drupal using that profile, play around with it, and look at the list of modules used. From that pre-configured site, even if you don't end up keeping the installation, you will have an idea of the settings and modules you will want to use on your actual site.


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