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Five Quick and Easy Tips to Get the Most out of Drupal

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Drupal, especially once you consider the many contributed modules available for it, is a vast system of open source software, and as with most such software, there are a lot of little things you can do to make sure you get the most out of what it has to offer. In this post, I'm going to go over a few such things and touch on how to make Drupal's admin interface more useful while also finding ways to improve site performance and stability.


Tip #1: Clean up your content forms with Field Group

It can be pretty easy to end up with a content type (or another type of entity) that has a whole lot of settings on it, and even if you organize the fields into a logical order, it can make the content forms a bit difficult to navigate. On most any somewhat content-heavy site, Field Group is one of the first modules we install. It allows you to group fields together in various ways, such as with a tabbed interface or collapsible fieldsets, and with it, you can have your forms better organized in no time. Your content editors will thank you.

Tip #2: Have a cup of Coffee (and Admin Toolbar) 

screenshot of drupals dropdown menu for clearing caches

When it comes to making it easy to find what you're looking for in Drupal's admin UI, few modules compare to Coffee and Admin Toolbar (including its Extra Tools submodule).

Coffee adds a "Go to" button to the admin bar which, when clicked, opens up a search bar similar to the Spotlight Search on a Mac. Then you can just start typing to find whatever admin page you might be looking for. For those of you who prefer using the keyboard over the mouse, there's also a keyboard shortcut to open the search.

The Admin Toolbar module modifies Drupal's existing toolbar to use a series of dropdown menus, making it easy to find the right page without needing go click through a bunch of screens to get to it, and it also adds some quick links to do common development tasks such as flushing caches and running cron.

Since Coffee and Admin Toolbar both are designed to make it easier to get where you want to go in Drupal, you may only need one of them, but it's worth giving both a try to see what makes your workflow fastest. 

Tip #3: Send emails your users can trust

Many sites have to send out emails of some sort – whether it's just for simple password resets or a more critical part of a site's functionality. Drupal can send emails on its own easily enough, but unfortunately, (especially if your site is on a shared hosting environment), there's a decent chance that the email may be automatically get marked as spam. There's an easy fix for this: First, you set up an account with an email delivery service such as Sendgrid or MailGun, then you add the SMTP Authentication Support module to your Drupal and configure it with the credentials provided by that mail service. And ta-da – now your site's emails are all delivered by a trusted service. No more ending up in the spam folder!

Tip #4: Limit the size of your images

Large images can take a long time for your site's visitors to load, especially if they're on a slower network. If they're too large, this can result in your visitors seeing blank space while the image is still downloading. To avoid this, ideally, images should be exactly as large as they need to be, and no larger. There are several great ways to accomplish this without needing to load up Photoshop for every image.

First, before even uploading your image to Drupal, use a tool such as Compressor.io to compress your image. This step is especially important for most JPEG images and photographs.

Within Drupal itself, there are a couple of possibilities available to you. If you are uploading your images to the image field of nodes, you can set restrictions on the field itself, such as maximum dimensions for the uploaded file (and Drupal can even resize the image to fit if you upload one that is too large). You should also set an appropriate image style for the image wherever you use it, which can include things like automatic cropping and centering.

Tip #5: Update often

New versions of Drupal and its many contributed modules are being released all the time, often bringing with them stability improvements as well as brand-new features. For Drupal Core and most contrib modules, each individual update is easy to apply (especially if you use Composer), but the further out of date your site is the trickier updating it can be, so keeping on top of updates means that updating stays simple. 

One other critical reason to keep up to date is that once in a while there are security updates necessary for Drupal, and if you're already on the latest version applying the security update is a fast and painless process. You don't want to end up delaying security fixes to the site because of difficulties in upgrading several versions at once. If you have a drupal.org account, it's worthwhile to go to your user account page and subscribe to their security notifications email newsletter so that you get alerted as soon as these important updates are released.


Jay Kerschner

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