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Drupal-based sites look somewhat different from those built in plain-old HTML. Now we are going to look at Drupal's inner workings to understand exactly what happens when visitors request a page from Drupal. It's actually quite different from the mechanism of an HTML site and understanding the differences is important as you go forward in building and maintaining your Drupal site. Let's start by taking a look at what happens when you try to get a page from an HTML site. There you are sitting at home, you ask for the page and your request goes to a web server. Usually it's going to be the Apache Web Server. The web server then delivers a page such as index.html, that page in turn will pull together all of the resources that it needs to present something to you that will be text and graphics files, and possibly other files in processes that might for example include PHP programs.
Once the page has been created it gets sent back to the web server, which then goes to you, and you see it on your Web Browser. Let's take a look at some of the files that are inside an HTML site. In this case I used my own site, tomgeller.com. It's actually quite simple, all of the files that you can call from a Web Browser and an HTML in this case, clients.html, endorsements.html and so forth and the way that this site is constructed the additional things that you need are in sub-directories, graphics, portfolio and so forth. In addition there is a cascading style sheet here which ends with .css.
Now we are going to take a look at what happened when somebody requests a page from a Drupal website. Once again there you are sitting at your computer and you make the same sort of request to an Apache Web Server. However, in this case, instead of going to an HTML file it actually calls up a PHP program. That program in turn calls together graphic files, but also data that are inside of an SQL database, and it might also call additional PHP programs or other types of programs. All of these things are taken and put together by the PHP program as a page, which again gets sent back to the web server and then goes back to you.
If we take a look at the files in a Drupal site, we notice something very interesting. I am going to rearrange these by type here. None of these files end in HTML these, text files are really just Help files, but the main parts end in PHP. Let's open up this index.php file, which is what someone calls when they go to the main page of a Drupal website and here we are. If you know HTML, you will notice that this looks nothing like the HTML that you are used to because it is in fact PHP programming language.
Let's look through this index.php file. All of these things at the beginning are just common. So the first real command in the PHP file is this requireonce ./includes/bootstrap.inc, and if you go back to your file structure you can actually go into the folder called includes and find that file. So this one PHP program is immediately calling another PHP program, and if you go inside this you will find that it calls others and others, and say you have this whole cascade of PHP programs that eventually come together to create your page.
At first this might seem like an incredibly convoluted and wasteful way to call a simple web page, but in practice it's not. PHP doesn't require very many resources to switch among files like this, and the computer quite naturally navigates among them according to logic. However, this computer-friendly structure can be extremely user-unfriendly if you are trying to figure out where certain commands came from or where to put files to change the way your site looks and acts. In brief the default location for your site's overall appearance called its Themes are in the themes folder, and you can see here these are different themes that show up in Drupal.
Files that are specific to an individual site go into the sites folder and you have a choice to make certain files available to all of your Drupal sites or if you are just running one Drupal site, you could put into the default folder. I hope that you haven't been scared away by this description of Drupal's inner workings, which can admittedly be pretty intimidating. The good news is that you don't have to know most of this to run a Drupal site as most of the administration is done through a web browser based interface and a FTTP program. Still, understanding some of these points that your content is stored in a database for example instead of HTML files we will help you in putting together your Drupal site.
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