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Crash course: How to make a website with Drupal

Carla Schroder | Sept. 27, 2011
Drupal is an amazing content management system (CMS) that can build pretty much any Web site you want it to -- if you can figure out how. Follow along as I remake my personal Web site,, using Drupal.

Naturally I wrote down the login I created during installation, and logging in takes me to the home administration page (Figure 3).

As you can see, there are a lot of different configuration pages: Content, Structure, Appearance, and all the rest in the top menu. Let's go to Configuration. On my installation it opens in an overlay, which is a Javascript-powered feature that opens the menus over a page instead of going to a new page. Overlays are enabled and disabled in the Modules menu.

Let's enter the Configuration menu. I'm going to configure the site name, slogan, and main email address on the System >> Site Information page. (Figure 4).

Installing a new theme

Next, let's install a new theme. Go to the Drupal themes page, pick one that matches your Drupal version, and download it. Some are free, some cost money, some are developer previews or labeled as minimally maintained, so pick one that sounds like it won't be a batch of new troubles. Then back in your Drupal administration page, go to Appearance, and click Install New Theme. You can install it either from a downloaded file on your computer, or from a Web site. I installed the Alina theme. You'll see a "Installation was completed successfully" message if all goes well. Underneath this message is a link labeled "Enable newly added themes." Click this link and it takes you back to the Appearance page, where you can scroll down to DISABLED THEMES and enable your new theme.

When the new theme is installed you'll get a success message, and also a "No update information available. Run cron or check manually" message. Click "check manually" to check for updates, and to clear the message. Note that you can have a different theme for the administration pages, which is selected on the same page. Figure 5 shows my setup: I have Alina as my site theme, Seven 7.8 as the administration theme, and all the other installed themes disabled.

I could click the Settings link for Alina to tweak the page elements, but for now I'm leaving it alone, because it is time to create some content. Drupal has three categories for content: Book Page, Basic Page, and Article. A book page is a collection of related entries and links that you can assemble from any of your existing content. (In my installation Book Pages were not enabled. Book pages are part of the Drupal core, and are enabled and disabled in the Modules menu.)

The two workhorses are Basic Page and Article. A Basic Page is for static content like About and Contact pages. Articles are time-sensitive material, like news articles and blog posts. I want to create my About page. Enter the Content menu, click Add Content, click Basic Page, and start writing. You have a choice of three text formats: Filtered HTML, Full HTML, and Plain Text. Filtered HTML gives the most control over formatting, so that's what I use. Drupal automatically creates a teaser from the beginning of your text. There are two ways to control this: click Edit Summary to write a custom summary, or enter the <!--break--> tag in the body of your text where you want it to split. Check "Provide a menu link", enter a title and description, and save.


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