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54 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book that covers more than just "theming"
To properly orient this review, I should start off by saying that I know Drupal theming pretty well, so my take on things may be a bit different from someone who is totally new to theming. I've also taught a lot of folks though, on every part of the learning curve, so I can appreciate what it means to get some of this stuff to click for people. The book tells you at the...
Published on April 30, 2009 by Addison Berry

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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed Feelings
Having never developed a Drupal theme (but being proficient in HTML/CSS/jquery), I found this a rather hard book to follow. It felt like the book really wanted to be a book about front-end drupal, but ends up spending quite a lot of time talking about abstract framework concepts, back-end features, and configurations (I recognize these are part of creating a user...
Published on May 21, 2009 by T. Stone


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54 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book that covers more than just "theming", April 30, 2009
This review is from: Front End Drupal: Designing, Theming, Scripting (Paperback)
To properly orient this review, I should start off by saying that I know Drupal theming pretty well, so my take on things may be a bit different from someone who is totally new to theming. I've also taught a lot of folks though, on every part of the learning curve, so I can appreciate what it means to get some of this stuff to click for people. The book tells you at the start that you shouldn't be a total Drupal newbie. This book is about getting Drupal to look the way you want, but it expects you to bring some basic skills to the table. Now, that said, the first few chapters do take the time to get you oriented with Drupal; so if you are rusty, you get a refresher, and if you are cheeky and like to scoff at "prerequisites," you at least get a toe-hold of the basics before being whisked into the heart of it all. So, off we go.

As I started into it, the first thing that I noticed was that this really is not about "just" code. I was expecting to get dumped right into some hacking and instead, you are given some good groundwork first. While the first two chapters would be the stuff I'd normally skip, I'd advise reading them, especially if you are new to Drupal or dynamic web sites in general. If you are a know-it-all, then I suggest you at least skim the headings and make sure you actually know what you think you know. The first chapter covers a lot of the basics of WTH are you even doing when making a website. These are generally good things to think about and go through even if you aren't theming. Stuff like, what kind of content are you really going to need, how do things need to be listed, who will be using it and how? The chapter walks you through the questions and talks about them from a Drupal perspective. You really should think about your site before you dive in willy-nilly. After you get your head into the proper space about what you are building, chapter 2 covers tools. This covers the gamut from a CCK and Views refresher, to cron and using version control. Basically, it is packed with a really complete checklist and you'll save yourself time and frustration if you take some time to go through this chapter and get yourself comfy.

Chapter 3 is where you start to learn about Drupal themes themselves. After a bit about how to install and configure existing themes, you get to make your first theme. It walks you through multiple ways to get started; using a contributed theme, making a theme from scratch, upgrading a theme from Drupal 5 to Drupal 6, or even how to convert a theme from Wordpress or Joomla!. I was surprised to find some of this more "advanced" stuff like upgrading or converting so early in the book. I would have expected it to be in the appendix instead, especially since some of the things it refers to haven't really been covered yet, or are really not likely. Not many people start with theming by upgrading a theme from 5 to 6, but they definitely would want a handy reference for it later if they need it. On the other hand, I can see that covering how to move from another system would be a more comfortable way for some people to start off. One thing that would be nice for those sections is to provide more detailed references right there (e.g. a link to the [...] theme upgrade or variables docs). That way folks can come back to that chapter later and use it as a more one-stop shop for that kind of work later.

Once you have the basics down, the next few chapters take you into the major building blocks of themes by looking at the overall page (and things like blocks, taxonomy, search, etc.), as well as getting into content (nodes, CCK and Views). This is the nitty-gritty of what all these template files are for and how to crack them open and get them doing what you want. Sprinkled in here is a section on getting images into your content. It doesn't really do the full pointy-clicky work, but it does point you off to the various techniques to look at, like Image vs Imagefield.

Related to content, but in a whole chapter of its own (rightly so), is a really nice guide to working with Drupal forms. Output is great, but what about those pesky input forms that are the workhorse of administering your site? Again, this chapter has solid code examples and explanations, along with more module discussion about things like WYSIWYG editors. From there the book goes on to cover other important things like users and profiles, with a bit about controlling various things in this realm with regards to things like permissions and spam. The admin interface chapter is very module heavy and looks largely to modules that can make your admin's life a little easier, with some theme tweaking thrown in for good measure. Definitely a very pointy-clicky chapter more than codey.

With all of the aspects of your site humming along nicely, the rest of book takes you into the wonderful world of JavaScript and the Drupal flavor, jQuery. These chapters leave the pointy-clicky behind entirely. Here you will plunge into an overview of JavaScript and then on into fun things you can do with jQuery, from hiding and showing elements on a page to playing with AJAX. It is an intense few chapters packed with lots of info. You can also grab sample code from the book website, [...], to play around with to help get a feel for it.

Ok, so long review already, but there is definitely a lot of stuff in here. I expected a "theming" book and got more than I bargained for. At times some of the things that had more to do with modules and configuration would surprise me, but then again, the front end of a website is more than just the theme, it is all of the pieces that play a part in both look and feel. So, while I found it surprising, I don't think it is off-base and honestly for people who are new to Drupal this is a freaking gem. Don't think that this is only for newbs though, not at all. This is a serious book, made for grownups, and it expects you to be able to extrapolate from examples and make use of the references you've been given. To my mind that is the only way to really learn this stuff. The chapters give context, some conceptual framework, and points to the standard references, but then it dives straight in to real examples, and they aren't namby-pamby. Some examples are definitely doing some interesting stuff, but the great thing is that each part is explained step-by-step. This gives newbies some hand-holding while allowing more advanced folks to just get down to it and see what they can really do beyond the basics. Overall, a great book, jam-packed with lots of learning. Congrats to Emma and Konstantin for producing another great book in the Drupal library.
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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed Feelings, May 21, 2009
This review is from: Front End Drupal: Designing, Theming, Scripting (Paperback)
Having never developed a Drupal theme (but being proficient in HTML/CSS/jquery), I found this a rather hard book to follow. It felt like the book really wanted to be a book about front-end drupal, but ends up spending quite a lot of time talking about abstract framework concepts, back-end features, and configurations (I recognize these are part of creating a user experience, but why the book choose to start with them is beyond me).

Chapter 3, the actual chapter on drupal themes was even more bizarre. There was perhaps maybe five paragraphs on making a theme. The rest is dedicated to talking about other subjects like converting themes from other CMS's and previous versions of drupal and whatnot.

The book feels more like "A Guide to Drupal 6 For People Who've Used Drupal 5 With the Stock Settings and Want To Know How To Customize It" than "Front-End Drupal".

I was hoping for a book that was more along the lines of "JQuery In Action" -- a book that is both readable and reference, and a book that is logically laid out from basic to complex.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Becoming a Pro Drupal web designer, April 18, 2009
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This review is from: Front End Drupal: Designing, Theming, Scripting (Paperback)
This book is what Drupal books ought to be, and uses the same method as other great Drupal books. I could say it takes Drupal's presentation layer apart and puts it back together again, but that would be insufficient. What it does is take the Drupal presentation layer apart in gradual stages... and has you put it back together again. It reveals the seven veils of the mystery through actual practice, and puts you in control with the tools you really need to be effective at every juncture.

And the book deals thoroughly with the domain it purports to cover, and doesn't get sidetracked. The spotlight is on web design, but it is brutally honest about what you really need to get the most out of Drupal. As a result there are incursions into other areas the professional web designer really needs to deal with. There is even an example Drupal PHP module, but the book is careful to explain that it is not a book on building modules for Drupal, and recommends the books that are for the benefit of the reader.

For example, in Chapter 1, the book dissects the Drupal presentation layer starting with its high-level business objects: the page itself and the content, and their parts, on the one hand, the concept of lists of content, page design and layout, the forms of interaction with a web page and how to guide the user to the successful completion of their tasks, where the page lives in terms of code (XHTML, CSS, browser and server based scripting languages, and a special mention of Javascript. And finally the question of the workflows you will be dealing with on a day to day basis in the course of web design work: other designers, programmers, clients, and of course the site visitors themselves.

In successive chapters, the book offers an ever more detailed and rich path towards becoming a professional. You sit in the driver's seat and find out what it feels like. First of all, a thorough tooling up with all the tools themers really need, like Firebug and where to find language references, an introduction to Drupal terminology, but not just the terminology: it is a knowledge transfer process of all the parts that make Drupal what it is, and how to use them, complete with a short list of must have modules and why. It even goes into a howto on setting up scheduled tasks with cron.

Drupal themes themselves are treated thoroughly, what they are, how they work, how to use them, how to migrate themes from WordPress and Joomla!, and even from Drupal 5.x to Drupal 6.x.

Then the book delves deeper and deeper, so that the reader user gets into the nitty gritty of semantic data presentation and layout through page templates and node content templates, and how this relates to the styling of each element with CSS, including the thorny question of dealing with images.

Front End Drupal deals with something you will be hard put to find in one place anywhere else: the question of how to deal gracefully with Drupal forms. Some amazing stuff for everyone to learn here, from styling to enormous usability enhancements you can drop into your own work. I would say just this section alone is worth the price of the whole book.

And finally, javascript in general and jQuery in particular: I was impressed with how useful that part of the book is. For example, a whole jQuery based Javascript component (a horizontal scroller) is developed step by step, a truly fascinating guide. A good, meaty awareness building concrete real-world example that is a four-lane highway, which, although it doesn't go everywhere, practically saves you the price of a separate book on that subject.

And of course you are equipped on how to fit in ready made jQuery plugins onto the look and feel of a site you are designing also.

I can't say enough good things about this book. It reflects the knowledge and long-time experience of two hard-working and generous professionals. If you are only going to buy two or three Drupal books, make sure this one is always handy while you are working.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Useful book, but not focused on theming, November 11, 2009
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This review is from: Front End Drupal: Designing, Theming, Scripting (Paperback)
The reason I gave this book three stars is because, while I have found value in this book, it is generally unfocused and its overall goals unclear. I assumed that by using the phrase "Front End Drupal" in the title, the authors meant that the book was about altering themes. I was disappointed to find that that is not the case. The book has security information, design information, a discussion of the Document Object Model, javascript, jquery, etc.

While there is information on starter themes that are meant to be customized, there's not a lot about how to customize them. I was better off watching online videos for that. Throughout the book there are little tidbits about how to set up the .php files when altering a theme, but they are hard to find. Mostly, this book seems like a conglomeration of information about Drupal, none of it covered in much detail.

For instance, there is a section on how to incorporate anti-spam tools along with a list of modules that might be good for this. There's no real advice on implementing the modules, or why one module might be better than another. This is the way the theming section is as well. The authors focus on the Zen theme, which is fine, but there's no clear advice on why the Zen theme as opposed to other popular themes.

If you are looking for a good starter book that clearly discusses altering themes, try Using Drupal instead.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Drupal 6, not 7, October 9, 2012
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Drupal 7 is mentioned twice which is why it came up in a search for "Drupal 7", but it is a Drupal 6 book which I unfortunately found out after buying the Kindle version. It would be nice if the description mentioned which version it was for.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great for Technical Developers, May 27, 2009
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Susan R (San Diego, CA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Front End Drupal: Designing, Theming, Scripting (Paperback)
As a Drupal web design firm, we found this book an excellent resource for theming a Drupal website. However, it is not for beginners and assumes that the reader knows core Drupal modules and has a good working knowledge of PHP. That said, we're finding this book a good value with useful, indepth information. For those who may be a Drupal novice, O'Reilly Media's first Drupal book, Using Drupal, may be more accessible.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Confused and confusing, March 7, 2010
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This review is from: Front End Drupal: Designing, Theming, Scripting (Paperback)
I found this book disappointing. It seems to be a hodge-podge of information without a clear sense of purpose or direction. I wanted a book that would really explain theming, but the approach here is haphazard. The book does contain a lot of useful information, but I did not find it worked well either as a tutorial or a reference.

The book is also inconsistent in its expectation of the technical skills of its audience. Chapters 9 and 10 supposedly introduce Javascript and jQuery for those unfamiliar with them, but I sincerely doubt anyone could learn these tools from those chapters, which use quite advanced approaches while barely covering the basics. Chapter 11 is a lengthy example of developing a widget in jQuery, but the part of greatest interest to me, which is how to integrate jQuery with Drupal, is not really dealt with. The widget, a horizontal image scroller, simply has the image filenames hardcoded, rather than any mechanism for users with appropriate permissions to add or upload the images! "Pro Drupal Development" by VanDyk, does a much better job of explaining jQuery integration.

This book does include a lot of information I found useful as a beginner--for example, some debugging suggestions, how to theme your front page differently from other pages, and many other random tidbits. In terms of my goal of learning about theming, I did better at Lynda.com, and I found other Drupal books easier to follow and more methodical in explaining Drupal's system of overrides.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good on theory, week in code, July 24, 2011
This review is from: Front End Drupal: Designing, Theming, Scripting (Paperback)
I read this book after the excellent "Using Drupal" by Angela Byron et al, which is the first book to read if you want to learn Drupal, and contains a chapter about basic theming. I bought "Front End Drupal" because I wanted an introduction into scripting and advanced theming.

As long as things remain on the theory, this book is excellent. Then when you get into the examples of php code the level of explanations drops completely. You are given snippets of code with a vague comment saying "this does so and so", but no explanation of the Drupal functions or variables they contain, and how they contribute towards reaching that effect. Looking to the index, some parts are explained later, some not at all, so you are once again reduced to googling Drupal sites, mostly written by Drupal developers for other Drupal developers. This is very frustrating, and has the opposite effect from what you expect from a well-written technical book: instead of making you feel smart because you understand what you are reading, you feel stupid because there's so much that remains obscure.

What I understand is that this book has two authors, one with the technical know-how and the other with teaching skills. The problem in my opinion is that second person understood the theory around Drupal but didn't go into the php code, so instead of explaining how the examples work, challenging them and when necessary, getting the technical person to make them simpler, they were just left as the developer wrote them. An example: page 114, the example uses the Drupal l() function, not explained. Looking to the index, there is a brief explanation later on that lets you guess what the first 2 parameters are for. The third parameter is not explained anywhere. In fact the point of the example could have been preserved if it had been simplified to remove the third parameter, by creating a text link rather than an image.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It was ok, not what I expected, November 13, 2009
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This review is from: Front End Drupal: Designing, Theming, Scripting (Paperback)
I expected a more in depth look into modules, hooks, theme override functions etc. The book is ok for beginners but leaves a lot of information unaddressed. I recommend Pro Drupal Development Second Edition which is the book I purchased after growing frustrated with this one
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5.0 out of 5 stars One stop shopping for creating "curb appeal" in Drupal, September 24, 2011
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This review is from: Front End Drupal: Designing, Theming, Scripting (Paperback)
Looking at websites is a lot like shopping for houses (ok, metaphors might not be my forte, but just go with it! You get one chance to make a good impression and "curb appeal" is the difference between those that "drive up" actually going into your website, or just moving along to check out that cute little 3 bed, 2 bath Wordpress site on the corner.

This book should be the first place you go for learning how to make Drupal look good. Drupal is not known for runway-quality model beauty when first installed (damn, I seem to have switch metaphors). But regardless of your experience level, Emma Jane will teach you how to turn your site in a Monet- and one that doesn't just involve sad-looking haystacks. Third type of metaphor, for those keeping score at home. I'm a Drupal developer, not an English major. But Emma seems to be both- with a skilled teacher thrown into the mix.

Get this book. Create gorgeous Drupal websites. Profit. It's just that easy.
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Front End Drupal: Designing, Theming, Scripting
Front End Drupal: Designing, Theming, Scripting by Emma Jane Hogbin (Paperback - April 15, 2009)
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