This, I think, is the greatest difference between us and the Dutch.
December 6, 2011 6:32 PM   Subscribe

Free online Drupal resources for beginners.

I am curious about learning Drupal as a hobby. My scripting background is in scientific computation and statistics, so although I am familiar with programming concepts, I've never had anything to do with web development.

The mid-range plan is to buy a copy of what appears to be the Drupal 7 Bible and gradually work through it. But it's the end of the year now and I have lots of other obligations, so those intense study plans have to wait a little.

In the meantime, what free resources for learning Drupal exist online? What is the GalaXQL of Drupal?
posted by Nomyte to Technology (9 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

Drupal is not a monolith. It's a group project in which most of the participants would rather code than document. Download, install, investigate.

I'd rather start with a copy of Pro Drupal Development, if only because I recognize the authors' names as contributors. BUT I'm not all that plugged in so the authors of the book you link may be major contributors as well.

I've been Drupaling for many years and aside from (forum and IRC), I don't know of any definitive free online source. is often cited, and it's run/populated by some of the biggest contributors to the core code, some of whom I greatly respect, so it might be a good place to get a leg up.
posted by bricoleur at 7:26 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you haven't used Drupal at all, I'd suggest starting at DrupalGardens, where you can watch introductory videos and play with a Drupal instance fully fleshed out with tons of common, useful modules not included in the core.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 7:36 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

What are your goals? Code development? Site building?
posted by melissam at 7:48 PM on December 6, 2011

Response by poster: What are your goals?

The initial goal is to take over minor administrative duties from the graduate student who put our research site together.

Longer-term goals are open-ended. I suspect learning back-end coding would require a bigger skillset than just Drupal alone, though.
posted by Nomyte at 7:58 PM on December 6, 2011

I would install WAMP/MAMP/XAMP on your local computer so you can play with it if you haven't already. If it's not disallowed for security purposes, I'd try to put a local copy of the research site on this. To do this, you are going to have to learn basic stuff (if you don't know already) that's pretty useful like MYSQL dumps and how to migrate a site. That's how I got started in Drupal. I mainly used Google to figure things out. I also attended local free Drupal meetups and Drupal Camps.

Within 6 months I was good enough to get hired to do Drupal full-time. The books I owned were of limited use to me except as reference, but maybe books just aren't my learning style.
posted by melissam at 8:07 PM on December 6, 2011

Absolutely seconding the book Pro Drupal Development.

In the past I've always taught myself (x)(d)html, css, various other interface-level skills, image optimization, Painter/Photoshop/Illustrator/InDesign and Wordpress by installing associated software and then working through real life projects using those tools or technologies.

I lost *weeks* trying to do the same with Drupal when I took on a contract project for a custom site redesign that uses it. It's not just that the online documentation is often scarce, outdated or incomplete, it's that Drupal uses all kinds of naming conventions that Drupal developers neglect to explain or expand upon when documenting their CMS. It wasn't until I gave in and bought Pro Drupal Development (I bought a few other Drupal books but they were too surface-level cook-booky for my needs) that everything started to click.
posted by stagewhisper at 9:42 PM on December 6, 2011

I'd never heard of GalaXQL, but taking a look, I don't think there is an equivalent, or ever will be.

I 2nd drupalgardens. It will help you more quickly connect cause to effect while futzing around with various configurations, and pick up basic Drupal jargon. You'll outgrow it quickly, and want to move on to your own install, or dig into whichever book you choose , but it's a nice easy start.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 11:47 PM on December 6, 2011

That really doesn't answer the question gchucky. It really depends on what the site's needs are whether you move to Wordpress instead of Drupal. I work with both. The large open source foundation and high tech companies I partner with use Drupal, its strengths fit their specific needs much better than Wordpress does. For smaller, simpler, or less specialized sites (and my own site) I use Wordpress.

The learning curve and lack of documentation means Drupal is far less user-friendly for designers (or designers/ custom themers like myself) and requires more initial investment in learning how the platform works, so I'm actually surprised that it's even the third-most used in the top million sites. The fact its usage increases significantly as the charts are narrowed down to the top 10,000 sites means that a lot of very successful sites have determined it's their best choice. Personally I have no preference either way, I bill the same hourly rate for both. ;)
posted by stagewhisper at 11:35 AM on December 7, 2011

There is no definitive place for Drupal information (not even, although there's lots of good stuff there). It's spread all over the web on a million different sites, and it's mostly free.

That said, the best Drupal instruction I've found isn't free; it's a Really amazing tutorials (and I usually hate video tutorials) that are well worth the money. I took a full-day class at Drupalcon a few years back on basic site-building, and it was nowhere near as complete as the tutorials were.

Once you get the basics, there really should be no need for books or additional training. I'm building several Drupal sites right now, and whenever I have a question, I've been able to find the answer with a little googling.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:33 PM on December 7, 2011

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