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Book Review: Drupal 5 Themes

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"For any Web site based upon Drupal, an increasingly popular CMS, the styling of the site is controlled by whatever Drupal "theme" has been installed, enabled, and chosen, by the site administrator. Out of the box, Drupal offers only a handful of themes, and thus site administrators oftentimes will instead opt for a theme developed by a third-party. However, if the administrator cannot find one that exactly matches their needs or those of their client, then they will either have to pay someone to custom-build a theme, or learn how to do it themselves. Fortunately, creating a new theme or modifying an existing one, is not that difficult, as demonstrated in Drupal 5 Themes, by Ric Shreves."

It is a slender volume, at only 260 pages, and yet covers most of the basics, in eight chapters and one appendix: the basic elements of a Drupal theme, including the files involved; finding, installing, configuring, managing, and uninstalling themes; theme engines, with a focus upon the most commonly used one, PHPTemplate; style sheets and themeable functions; overriding CSS rules, Drupal functions, and template files; modifying an existing theme, using the popular Zen theme as an example; creating a new PHPTemplate-based theme from scratch, and how to extend it; creating a theme not based upon an engine; theming Drupal forms. On the book's Web page, visitors can download most of the sample code presented in the book, send the publisher feedback, ask the publisher a question, and download a sample chapter (number 3, "Working with Theme Engines") as a PDF file.

On the positive side of the ledger, Drupal 5 Themes is a solid introduction to Drupal theming, and the author takes his time in explaining the key concepts. Extensive use is made of sample code, in addition to screenshots of themed pages, admin pages, directory trees, and more.

On the negative side of the ledger, the book contains many small errors — even for a first edition.

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