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Drupal's built-in data presentation tools offer several ways for web designers to clearly and attractively package their data. In Drupal 6: Online Presentation of Data, Tom Geller explains how Drupal handles data so users can set up intelligent structures and implement them with Drupal's Content Construction Kit. Tom also shows how a data-driven web site can improve its interactivity by using geographic data to connect real-world addresses to maps. Exercise files accompany the course.
As you have seen from other videos in this series you can create some remarkably sophisticated displays of information and in importing and manipulating data in Drupal, we saw how to get data into Drupal. In this video, we're going to go in the other direction, to show you how you can use views to get information out of Drupal in a simple and highly portable format. That is, as a comma- or a tab-delimited text file. If you have been watching this series from the beginning you actually have all the skills you need to figure out how to do this. We're just going to set up a view with the information we want to export. But in the process of getting there, we'll come across a couple of difficult points that are typical of the kind that you discover when you take Drupal into new and unexpected areas.
The good news is that Drupal is flexible and powerful enough to overcome these problems. The first thing we'll do as usual is to setup a view. To do so go to Administer, Site Building and Views click on Add. It will be a Node-based view and the name we'll give it tabular_ export, Tabular export and scroll to the bottom. Once there click Next. As usual we're going to add some filters. I want to get an exportable file of all of the people in this site, so I'll make it Published = Yes and Type = Person. We sort by Node Group, scroll down, Published and Type, Add. Yes, Published, Type is Person, and Update.
In this case, I want an export of both the personal name and the family name. You might remember that we can agglomerate them in the title but we do have them as two separate fields. I'll go back up here and add just those two fields, by clicking on Add next to Fields, scroll down, scroll down to the Content group and a Family name and Personal name, and Add. Since all we want is the information, we don't want any labels attached and we're not going to mess around with any of this Link the field to its node, what we're trying for is plain text export. Scroll down a little further and we actually have a choice under this Format pop-up for Plain text, and Update. We do the same here for the Personal name, No label and Plain text and Update.
So far so good. As you know we can put these inline by going up to our field Row Style and clicking on the Options. Then we just click in these boxes to put them inline and click Update. Now let's take another look. Aha! We have this in the wrong order, simple enough to rearrange. We know how to do all of these steps, click Update. We're doing pretty well here now. The only problem is we don't actually have them delimited in anyway. You might have noticed in the Row Style Options we can add a delimiter. So let's do that, add a comma and Update.
From here we can go in two directions to create industry standard text exports that programs like Microsoft Excel will understand. We could make a comma-delimited file as I've done here. Normally comma delimited files have quote marks around them. That's known as a CSV file or Comma Separated Values. We could also separate the fields with tabs. Let's start by making this comma-delimited file a little more standard by putting quotes around it. To do so, we go back up to the Fields themselves, we'll start with the Personal name. Let's think about what we actually want to do, we want to put quotes around the Tom and then have that comma and then quotes around the de Nada.
We do have a space before the comma but that actually doesn't matter in a comma separated values file, because all that matters is what's in those quotes. We can do that by using these Rewrite the output of this field, so we click it and then scroll down a little. As you've seen in other places in Drupal, this Field Rewrite allows you to specify replacement patterns, and it works sort of strangely. This is the first field that we have in the list. If we scroll down and take another look, we see we can only replace it with the value from that first field, the Personal name value. Let's do that. We can copy it. I did that by pressing Command+C on the Mac on the PC you would use Ctrl+C. Now that I've copied it, I press Command+V or Ctrl+V on the PC to put it in my Rewrite the output of this field area, and then scroll down and click Update.
Now you will see that it actually doesn't look any different from before, we have just explicitly replaced this. Now we can have some fun by making that Rewrite a little more fancy. Go back up, click on the Personal field again, and put in quotes which remember is what we wanted to do in the first place. Scroll down again and click Update. And indeed it works. We now see that the first name is in quotes. Now if we want to put the second name in quotes, we could go back up and do the same exact thing. We would click on the Family field. Rewrite the output of this field and paste in the replacement pattern here. One interesting thing you will notice though as I scroll down is this second field includes replacement patterns both for the first one and the second one.
This is something a little unusual in Views. The further down that the field is, that is as you go down in this Fields area up here, the more replacement patterns it contains. It actually contains replacement patterns for all of the previous fields. That's quite convenient for us because then we can put everything into the last field and we only have to mess with it once, and in fact, that's what we're going to do. I am going to go back to this Personal field here and just get rid of this Rewrite the output of this field, scroll down and click Update, and we see we are back the way that we were with that comma. Go up a little bit and then we are only going to change again that second field. Rewrite the output of that field and in Text I'm going to again paste the personal name value, scroll down a little bit and see okay, it's field_ family_name_value, copy and paste that just as we did before.
Then I can play with this as much as I want. I'll put quotes around each field, a comma between them and then scroll down and click Update as usual. As we scrolled up, we see it's giving us a little bit more than we really want. This section here is exactly what we want. It has the quote, first name, end quote comma and then family name, but we also have this first name showing and the comma. That's because, remember, we didn't hide any previously displayed information, we just added to it.
We can now go back and hide that information. To do so scroll up and go to our Personal field and there is actually an option in Views Exclude from display. Scroll down again and Update. There, now it actually looks the way that we want. To be completely clean about this we should go back up to our Field option widget here and get rid of this separator. I know it's not showing but if we started to add fields later, we would start seeing that separator again and it might be hard for us to remember exactly what we've done. I'll also uncheck these Inline fields. Again, in case we start adding and taking out fields, click Update. And there it is. We have our Fields now in comma separated value format which any database program or Excel or any other spreadsheet program can understand just fine.
Now let's try to format the output as tab separated values. As it turns out that's a lot harder and this time it's not Drupal's fault. It's actually within the HTML standard. You see in HTML you can indicate any ASCII character that's visible with a little bit of code. But a tab character isn't actually visible and you can't indicate it with ASCII. If you search for answers to this problem online, they all say the same thing. They say you shouldn't be using a tab in HTML. You should be using tables instead. But in our case, we really do want to use a tab character because we're outputting through HTML in order to get our separated values the way that we want. So what exactly do we do? As it happens, there is two ways to solve this problem. They are both a little hackish but they both work. The simpler one and it's a little less elegant is to go back up to our Rewrite the output of this field, and instead of having quotes and so forth which aren't needed for a tab separated format, remove the quotes and then instead of a comma there, I'm just going to put a marker, anything that wouldn't normally show up in the fields themselves.
Let's say three commas and then scroll down, and click Update. Now we have it separated not by tabs, but by these three commas, we could then select all of them. Copy it. Go to a Text Editor. I happen to have one open right now called TextWrangler. Go to it by hitting Command+Tab on the Mac and paste it and then using the Find & Replace feature in your Text Editor, you could go back and say find triple comma or replace it with a tab and replace all. And there we are. We now have tab characters in the middle here. In Text Editor we can do that by Showing Invisibles. And we see that little triangle means that it is actually a tab character.
The second way is sort of to go backwards. We'll start with a tab character here in our Text Editor, we select it and Copy it and then go back to Drupal and rewrite the output of that field, and there we're going to paste our tab character in. Again, it's a real hack and anybody who knows HTML and loves the standard is just tearing their hair right now with what a hack it is. But it does work. Click on our Field there, go back to Rewrite the output of this field and then paste our Tab character, there is one other thing that we've do however. We have to make sure that HTML outputs this exactly as it's showing, because otherwise the way that HTML works, it will turn that tab just into a plain space.
To do that I'm going to add a little HTML code here at the beginning
then at the end . Now we scroll down, change the Format to Default and
Update it. Now we have our tab there, and we can prove that by copying it and
pasting it into our Text Editor, and you see that little triangle which means
that it is actually a Tab character.
There are one or two more things I want to point out just very quickly before
we go on. The first is that when you do a text output of this sort, almost
always you want to have the entire file in one go, you don't want to show just
ten items at a time. So when you do something like this remember to go up and
change the Items to display so that it shows all of them. This is a common
mistake, people then will go through all of this trouble, and say why don't I
see my entire file? It's because you have to change that and click Update.
Now of course, we see all of the items that are in our entire database. Next thing I wanted to mention is what if you wanted to include not only the person's name but also their address, and remember we did that through households, well then you have to work in relationships, we are not going to go through that process now, so you may just want to review the relationship video. If you got frustrated with that, the trick is to make sure you are going at it from the right side. In this case, we are doing something with the Node Type = Person and then we would draw a relationship to households, as it happens that won't work because the way that we setup households we would have to start with the household and then make a relationship to person.
I know it's an advanced topic and we're not going to go into it now. But I did want to warn you about that again, because it's one of the big points of frustrations as figuring out which way relationships go, and that comes into play a lot when people are trying to just output all of the data from their database. The last thing that we're going to do is we are not going to be using this text output throughout the rest of the course, so I'm just going to delete it. It's easy enough to set up again if you want to do so. I hope this video showed you some of the many data output options you have in views itself and you don't have to add any other modules or write custom code to make it work.
Once you do start adding other modules though possibilities for data presentation just multiply, but none of those modules will let you actually reach in and change the display fields themselves quite as well as Views does. It really is the foundation for all data presentation solutions.
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