themes

2008, the year of Drupal themes

Looks like people are finally realizing the enormous business opportunities lying in doing themes for Drupal sites. There is the http://www.topnotchthemes.com/ team building truly nice themes with support for common modules, knowing Drupals ins and outs.

At the same time http://www.templatemonster.com/ is picking up Drupal in their CMS section, selling Drupal themes for all kinds of focus areas. Although some of their demos have the "Mambo license" menu item running, which is quite frankly not a testament to their understanding of Drupal. However, starting off from a ported theme could still be nice, those buying Drupal themes might not want to fiddle as much customizing the theme further (update: and there are possibly other problems my soft blogging style did not uncover here, see: http://www.drupal4hu.com/node/146 and http://www.drupal4hu.com/node/141 for notes).

If you'd be interested in ported themes though, you might want to just start off from a theme downloaded for free. There is a new site coming up, started by a Hungarian Drupal enthusiast Ádám Boros. He is going through some of the exciting existing HTML templates and converting them to Drupal themes, providing for you to download for free. Why another theme site, you might ask? Why not just submit to Drupal.org? Well, although free to use and take, some of the HTML templates are not released under the GPL, so they are not suitable for submission on drupal.org. This requires people to either host them on their own site, or go centralize to a location. Ádám's new site, drupal6themes.com aims to not only host Ádám's work but also provide a platform for others to submit their Drupal 6 compatible themes and host them there.

I am extremely happy to see all these theming businesses and the expansion of the available themes to come together, and hope the growth is going to be even bigger going forward.

Reviewing "Drupal 5 Themes"

Drupal 5 Themes Earlier this month, I got a copy of "Drupal 5 Themes" for some reading pleasure. I just arrived to the end, and after submitting a bunch of non-major errata entries, I thought it would be a good idea to share my thoughts with you.

A lot of people wondered in the drupal.org thread whether such a book is any valuable now that Drupal 6 is out. Well, after reading it through, I can state as well that it certainly has value for people interested in a comprehensive Drupal theming introduction. Book publishing is not a quick process, the CSS reference of the book was updated for Drupal 5.2 (admittedly not much changed in later versions as far as CSS goes, if anything), and the author mentions writing parts of the book while Drupal 5 was just briefly out. Implementing ground-breaking changes is not much easier however, so Drupal 6's new theme flexibilities and features does not require unlearning Drupal 5 knowledge. People familiar with Drupal 5 theming will be able to pick up the new stuff in Drupal 6 much more easily.

Back to the contents of the book, the various chapters definitely provide a decent introduction to Drupal 5 theming. While I don't agree with some approaches (like the chapter on starting a theme from scratch really starting from empty files instead of copying default PHPTemplate files over), the book gives lots of tips which are hard to pick and gather from the Drupal forums. The author also takes liberty of reiterating some basic points multiple times, so it is easy to jump into relevant chapters (eg. modifying an existing theme) without reading all the others. This might feel like a bit too much repetition for people reading from start to end however.

The pages include lots of reference material, like the last chapter with a listing of major forms to theme or chapter 4 completely filled with a list of themeable functions. I think these would have been better put to the appendix as reference chapters, but they are findable where they are nonetheless.

The book does not delve into advanced style sheets and layouts, so the examples provided are of the really basic looks. Those looking for creating top-notch themes still need their own creativity, but this should not be much of news for anyone. The book strives to provide a picture on how HTML and CSS attach to Drupal not how one does things like Sliding doors (a CSS technique) or SIFR (Flash text replacement) work. The author also skips advanced Drupal topics like how to use color module in your themes, although this does not feel like missing since color module would only be used in contributed (reused) themes most of the time, definitely not in purpose-built site themes. The themes produced in the book examples will not compete with Garland regarding their looks either.

Even a site building recipe is included, with things like block visibility settings, custom blocks and some essential blocks explained; showing off that building a site theme is not a generic task most of the time, but it needs to consider site specific needs including blocks, menus and settings even.

So all-in-all I'd recommend this book to all, who are new to Drupal theming, and would like to get a head start on integrating their HTML and CSS techniques to Drupal.

Right to left themes need help for Drupal 6

Bryan Ruby points out that many open source content management systems are started to think about multilanguage support as a core building block recently. Drupal 6 is one of these systems, and although it does not come with complete internationalization and translation features, it goes a long way compared to Drupal 5. Jose A. Reyero pulled together a nice comparision table of the Drupal 5 and 6 core multilanguage features.