Drupal 7 Admin Tour Tutorial

Drupal 7 tutorial: Admin Tour

Administrative tour

Content management systems have two sides: the front-end that the world sees, and the back-end administration side. The back-end, often called an admin for short, is where you add content, configure your site, manage users, and do numerous other management tasks. The administrative interface for Drupal 7 got a pretty significant face-lift to make it more user-friendly. I think the usability team did a great job. In this tutorial, we will go through a quick tutorial of Drupal's admin. We are going to move pretty quickly, and just do an overview. Much of the rest of this course, though, will be digging deeper into the admin specifics. Let's start our tour.

Logging In

Here we are on a freshly installed Drupal site. Now because we've just finished our installation, we’re already logged in. You can tell you're logged in because of these toolbars that are up at the top of our page. What I want to do next is log out so we can see what the login process is like. To log out, I simply click this button here. Now, of course, we see our toolbars go away. There is now a login box that's over on the sidebar. This sidebar box is there by default but it can be removed in different websites. So if you ever come to a website that you want to login to and you don't see this, you can go to that url with '/user' at the end. This will redirect you to the login page. This login page can be removed also, but most of the time it is there allowing you to login. Use the sidebar block and login by putting in your username and password, and click login. 


Now that we're logged back in, our administrative bars show up again. This top black one is called the Toolbar. It gives us access to all of Drupal's administration pages. This grey one is called the shortcut bar. It's really designed for quick links to commonly used tasks. So let's go ahead and start working through our toolbar, starting from the left to the right.


This far left button is called the 'Home' button, and it simply just takes us back to home. It actually does the same thing that clicking on the icon, this title, or this tab does, but realize that all three of these are part of the theme, and aren't necessarily going to be there depending on how your site's going to be designed. So we always have this that can take us back home.


This next button launches our administrative dashboard. Now the first thing you might notice is the page pulled up in an overlay on top of our main website. This is new to Drupal 7, and gives us more of a web 2.0-style workflow. The majority of admin pages will pop-up in this overlay. To close this overlay, we simply click on this 'x' and now we're back to our website. But let's go ahead and launch our dashboard again. The dashboard gives you a quick view of important site data. It is effectively your executive site summary. You can even customize the dashboard. You do that by clicking this link. Here you are given access to additional blocks you can add. So let's say, for example, that you are a community manager, and you need to check on all the comments that are coming through.

So you might want to drag this 'Recent Comments' block. Simply click 'Done,' and now it's added. This is a new website, so we don't see any comments, but if there were they would appear here. You can also easily remove things. Let's say for example, 'Who's New' isn't important. So you can just drag that here. Click 'Done,' and now it's gone. While there's only a few blocks right now, you actually can add many different ones of these as you start to build your website.


Our next toolbar menu is 'Content.' This is where you can go to add and edit the content on your website. The main page provides a list of pages, or what Drupal calls 'nodes.' You'll also notice that you have this sub-tab over here that allows you to switch back and forth between editing a list of nodes, which is under 'Content,' or editing a list of comments. This is the area that knowledge workers tend to spend a lot of their time. Our next item is 'Structure.' This is where we can set where and how content is laid out on our website. We can do things like move blocks around a page, control navigation, and organize data. Site builders spend a lot of their time in this section.


Structure does not control the overall visual design of our site, though. This is done underneath 'Appearance.' Drupal controls the look of a website, which includes things like colors, fonts, and graphics, by using themes. 'Appearance' is where we can go ahead and install new themes, and even go in and do various different configuration settings on themes.


'People' is where we manage users and user permissions. The first tab provides us with a list of users so that we can do administrative tasks such as changing passwords or emails, or even banning people from the site. The 'Permissions' tab gives us access to Drupal's highly flexible roles-based permission system. We can create new roles, and then we can go and define which permissions we want to go along with these new roles.


'Modules' are where we can manage the functional add-ons for Drupal. Drupal's a highly flexible system, built on the modular concept. From this page, we can enable or disable any modules we've installed in our system. We can even go and download new modules, selecting from any of the thousands that our available on drupal.org. The configurations section is where you go to input settings for various functional components of Drupal. It's sort of a catch-all for all configuration settings that don't fit into the other menu options. As you add modules to Drupal, many of them will add configuration pages to this section.


This next button provides access to various different reports that Drupal produces. The one that is most commonly used is the 'recent logged' messages, which a listing of important events that happen on our website.


The last button is 'Help.' This is pretty self-explanatory. It just provides help for Drupal's various functions.

Shortcut Bar

Now that we've covered the items on the toolbar, let's go ahead and take a look at the shortcut bar. The shortcut bar does not give us any new administrative pages, it just provides us with an easy way to link to already existing functionality. So, for example, the 'Find Content' link is the same link under the toolbar of just 'Content.' 'Add Content' is the same as going to 'Content' on the toolbar, and then clicking this link. The great thing about the shortcut bar is we can customize it. We can even create multiple link groups, and assign them to different people with various different roles. For example, copyrighters could have one set of shortcuts, and site admins could have a different set.

Editing Shortcuts

Let's take a look at how we can edit our shortcuts. For example, let's say you're a community manager, and you need to regularly review user comments. We simply want to navigate to the page that we want to add our shortcut. So we go Content > Comments, then we roll over the title here, and we click on this '+' sign. There, it's added our comment to our shortcut. So now we can access all three shortcuts easily. If we want to remove one, we simply click the 'minus,' we confirm that we want to delete it, and now it's gone.

Contextual Menus

So let's take a look at another very useful admin interface element called 'Contextual Menus.' As you navigate around your Drupal site, there are various different blocks and menus and pieces of content. Many of them, when you roll over, you're going to get this gear icon that lets you know that there's actually some tools you can use underneath it. So, for example, if I go down to this navigation menu, I can click here and go to list links, and now I can edit the links in my navigation menu. So this is just another way of accessing our administrative pages, but it puts it in context wherever you find things on the website.


Now we've reviewed the major components of the admin interface, but what can we actually do with this? Let's take an example, and look at a simple admin task: changing the name of our website. To do that, we'd go to 'Configuration,' and underneath here we go to 'Site Information.' Now we get a box on this page that allows us to type in our new title. So just put in "Acme Widgets," and then we scroll down and click save. I exit out, and now we see the title of our website is changed. And this is just a simple example of different types of things that you do through the admin.


The Drupal 7 admin interface is a significant improvement from previous versions. It does a remarkable job of appearing simple, yet still providing access to Drupal's unparalleled flexibility. Not an easy task. One word of caution I should give, though, is that we reviewed the admin with just Drupal core installed. As we add modules to our site, the admin options will grow, although the interface will generally still work the same. I hope this has been an enlightening look at Drupal's backend. I invite you to watch the rest of the Getting Started with Drupal Course as we dig deeper to see what Drupal can do.