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Drupal Module Spotlight: Straw

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It is essential that content be well-categorized, especially on large websites. Drupal includes the Taxonomy module for doing just this, and it is able to account for most content tagging scenarios. However, when you actually go to categorize content, it can be a bit confusing.

Drupal offers a helpful autocomplete, but this doesn't always work as well as you might hope if you have a taxonomy tree which includes nested terms (for instance, "Cats" as a subtopic of "Pets"). In fact, the autocomplete doesn't show the hierarchy of these terms at all, which can get confusing if you have multiple terms with the same (or similar) names which are children of different terms. And although Drupal allows you to create new terms right from the content editing page, doing so always causes it to create the new term at the topmost level of the taxonomy, which often isn't where you actually want it.

What is Straw?

Enter Straw - the Super Term Reference Autocomplete Widget. We built Straw when we were working with a multilevel taxonomy and found that Drupal's default widgets just weren't cutting it. Now, we've made Straw available as a module for anyone else who might find themselves in a similar situation. Straw does two main things which make working with these taxonomies a breeze.

Find Matching Content Tags

First, both when displaying a selected term on the edit page and when searching to find matching tags based on what the editor is typing, the Straw widget shows the entire hierarchy of terms. That means that instead of simply showing "Cats", it will show "Pets >> Cats", and if you start typing "Pets" it will show both "Pets" and "Pets >> Cats", rather than only showing "Pets" like Drupal's default autocomplete would. This makes it much easier to see which exact term is being matched, and also makes it easier to find sub-terms if you don't quite remember their names.

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Create New Terms

Straw makes it a breeze to create new terms on the fly. Say you're writing a new article for your site about a particular breed of dog, but so far your taxonomy only has terms related to cats. Without Straw, you could type in "Beagles" and it would create a new term of that name, but then you'd have to go to your taxonomy tree and create a "Dogs" term beneath the "Pets" term and then move "Beagles" into it. With Straw, this is much simpler… you just type in "Pets >> Dogs >> Beagles", and it creates all the necessary terms and puts them in the right place in the taxonomy relative to each other.

With Straw, tagging your content can be easier than ever before. It's easy to install (with only a little bit of configuration required) and then you'll be able to see right away how much of a difference it makes.

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Jay Kerschner

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