Manage System Messages

The standard Drupal system messages are really intrusive once you start to customize your site via Panels and CSS. For me, the green boxed messages push my pages down and break the presentation. Plus, they just don’t look very… NICE. So here is a great module. Nice Messages leverages the JGrowl JS library make the normal messages appear as in the SS below. There are even options on where the message should appear and how long. VERY NICE!


Scroll to Top Function

Some of my search result pages can get pretty long. And there is a nice, very simple module that will give you the auto-return to the top thingy that is so nice and convenient:

Scroll to Top was the easiest module to install ever. You literally just enable it and it starts to work. Very nice. Now, on long pages you get a floating up arrow in the bottom righ hand side of the page that will allow your user to get back to the top quickly.

WAMP and Aptana code editor

well, i have all my great drupal environments setup. but as i started working with php code in aptana, i realized pretty quickly that i was going to need a local web server to test the php pages. so, install apache for windows xp. let me digress. windows xp is one of the best OSs ever developed. this MCSE isn’t big on MS much these days but XP is still a masterpiece. it will run so much stuff and run it well. i have a nearly ten year old dell running XP and it works great. it will run all the modern open source crap that i want and it is as solid as a rock. there is a reason that the biz community ran XP for as long as it did. and DOES. there are still millions of PCs out there in offices all over the place that run xp. there just isn’t a good reason to get rid of it when it will do 96% of what you need on hardware that is now pretty old. the only thing it won’t run that i actually care about is IE9. and i would never use that anyway if i didn’t have to plan my development around its css quirks.

i love XP. it’s great and it is a product like americans used to make: no planned obsolescence.

so, i’m installing a full WAMP server. most of the config for WAMP was pretty easy. the hard part was getting aptana to work properly with apache and the installed browsers so that the preview features could be used. for clues on that i am attaching a SS of what my server config looked like in aptana. it was a pain and i don’t believe that it was well documented. so, i posted what i did to stackoverflow here:

Production and Development, SSH, Quality and Testing

So I have my two environments up and running. What I need to do now is get them aligned so I can do proper testing in the dev environment before moving the files to prod with a minimum of trouble. So, I have my dev environment on a vm on my laptop. i can access prod from the laptop or desktop via the drupal web interface. I can also access it via SSH and aptana. that’s the way that i can upload the code to prod. but i need to be able to access the dev code consistently from the desktop (the vm is on the laptop and the files are too big to move around).

so i need to be able to access the laptop vm from the desktop. and since they (desk n vm) are on different networks i have to route packets from the vm network to the home wireless network. otherwise, i’m going to have to sync the code files from the desk to the lap, upload the files on the laptop to the vm for testing, then upload from desk to prod via ssh. i think that i might try to get SSH running on the vm centos install then make it accessible to the desk. that would also closely mimic prod. that’s the ticket.

Validation Tools and Accessibility

well, the holidays are over. while i enjoyed eating three pounds of fudge per day, i am ready to get back in the saddle. coffee in hand, i am now on chapter 9 of shreve’s drupal theming book.

this book has been perfect for me. diving into the nuts and bolts of how Drupal really works. exploring and understanding the relationships between .tpl, .css and .info files in drupal is really the key to understanding how to make the site look the way you want it to.

so, i’m on cross browser compatibility. and therefore, standards compliant coding. here is a great tool. W3C Validator. more to come on this later. for the firefox browser. install this them use the plugin to help with validation.

The Web Developer add-on and Total Validator let you temporarily disable JavaScript for page testing. This is important with forms because many browsers have jscript disabled. google “degrade gracefully” for info on this topic.

here is a section from the book that i found helpful:

Adobe Browser Lab: This convenient and well-designed utility is part of the Adobe CS Live suite of tools. It is available free of charge to owners of Adobe CS5. The tool provides live preview of both static and dynamic web pages. It allows for easy A/B comparisons and basic diagnostics. To use the service, visit
Browsershots: The site provides a free service that allows you to submit a URL, then check back to see screenshots of the page in all the various browsers you select. While free, it can take a while to get results and there is no support for Apple or mobile devices. Visit the site at:
CrossBrowserTesting: This commercial service offers a very wide range of operating systems and browsers, both traditional and mobile. Want to see how your site looks on Win98 SE running Netscape 4? You can do it here! The service includes both real time testing and a screenshots option. The site is available for a monthly subscription fee, or you can just try it out free for a week. Visit:

Here is some great info from the book about accessibilty:

The most commonly applied standards for web accessibility are promulgated by the W3C under the name the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). A subset of those guidelines, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), is targeted at web developers. The WAI section of the W3C website includes a large amount of information on what it means to create accessible sites, along with resources to support your efforts.

Aptana Studio 3

well, i have been evaluating some other code editors. free ones, of course. and i really like aptana studio 3. i believe the debugger tools are better than komodoedit. check it out.

i have also been looking very closely at the omega theme and the subtheming aspect of the package.  i believe that this is a good direction to head into if you want to learn how to manipulate all the different elements of a theme.

Theme updates

well, i have made some progress. I believe that using an Omega based theme (omega subtheme) is a good way to go. there are a few things to look for in your choice.

  1. html5
  2. css3
  3. “responsive” theme, meaning it will work well with mobile and tablet. a must these days, if not the first requirement
  4. three column layout – google the “rule of threes” to see some cool design tips on what your eye wants
  5. 960 degrees. this will give you a lot of flexibility

since you are learning drupal, i believe that you have to accept the learning curve that goes with it. that means making a choice based on flexibility and not “out of the box” features. if you want “out of the box” go with some other CMS: Wordpress or Joomla.

Learn CSS. If you are pretty good at IT anyway, you can learn CSS. i think this is the most important part that you can do.

Learn some Jscript and specifically learn some jquery and look for some free sites that will instruct you on how to integrate jquery with drupal. here is a good link –

Komodoedit is a good code editor for any of this stuff. and free.

Learn GIMP. it is tough. it’s a pain but it is free and it is worth it. look to youtube for some tutorials on how to use it.

JS, CSS and more

Well, my slacking is going to end. by that i mean that i am going to actually get superfish to work on my drupal site tonight. and by slacking, i mean that i have been spending all my time working on the js and css stuff. which has been really fun and cool. here is a really good web site for css aspiritors.

20 Websites To Help You Learn and Master CSS

I hope that the link on this comes through ok. otherwise i am going to have to redo it. but. all things considered, the slog through the nexus of design>programming>form>function appears to be moving. even if it is moving in sort of strange spurts. ok. on to superfish. and i have been using komodoedit a lot. and that seems to be a pretty good program for something that is free. and even gimp is coming along although that one is really tough.