Finally, I received a copy of the latest Drupal 5 Themes book just right after Drupal 6 was released.
In general, the “Drupal 5 Themes” book by Packt Publishing is a lightweight for the light-hearted reference guide to get started and learn the basics of creating and understanding a Drupal Theme.
From the elements of a theme, to setting-up, working with theme engines, intercepting, overriding, and everything in between… it proved to be a great companion in the art of producing a Drupal theme.
Frankly, prior to receiving the book I already have some basic knowledge in producing my own theme. However, I was surprised to see ideas that I haven’t tried nor knew before I have browsed all 250 pages of this book.
Before ripping the packaging envelope I hoped:
- That, the book will contain neat and amazing tips, tricks, hard-to-do techniques.
- Presence of starter ideas for jQuery and Flash/Flex theming.
- After reading the book, it would make me (or other readers) to be more interested and engrossed not only on Drupal theming but with Drupal as a whole.
- There is some sort of theme “study case” of a Drupal-powered web-site.
A week of theming experiments later (I crossed referenced blogs and articles), I found myself flipping the pages of this book once in a while. I even have a special corner for it in my development desk.
All-in-all, it is safe to say that the book delivered to its capacity. I find it very hard to fit concepts of CSS, HTML, PHP, and Drupal concepts into one book. This book will definitely set the tone for future books/documentation on this topic, especially now that Drupal is gaining attention and the population of Drupal themers is very low. Although if I may… I wish it added more tough cases and some crazy ideas to spark more interest. In any state-of-mind, I commend the author for sticking to the “Drupal way”. The guy’s courage showed by putting his personality on the line with this thorny topic.
I do have a wider criteria of evaluation. If interested read below:
With the way the book was written, I reached Chap. 6 in less than two hours. I finished reading the book in a week, finding the need to test and try all examples. Then I cross-referenced and researched for articles on some suggested techniques on the book. It took me about 2 weeks to completely put the book’s content into my head (as well as the other blogs and articles).
The book encourages the reader to play with Garland and some other contributed themes (i.e. Gagarin and Zen). The Zen’s version in the book is older than version 1, but it did make a perfect specimen for dissection.
Guidance on creating a new theme is also present.
Advantages and disadvantages of theme engines were also discussed. That section is very vital in producing themes.
Specified codes for overriding and intercepting theme data is compatible across Drupal versions though it really sticked to Drupal 5 theme overriding techniques.
Before I haven’t seen the book, I was very reluctant to theme forms. I’ll always hack my way with CSS. Fortunately, this book gave me leverage in interacting with Drupal forms and playing with theme functions. To be honest, it made things I consider “difficult” to be familiarly easy nowadays. You’ll find that it will only introduce you to the basic concepts of form theming, but once you get the hang of it you’ll be able to find your own way in solving form-related problems.
Book’s Value to a General Reader
It’s hard to evaluate on this criteria. It is assumed that the reader is familiar somehow with web development technologies (CSS, PHP, HTML) otherwise buying the book would be a waste of you-know-what.
Book’s Value to a Drupal Developer
As of today (and for the sake of brevity), I observed that a Drupal developer can be either functionality-oriented or design-oriented. It’s hard to spot developers who can harness both skills intact since these skills needs a constant updating at some point in time.
For a design-oriented developer, he/she may find the book useful in confiming theming techniques. In this perspective, it’s always nice to see someone else’s way of doing things (in this case theming stuff).
A functionality-oriented developer might find this book helpful in considering new ways to improve Drupal theming through code-assessment, intending to ease the work of Drupal themers.
In reality, we might end up wearing both goggles during development at some time. When and how to wear them is the right question to ask.
Book vs. Drupal Themes Online Handbook
This criteria also implicitly evaluates the value of this book to the Drupal community. Since open source is all about collective community effort, it’s not a cool thing to question how a person helped or contributed back. In any event, with or without the book I’m sure there will always be something that would fill the need for learning resource on Drupal themes.
The obvious difference between the two is that the book is readily printed. Some people learn better with something they can touch. On the other hand, some are better off with what they seen on their screen.
After reading the book, I realized that I can’t fully comprehend the theming concepts without checking out some links and asking some people at the #drupal irc channel while flipping the pages.
I found the author to be very thoughtful and polite. He also served a great sense of humor which made reading the book not boring in all chapters.
If I Were to Write this Book…
I’ll change a lot of things but I probably lack the courage and brevity of the author.
Well, if I were to write this book I’ll include more tips and tricks especially on which utility software to use in getting what we want. I might even mention more online resources such as cheat-sheets on related technologies (CSS, FormAPI, PHPTemplate cheat-sheets) just to give a kick at it.