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By Cynthia Scott | Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Drupal training released on the same day as Drupal 7

Drupal 7 is scheduled to release today—and in a happy coincidence, lynda.com’s first release of 2011, Drupal Gardens Essential Training, with Tom Geller, was also released today.

Kirk Werner was the training producer for this course. The day we talked about creating this course he went out to test Drupal Gardens for himself. When I asked him about the software, he told me that he found Drupal Gardens to be an amazing CMS solution, giving people the ability to make a great looking, custom site in less than 30 minutes.

In this course, author Tom Geller demonstrates how to create and publish a complete web site with the powerful tools in Acquia’s hosted service, Drupal Gardens. The course covers how to leverage its pre-built page layouts and add custom styling without having to learn CSS, using the Theme Builder tool, integrate rich site features, such as forms, surveys, and media galleries, and how to push content to Twitter and Facebook. The course also shows how to transition a Drupal Gardens site to a self-hosted Drupal site.

I caught up with Tom to ask him about his course.

How is Drupal Gardens related to Drupal 7?

It’s real Drupal, only without the server maintenance hassles of traditional, self-hosted Drupal. Think of it this way: What the WordPress.com blogging site is to WordPress, Drupal Gardens is to Drupal.

Drupal Gardens also differs from the “core” Drupal by including a lot of extra pieces. I think Acquia did a good job picking which modules to add: They really give you features you want, but that aren’t in core Drupal. On the down side, you can’t add modules (as you can with self-hosted Drupal). On the other hand, you can always export your Drupal Gardens site if you outgrow its functionality.

What skills will people need to use Drupal Gardens?

Not nearly as many as for Drupal! If you’ve ever used a publishing platform — WordPress, Blogger, MediaWiki, or even services like Facebook or LiveJournal — you’ll feel comfortable publishing in Drupal Gardens right away. Now, you’ll only use five percent of its power at first: It’s really that much deeper than those other programs. But that just speaks to how far you can go with it.

In your opinion, what’s the most interesting feature in Drupal Gardens?

One feature? I’d say it’s the Theme Builder, which gives you incredible freedom to change your site’s appearance. You get pixel-level control over the theme’s Cascading Style Sheets without having to learn CSS — although knowing a bit about its structure sure helps. I give a brief background about it before showing how the Theme Builder works.

But what most impresses me about Drupal Gardens is the whole package. It feels solid; there are no loose ends. Given Drupal’s flexibility, that’s saying a lot.

Are there any key features that have been added since you recorded your course?

Yes! In late December, when the course was in post-production, Acquia added a neat data-collection feature called webforms. Drupal Gardens already had something similar — the Poll module that comes in core Drupal. But webforms takes that concept much, much further. As with the Theme Builder, they improved webforms by giving it a more click-and-drag interface than you usually see in Drupal.

Since we’re planning to update this course on a regular basis, I’ll be able to update the Drupal Gardens course to include webforms the next time I’m at lynda.com.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Just that Drupal Gardens really owes its life to two parties: Acquia, the commercial company that released it, and the Drupal community as a whole. It’s an excellent example of a community-built open-source project that’s been commercialized with intelligence and sensitivity. It sure helps that the same person created both Acquia and the original Drupal software.

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