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Creating a flexible layout with blocks

From: Drupal 6 Essential Training

Video: Creating a flexible layout with blocks

One way that you can change the look and function of your Drupal site without changing the theme is to use a feature called Blocks. Blocks let you put text or graphics, or even dynamic content at various points in the pages. For example in the left column, right column, top, or bottom. To use Blocks, first go to Administer and then Blocks. Here you have a list of various blocks, including those that are built into Drupal and are turned on by default. In this case, in the Left sidebar we see the User login and the Navigation Bar.

Creating a flexible layout with blocks

One way that you can change the look and function of your Drupal site without changing the theme is to use a feature called Blocks. Blocks let you put text or graphics, or even dynamic content at various points in the pages. For example in the left column, right column, top, or bottom. To use Blocks, first go to Administer and then Blocks. Here you have a list of various blocks, including those that are built into Drupal and are turned on by default. In this case, in the Left sidebar we see the User login and the Navigation Bar.

The User login only shows up when somebody is logged out. So we'll log out here and see what that looks like, here is the User login and we are going to login again. Let's go back to Blocks now. As you go down, you see that the blocks are divided into various zones, the Left sidebar, Right sidebar, Content, Header, Footer. And as you look around the page, you see that these are graphically shown, Header up top, Left sidebar, Right sidebar, and so forth. At the bottom of the list of blocks are those that are not showing up on the page at all. You can move these into any of the above areas by either clicking on this arrow symbol and dragging it into the area. I am going to drag that back now or by grabbing this drop down menu and choosing the area where you want that block to appear.

Whenever you make a change, even if you drag it back to its original place there is a note that says that the changes will not be saved until you click on Save Blocks. The block layout on a page is specific to the theme, let's go to administer themes and see how that works, Administer and Themes. Right now we only have one theme enabled - the Garland theme. But let's say we also have Blue Marine available to us, we'll enable that and click on Save Configuration and then go back to Administer and Blocks. Now you'll notice we have a choice, Garland and Blue Marine up here. If we make a change in Garland, let's say we disable the Powered by Drupal badge that appears at the bottom of the screen, by dragging it down here.

Scroll to the bottom, click Save Blocks, and then we switch to Blue Marine. Aha! Powered by Drupal is still showing up in that footer. Let's go back to Garland and put it back. So remember, if you make a change in where blocks appear, you have to make that change to whatever theme is going to be active on your site. I am going to go down and just return this to the footer and click on Save Blocks. There are three types of blocks, which you can see in this list here. The first kind comes built-in automatically with Drupal. We already mentioned these - the User login block, Navigation block, the Powered by Drupal block, which you can see at the bottom of the page by default, is the one right down here.

A second kind of block appears only when it's installed by a module, let's go ahead and do that. We'll go back up to Administer and Modules and then turn on the blog Module. As always, we go down to the bottom of the page, click on Save configuration and then we'll go back to Administer and Blocks. As we scroll down, we'll notice a new entry in this list, Recent blog posts. If we drag that up to the right hand side bar, then whenever somebody on the site has added a blog post that will appear in the right hang column. We don't have to do that now, so we'll just leave it at none and save our blocks.

The third kind of block that appears in this list is that which you create explicitly by clicking on Add Block. I'll give you an example of this by going to my own website, savemyhomebook.com. Up in the left hand corner, we have a custom made block because I didn't like the way that it just showed, Admin and then there was a separate Logout link. I wanted to bring it all together into a one link. So I created this using some PHP code, so it says Logout Admin. This is a custom block out here, and we could actually go and take a look at the code to see how that works. By the way I got that code off of the drupal.org website, in the Code Snippet section, but let's go back to our site for now.

If we want to add such a block, we would click on Add Block. The block description we'll call Promotions, the blog title is also Promotions and in the block body we'll say, Buy two houses, get one free. Now let's continue on and take a look at all the options you have when you add a block. First of all, as when you add content you can choose the input format that you use. We'll just use filtered HTML, since Plain Text works just fine there. You also can choose what users will see this block and on what pages that block will be seen. You can choose specific roles that will see that block. So for example, it might be a block that helps people edit pages, but you only want people who are able to edit pages to see that block.

Well of course you could check or uncheck the roles that are appropriate. You can change whether or not users can choose whether to see that block or not. So for example, you could say they cannot control weather they see this block. That will always show the block, and they won't have any choice on it. If you say, show it by default but let them hide it or hide it by default and let them show it, then they can change that by going to their user page and change it in their profile with check boxes. Finally, you could decide on what pages you want that block to appear. For example, you might want a block to appear on every internal page but not on the homepage. In which case you would fill out the appropriate fields here and list the pages that you didn't want it to appear on here, including PHP code. We are going to have it show on every page, so we'll say Save Block. Now we look down our list of blocks and we see under disabled, we have our new block called Promotions. Whenever you create a new block, it always starts out as disabled that is, it's not automatically put on your page. We want that to be, let's say in the Right Hand column. So we'll do that and go back down to the bottom and click on Save; and there it is, it now shows up in the Right Hand Column.

Let's go back to homepage to see exactly how that looks. Tada! We now have our custom made block in the right hand column and nothing else on the page has changed. Blocks are one of Drupal's most powerful features, especially if you use them to show dynamic content such as the latest comment or blog post. Like many powerful features, however, it's easy to overuse them and make your site hard to navigate by throwing every block on to the page, but judicious use of blocks, can really improve ease at navigation and improve user engagement.

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This video is part of

Image for Drupal 6 Essential Training
Drupal 6 Essential Training

66 video lessons · 31489 viewers

Tom Geller
Author

 
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  1. 4m 38s
    1. Welcome
      50s
    2. Using the example files
      3m 48s
  2. 28m 55s
    1. Drupal is a CMS
      7m 43s
    2. Choosing Drupal
      5m 32s
    3. Checking Drupal's requirements
      4m 26s
    4. Understanding the inner workings of Drupal
      4m 35s
    5. Meeting the Drupal community
      6m 39s
  3. 11m 28s
    1. Learning key terms in Drupal
      5m 20s
    2. Touring Drupal's interface
      6m 8s
  4. 34m 35s
    1. Installing WAMP and Drupal on Windows
      9m 41s
    2. Installing MAMP
      4m 34s
    3. Setting up the database on a Mac
      2m 2s
    4. Downloading and installing Drupal on a Mac
      6m 37s
    5. Troubleshooting installation problems
      3m 49s
    6. Automating updates with cron
      7m 52s
  5. 25m 37s
    1. Setting up clean URLs
      5m 52s
    2. Backing up your Drupal site
      3m 31s
    3. Restoring your Drupal site from backup
      4m 19s
    4. Wiping your Drupal installation clean
      2m 7s
    5. Updating Drupal
      9m 48s
  6. 15m 37s
    1. Using the Administration menu
      6m 21s
    2. Setting site information
      4m 50s
    3. Setting the theme
      4m 26s
  7. 35m 8s
    1. Understanding security and permissions
      7m 2s
    2. Controlling site access with user management
      3m 39s
    3. Creating users
      7m 58s
    4. Setting user profiles
      9m 40s
    5. Creating contact forms
      6m 49s
  8. 19m 19s
    1. Creating your site's basic info pages
      7m 13s
    2. Understanding page layout
      5m 40s
    3. Creating a flexible layout with blocks
      6m 26s
  9. 15m 35s
    1. Monitoring performance
      4m 52s
    2. Recovering from disasters
      7m 37s
    3. Improving administration skills
      3m 6s
  10. 41m 3s
    1. Understanding nodes
      6m 50s
    2. Creating basic content: Stories and pages
      7m 9s
    3. Enabling other content types
      9m 22s
    4. Adding blogs
      3m 49s
    5. Adding forums
      6m 56s
    6. Adding polls
      6m 57s
  11. 34m 50s
    1. Exploring content categories
      7m 45s
    2. Exchanging content via RSS
      9m 47s
    3. Using input filters
      7m 41s
    4. Managing comments
      9m 37s
  12. 38m 5s
    1. Configuring your theme
      11m 27s
    2. Changing your theme's graphics
      4m 59s
    3. Finding and installing a new theme
      8m 56s
    4. Understanding Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)
      5m 56s
    5. Deciphering CSS files
      6m 47s
  13. 22m 41s
    1. Finding modules
      6m 53s
    2. Unpacking and installing modules
      6m 30s
    3. Configuring modules
      3m 50s
    4. Implementing complex modules
      5m 28s
  14. 32m 12s
    1. Ensuring automated updates with poormanscron
      3m 11s
    2. Defining custom content types with CCK
      12m 54s
    3. Stopping spam using a CAPTCHA
      10m 43s
    4. Using a WYSIWYG text editor
      5m 24s
  15. 22m 18s
    1. Getting around with multilevel menus
      7m 26s
    2. Building custom menus
      5m 42s
    3. Creating easy-to-navigate books
      9m 10s
  16. 20m 19s
    1. Changing page templates with PHP
      8m 15s
    2. Using PHP in content
      5m 20s
    3. Implementing PHP snippets
      6m 44s
  17. 10m 15s
    1. Launching your site
      5m 52s
    2. Joining the Drupal community
      4m 23s
  18. 14s
    1. Goodbye
      14s

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