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There are many new features in Drupal 7. For many one of the most notable enhancements will be the changes to the Views module. First of all, in Drupal 7 Views requires the Chaos Tools Suite in order to function properly. There are also changes to the process of creating views and to the interface. I have spent a little time working with Views on D7 and I think that the changes are a nice step forward in terms of usability.
As you can see in the image below when you create a new view you are presented with a host of very basic options that allow you to create a basic view very fast. For the example I set it up to display a page that lists links to the Page content type. I have also chosen to create a block along with the page view.
This video tutorial shows you how you can utilize filters to limit the content that is displayed in a view. This includes how to expose a filter so that your site visitors can filter the content as well.
Note: Click the 'full screen' icon (to the right of the volume control) in order to watch online at full 1280x720 resolution.
If you're like most people who build using Drupal you want to build your site around nodes, that have titles, descriptions, tags, comments, etc. It's no surprise since those types of content oriented sites are the ones that make the world of the web go round. But what about another type of site that focuses not on nodes but on data contained in the Drupal database? Can you do it? Yes. Should you do it? Only if that sort of thing excites you or perhaps if a client requests it.
I'll give you a little background on where I'm coming from and what made me decide to play around with Drupal as a way to expose data sets. About a decade ago I was part of a group of people who built a first of its kind application to send and receive data from wholesale power markets in North America. The application was built on three tiers: a client, an application server, and a database server. The client and application server were written in Java and the database relied on Oracle technology. It was about as far away from open source as you could get. The product was successful though and we did hundreds of installs all across North America. What the product basically did for its owners was suck in data from a central server then expose that data to the user via tables and charts visible from the user interface. At some point last year I started wondering if I could do something similar with Drupal. So I started investigating, tried out different modules and realized that I could do even more with a Drupal install than we did with that product.
There are four tasks that need to be accomplished if you want to use Drupal as an effective data platform.
Capture data to the Drupal database tables
Setting the data types (text, numeric, etc.)
Expose the data to the user using tables and charts
Offer simplified download format options
I have been capturing data using the Table Wizard module. Table Wizard allows you to create a database table by uploading a delimited (like tab or comma separated) file. This works pretty well. I recently uploaded a file with over 300,000 records and it was in the database within a few minutes. After you upload your file you click on the table name to "analyze" the table. Table Wizard will let you know what columns you have in the table, the data types and identify the primary key. When you first upload your data you will want to go switch over to your database to change data types of the appropriate ones and identify a primary key. Once you have done that you can come back and re-analyze the table.
Setting the Data Types
This is probably the step that will be the least welcome to those who are not familiar with databases. If you want to do extensive work with data in Drupal then you will want to become familiar enough with phpMyAdmin and MySQL data types to be able to navigate to your database and apply the appropriate settings for each type of data. You should also indicate which field contains the primary key for the table. The primary key is a unique value that identifies each record in a table. If you have a dataset that does not have a column with unique values then consider adding a column unique numeric code in each row. You can name the column something like record_id and then add values like 100001, 100002, 100003 and so on.
Expose the Data Using Tables and Charts
If you have been a good boy or girl and added a single field primary key then the Table Wizard module will let you check a box that is labeled, "Provide default view." This option automatically creates a view that you can expand upon as you see fit. Auto created table wizard views will have the tag "tw" added to them. You can also create a view by navigating to /build/views/add and looking for the radio button in the 'View Type' section that starts with Database table. At this point you need to a thing or two about the Views module to go further. There's not enough space to cover that here so I'm going to skip over the details and point you to the key modules and settings.
The standard views module will let you create a table from your data. You just have to choose a Page display and choose the Table style. You can then choose your fields which will appear as columns within the table. Give the page a Path and perhaps add an Exposed Filter or two to allow users to narrow down the data they are looking at. If you want to get a little fancy you can choose use Views Calc to create tables that include calculations like min, max or average on a set of numeric data.
Charts are a little more tricky but it can be done with the assistance of Charts and Graphs and Views Charts. Charts and Graphs allows you to integrate a number of different free charting solutions (including Google Charts) into your site. View Charts makes those features available as a Style (called "Charts") within the Views interface. The chart gets exposed on a page based on the Path that you define. You can also create a chart within the Block display type. There are other charting modules that exist for Drupal. All of them have some drawbacks but so far the Charts and Graphs/Views Charts combo has worked the best for me.
Offering A Download Option
The ability to download data probably won't be a must have feature for every site. After all someone could probably just copy the table and paste it into their favorite spreadsheet program. It's a nice feature to offer though and you can do it pretty easily with the help of the Views Bonus Pack module. With Views Bonus Pack installed you get the option to add a Feed display within the Views interface. With the Feed display selected you then get the option of setting a Style that includes the option for CSV and other popular formats like TXT, DOC, XLS and XML. You can then attach that display to the Table display and there will be an image that appears at the bottom of the table page that will generate a file download when clicked. Be sure to add the same filters to the CSV display that you have added to the Table display so the downloaded file reflects what the user is seeing with any filters selected.
The usual caveats apply to the ideas and tips that I've offered here. At any time a better module could come along or an existing module could change and alter the process a bit. So tread lightly and do some exploration before you commit to building a data driven site using Drupal. In fact, even though there was a very recent release of Table Wizard the development is being deprecated in favor of the Data module. I'll continue to upload using Table Wizard for now since I think it works well but also plan on giving the Data module a shot in the near future.
As always I'd love to hear your thoughts and tips on modules and workflows in the comments. If you have built or know of a good data access website built using Drupal feel free to share those links as well.
Recently I had to plan the unenviable task of adding terms from a new taxonomy category to dozens of nodes that had previously been created on a site. As I pondered my options (including a temporary Caribbean vacation) I remembered module I had seen pop up on Drupal.org called Views Bulk Operations or VBO for short.
What VBO allows you to do create a view that will apply an action to many nodes at one time. So you must have the Views module installed and it helps to know your way around views a little bit because after installing and enabling VBO you'll need to create a Node view that will allow you to create a list of the nodes that you want to apply actions to.
The view that I created to make the taxonomy updates to the nodes in question had a pair of fields that allowed me to identify the nodes to update. Those fields for Title and Type, as in node type. This was just enough info to know for sure whether or not I wanted to make a change to the node. I added to the view a couple of exposed filters that would allow me to narrow down the list of the nodes by selecting the node type and a string of text from the title. The image below shows you what the finished product looks like.
So with this layout using exposed filters I can then make a couple of choices to filter the list down to the nodes I want to change. Then in the actions to take section I can indicate what I want to do by selecting the appropriate radio button. Then I can select one or more of the vocabularies in order to make that change. In my case I had added a whole new vocabulary with new terms so I chose Add the selected terms and then selected the vocabulary term that I wanted to apply (in this case from the Node Type vocabulary) before selecting the nodes (either one by one or by clicking the box next to Title to select all) then clicking the button (not shown in the image) at the bottom of the page to apply the update. At the end of the process you should see a confirmation that the nodes were updated. At that point you should double check a few of the nodes to make sure the updates were applied as you intended them.
Here's a little more about how I got to the end described above. The image below shows where you would select the style of Bulk Operations which is required for your view to offer you the correct options. Take note that the type of display you're looking for is one of Page. One more important thing to notice is the Access setting. Since this is the kind of function you would only want available to special users make sure you have Access set in a way that limits the ability to get to the page. In my case the user must have the permission to administer content types.
The image below shows the many options for the Bulk Operations style choice. Notice that I chose Modify node taxonomy terms as the only option. I don't know enough about the module yet to choose multiple options at once so I just stuck with the one.
The image below is what the preview looked like before I saved and attempted to use the view for the first time. Take note once again of the three elements.
Exposed filters which allowed me to narrow down the list of nodes
The actions to take which should be consistent with my Bulk Operations settings choices
The fields, Title and Type, which allow me to identify whether or not these are the correct nodes to take action on
Okay, so now you're ready to do some damage (in a good way of course) and make big changes to your nodes in a very short period of time. A final word of caution though. I did all of this on a pre-production site so if I did make a mistake it wouldn't affect site users. If you are trying VBO out for the first time I recommend doing so on a test site so that you can get the hang of what you need to do without having to back out major changes. Of course, if you make the wrong changes using VBO you can always back those changes out....using VBO.
The Nodequeue module is an incredibly useful module that allows you select individual nodes and place them in a list in whatever order you like. This lesson shows you how to create a new nodequeue, add nodes to the queue, arrange the queue and then add the queue to a view.
Note: Click the 'full screen' icon (to the left of the volume control) in order to watch online at full 1280x720 resolution.
This lesson shows how to create an image gallery using CCK with ImageField, Views and ImageCache. CCK is used to create a new "image" content type that contains an upload field for images courtesy of ImageField. ImageCache is used to crop and resize the uploaded images. Views is used to display gallery page and an accompanying RSS Feed.
The premium version of this lesson is encoded at the full 1024x768 resolution as originally recorded.
When people ask me why I would ever use Drupal to build a website instead of other platforms like WordPress or Movable Type I typically have one answer, "CCK and Views." That could be interpreted as two answers but since the modules go hand in hand I'll call it one. I've written about the basics of CCK before so I recommend that you check out that post if you're interested in understanding CCK better. This post is about the Views module.
Views is a module that offers Drupal site developers (you I presume) great flexibility of choices for displaying content. Views provides this flexibility by offering up a graphical user interface (pictured below) that allows you to query the Drupal database for content and choose the format of the content display without having to write SQL queries. I've written plenty of SQL queries in the past for business purposes and if I never write another one I won't be disappointed. If you want a much closer look at the interface I'm speaking of feel free to check out one of my videos that shows you how to do something practical with views.
Views Interface (Drupal 6)
Three Basic Types of Views
There are three basic types of views available in the base module. You can display content as a page, block, or RSS feed. When I say "content" I mean entire Drupal nodes or individual fields. For example, the page at http://learnbythedrop.com/cckandviews is a "view" that lists x number of nodes. When you list the node you get the Title + Body, plus links to comments and any other fields that would display when you are viewing a node. If you choose to display fields instead of nodes, then you can pick and choose individual fields from your nodes to display. For example,. the page at http://learnbythedrop.com/archives displays the Title (linked to the node), (Number of) Views, (Number of) Comments and (Number of) Votes fields.
The one thing that the views mentioned in this paragraph have in common is the fact that they are "page" views. Page views differ from other views because you assign a path (like http://learnbythedrop.com/archives) that displays the view as a page on your site. You can also create your list in a "block" view. When you choose block the content that you add to the view will be available on the block page (at admin/build/block) for configuration and placement just like any other block on the site.
You should put a little bit of thought in to what types of content you display in a block vs. a page. Blocks work well with lists of titles linked to nodes (see the "Recent Drops" and "Comments" blocks in the right sidebar), whereas a page might work best with full nodes or a collection of fields. Lucky for you that the views module has a very handy "live preview" feature that allows you view the results of your query while building your view.
The third type of standard view is the RSS feed view. This view outputs lists of nodes as an RSS feed that people can subscribe to in a feed reader such as Google Reader. If you have set up a page view that has the same content as the RSS feed you have the option to associate the RSS feed with that page and a small orange RSS Icon will appear on the page. See the bottom of the page at http://learnbythedrop.com/gallery for an example of how this looks.
Drupal views also have several standard "style" options which differ depending on the type of view you choose. RSS, for example, is really a style option for your view. But if you choose to set up a page or a block view you have different options as to how the final display will appear. Some examples of style options are unformatted, list, grid and table. If you're creating a page full of nodes then you'll likely choose "unformatted" as your style. But if you're choosing a page with individual fields (like http://learnbythedrop.com/archives) then a "table" style might work best. For blocks that have lists of titles linked to nodes I typically choose the "list" style. Once again, the live preview option is your friend when making these types of decisions.
The "grid" style is an interesting choice if you're displaying just a couple of fields and want to repeat the content across and down the page. I've implemented this style on my view at http://iheartmets.com/metstweets, which shows a grid of recent tweets about the New York Mets.