Drupal 7’s release earlier this year came with a lot of changes to defacto standard Drupal features. One of the biggest changes is the introduction of the Fields system. Field, a core module in Drupal 7, replaces the Content Contstruction Kit (CCK) contributed module that’s been a part of Drupal since version 4.7. For those developers and content managers that are used to using CCK in past versions of Drupal, the new Field module opens a whole new way of thinking about content modelling in Drupal 7. For those people picking up Drupal for the first time, the new Fields system provides a logical approach and much more flexibility for building customized content structures that didn’t exist in Drupal previously.
To brush up on the new Fields system in Drupal 7, I picked up Drupal 7 Fields/CCK: Beginner’s Guide by Dave Poon. The book does an excellent job of breaking down Fields in an easily digestable way. Drupal 7 Fields/CCK: Beginner’s Guide is written in a simple, easy-to-read style that will help content managers and developers alike understand the new Fields system. Poon organizes the book into lessons that build on top of each other, giving readers quizzes and mini-tutorials at the end of each chapter. He also includes an example website project that readers can use to learn Fields in hands-on way.
The book’s quizzes are a fairly good learning device but readers may have difficulty finding where the answers are located. Quiz answers are located in back of the book but it’s not obvious unless the reader thumbs through book’s index. Having a page number noting the location of the answers would offer readers a more immediate point of reference when checking answers to a quiz.
Poon uses screenshots of Drupal for teaching different aspects of the Fields system, a great teaching tool for beginners. At Mediacurrent, we’ve found the most successful way to teach Drupal newbie’s is through screenshot visuals that illustrate user interaction points for accomplishing content management tasks. Poon notes where users should click on screenshots with easy to view arrows. Outside of the Drupal screenshots, no other graphic elements are used to guide the reader quickly through the book. Icons associated with a section heading would help readers flip through and reference different chapters while testing out how to use Fields in Drupal 7.
Developers reading the book will benefit from Poon’s explanation of how to theme Fields and an overview of the Fields architecture toward the end of the book. He offers readers a tutorial for theming a content type using the book’s example project. Moreover, he provides of list of terms and definitions related to new Fields concept in Drupal 7 and illustrates the database schema for MySQL tables associated with Fields.
To sum up, Drupal 7 Fields/CCK: Beginner’s Guide is a helpful reference for learning how Drupal 7’s new Fields system works. I recommend it for Drupal content managers that have a cursory understanding of how Drupal works and Drupal developers that know CCK and want to learn how its replacement, the Fields system, works in Drupal 7.