Drupal: Content Management Made Easy - Modules
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With over 5,000 modules, Drupal attracts many users simply due to its extensibility. The majority of modules are contributed by Drupal users, and people who find modules useful are encouraged to actively participate in improving and refining them in order to further develop the system. The dedicated user community that has resulted from this process is one of Drupal's key strengths, and is probably as significant in the growth of the system as its underlying quality. A Module is available for almost any conceivable task or enhancement, making Drupal one of the most powerful and flexible content management systems available. In addition, if a module is required that doesn't exist, the size and commitment of the user base means that it can often be developed at relatively low cost.
Modules fall mainly into such categories as content handling, display and system administration, and provide functionality ranging from the simple to the highly complex. At the simpler end of the scale are modules that perform single tasks, such as removing the accents from words to improve search results or sending short system messages to users. This kind of compact and straightforward plug-in capability is welcome, but it is with the more complex modules that the system really shines. These allow the addition of sophisticated enhancements such as drop-down menus, commercial advertising, shopping cart integration and compatibility with a wide range of third-party applications.
The most popular modules tend to be those that provide commercial functions and user interactivity, although with so many modules available it's difficult to generalize. Other popular areas include theming, presentation and media handling. The most popular modules include:
The Drupal e-Commerce module is a fully-featured online sales solution. Its many features include a shopping cart, tax and discount handling, inventory management, invoicing, and plugins to handle payments and shipping. The e-Commerce module is so widely used that many additional modules have been developed specifically to integrate with it, including a large number of payment methods, automatic payment handling, and statistical analysis tools. Drupal E-Commerce is not the only online sales module. One widely-used alternative is Ubercart, which again has a whole system of additional modules built around it.
The Voting API module is designed to enhance interactivity by enabling content rating and other forms of voting. It provides tools that analyze, sort, tabulate and present the results of any voting exercise. Voting API isn't a user-facing module; it provides the back end functionality required to supply standardized voting data to other modules. An alternative popular voting module is Five Star.
The OrganicGroups module also enhances interactivity, being designed to provide a mechanism for users to create and manage their own groups. Each group has its own home page where group members can communicate with each other and exchange information. Groups can be invitation-only, selective - where new applications for membership must be approved - or open to all.
One of the most effective ways to keep a web site's visitors in touch with news and developments is through email newsletters. The Simplenews module publishes and distributes such newsletters, to both registered and anonymous users. Multilingual text is supported, and HTML email can also be supported through the addition of the Mime Mail Module. A number of supplementary modules are available to increase the functionality of Simplenews, including Templates, Roles, Digest and Scheduler.
The Case Tracker module is an issue tracking system similar to those used in many call centers and help desks. It enables support teams to track outstanding cases, report solutions and issue progress notifications. The module makes use of regular Drupal comments and can be integrated with other modules such as Views, Mailhandler, CCK and Organic Groups.
More information about Drupal can be obtained from drupal.org. The site includes information about the full range of Drupal modules.
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