Drupal is often called "the most flexible content management system" around and this is probably true. It can be used for almost any kind of site, from personal blog to business site to community hub to wiki, but as with anything it's best to start with some Drupal basics before attempting anything too complex.

In this guide to the basics of Drupal I'll walk you through installing Drupal and configuring it to work as a basic personal blog. In followup tutorials we'll cover some useful info for expanding into the other types of site so if that sounds intriguing, feel free to sign up to InfoBarrel and subscribe to my articles. Anyway, enough with the self promotion, lets teach you some Drupal.

Drupal Basics - Which Drupal version do I need?

At the time of writing, Drupal comes in 3 major versions. Drupal 5 is generally accepted to be out of date and unsupported. Drupal 6 is the most stable version, with the majority of modules being compatible. Drupal 7 is very new, so while it is in many ways an improvement a lot of crucial modules are still missing an update.

If you already know which modules you're going to need, it's best to check the compatibility and choose whichever version the most will work on. In this example we're using Drupal 6 since this is still the most widely used, and will be officially supported for a good few years at least.

Drupal Basics - Installation

If you're lucky enough to have a host that offers a tool such as Fantastico, you may find that you're able to automatically install Drupal. Check which version is offered before installing, remember that in this example we're specifically sticking to Drupal 6.

If you don't have this option, or wish to learn manual installation, there are a few things you'll need.

  • FileZilla FTP Client or access to some sort of file manager tool in your hosting control panel
  • A downloaded, unzipped Drupal 6 core which you can download from the official website
  • Some sort of database creation tool in your control panel

I'm a bit vague on the specific names of some of the tools, since it depends on your host. If all else fails most hosts have a knowledge base or support staff who can point you in the right direction to find something.

My sequence of tasks for installing Drupal is usually this:

Once the database is set up and the files are in place, visit the new Drupal installation in your browser and you should be met with this screen:

Drupal Installation #1Credit: Michelle Dancer

The installation process is fairly straightforward, guiding you through everything step by step. You'll need to enter your database name, username and password, and potentially a "table prefix".

The table prefix option  is located under "advanced options" on the database configuration step, and basically means the Drupal tables on the database will have whatever you type in here included in their names. This means you're free to install other scripts on the same database without worrying about them having identically named tables and clashing with each other.

Follow the installation process to the end, filling in all necessary information, and if Drupal is successfully installed you will be met with a celebratory link to your site. Hooray!

You now have a stunning Drupal website that looks a little something like this:

New Drupal siteCredit: Michelle Dancer

Part two of this article will walk you through setting up Drupal to function as a simple blog, see Drupal Basics - Setting Up A Basic Drupal Site #2. Enjoy!