All Hail the Power of Drupal

The more I use Drupal, the more projects it becomes the solution for.

Since my first encounter with Drupal, I have realized how easily it could have been used for a variety of projects I have struggled with before. Drupal is powerful enough with its lean core of only 600+ files, but even just a few modules expand its capabilities to new levels. For knowledgeable “Drupalists”, Views and CCK come immediately to mind; two modules that dramatically enhance the content description and view customizability of Drupal. But all that still barely scratches the surface.

An important thing to understand is that Drupal is not simply a content management system (CMS), but rather a content management framework (CMF). It allows the development of customized web sites, tweaking them to behave in CMS-like manner if so desired, or implement an entirely different approach.

All that power comes from one of the most powerful web technology partnerships: PHP/MySQL. You see, Drupal itself is not a programming language or a web page coding language. It simply uses pre-written PHP code chunks to offer a more transparent web development platform, while offering all the benefits of dynamic, data-driven web pages. The open source PHP foundation means that even Drupal itself can be entirely modified.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Right now, I am just happy to use the core and a few add-on modules. However, as I keep researching Drupal development, I start realizing what else it could be used for. I found the Drupal Social Network, which is built entirely upon Drupal. I read with interest about DrupalEd, a version of Drupal built for online education management. While in the past I used Joomla, marveled at the ColdFusion platform of MySpace, and developed courses for Moodle, I now see that any of those applications could have been developed on, (or at least integrated into) Drupal. Drupal’s stability and scalability, combined with customizable (read: reducible) complexity, make the CMF an ideal candidate for an endless list of applications.

I have also written about the excellent Drupal community. Being able to use just one starting point (Drupal.org) to find modules, themes and documentation, makes it less confusing and causes considerably less frustration than what I encountered clicking through ads and finding commercial web sites selling goods for various “other” CMSs.

I do wonder about the whole “The Drop is always moving” philosophy, as I barely installed Drupal 6.X when it came out, and now it seems like 7.X is already on the horizon. I am mainly worried about conent transfer and module upgradeability, but if my previous experiences are any indicators, things should turn out a lot less painless than I probably anticipate.

I follow with interest the conversion of various web sites to Drupal and its movement into government use, as a federal initiative to migrate government software to open source only makes sense in today’s troubled economy. Not that the only advantage of open source is lower cost, of course.

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