10 free Drupal modules that make development easier

If you're using Drupal to develop and administer your website, these add-ons can help.

When it comes to open-source content management systems, Drupal really stands apart from Joomla and WordPress, its closest competitors, for several reasons.

The payoff for using Drupal is the development of very tightly configured sites that perform well and scale excellently. This is why many developers are willing to put up with its idiosyncrasies.

However, because it's built around nodes that hold content of various types, working with Drupal is not for the timid. Still, it would be nice if some things were a little less complicated. Enter modules.

Unlike most Joomla modules and plug-ins, Drupal modules are simple in form, and iterative in approach. There are no big, all-inclusive mega-modules in this list. In Drupal, that's what really makes a module a popular favorite: Easing the burden of administering Drupal.

So here are 10 add-ons that I've tried and that you may find useful:

None of these modules is going to win any glamor awards. But in terms of ease of use and making Drupal a better CMS, they're all winners.

Backup and Migrate

Lead developer: Gorton Studios

Version tested: 7.x-2.4

Certified for: Drupal 5/6/7

Price: Free

If there's one thing every website developer needs, no matter what content management system is being used, it's the capability to quickly and easily back up the site so it can be restored or moved.

Why Drupal doesn't have this capacity in its core tools is beyond me. But Backup and Migrate is a module you can add on your own. So add it, already.

It's a pretty uncomplicated module to use. You can either fire off a backup immediately, or set up a scheduled backup at your convenience.

Backup and Migrate
It's not difficult to set up Backup and Migrate to back up your site.

I ran through a test backup and then restored the site on a clean server with a bare Drupal 7 installation; the process ran flawlessly and speedily. This was a marked difference from a similar module on the Joomla CMS I recently looked at, which needed another add-on to perform a restore.

With the scheduling options that are built in, there should be no excuse to ever lose your site.


Sponsors: Phase2 Technology, Development Seed

Version tested: 7.x-3.0-beta4

Certified for: Drupal 6

Price: Free

While many pages on a website are meant to be uniform in how they are displayed, there are some pages that should have their own look and feel. The home page, for instance, nearly always looks different from a standard content page.

In the past, Drupal admins would have to use the different options available within each Drupal theme to set the appearance of a special page. What Context does is enable admins to define contexts for a site and manage how and when these contexts control the look of different parts of the site.

A better way of conceptualizing this might be thinking of a context as a "section" of your site, which is how the project maintainers describe it. For each context, you can choose the conditions that trigger this context to be active and choose different aspects of Drupal that should react to this active context.

Setting up a context in the Context module is not exactly something that leaps out at you. Once you get the hang of it, though, the usefulness of this module becomes clear.

Context enables admins to define contexts for a site to control the look of different parts of the site.

I like this module for what it brings: A powerful way to set page appearance without going deep into Drupal's theme-management tools.

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