The Apps approach to making Drupal site building easy is gaining support. But there's a long way to go before Apps can provide sites seamlessly integrating components from multiple providers.
Apps: the glue between custom sites and Drupal distributions
Apps promises to fill the gap between custom site building on the one hand and Drupal distributions on the other.
To its credit, Drupal is hugely flexible. With great tools like Views, configurable content types and fields, and a host of solid extensions for everything from groups functionality to commerce, Drupal can help you build pretty much anything. As Larry Garfield has argued, Drupal is a content management framework rather than a content management system.
But should you really need to build every site from scratch? With hundreds of thousands of Drupal sites already out there, chances are most of what you need has already been built many times over.
The main answer to the aim of making site functionality reusable is Drupal distributions. Want a news-focused site, a nonprofit site, an online community? Browse the list of distributions on drupal.org, select and install one, and you're well on your way.
But a distribution tends to come with some tight constraints. Design decisions. Interdependencies. Reliance on a particular theme. What if you don't need or want the whole deal? What if you want to pick and choose components that might come with various different distros--a bit of commerce functionality, some mapping, some search enhancements, a newsletter?
That's the space that Apps aims to fill. An app is a focused set of functionality that you can easily download and install--along with all of its dependencies.
In the 16 months since the Apps initiative was launched, dozens of apps have been produced and shared. Several distributions have been built on or converted to use Apps. The recently released Panopoly apps set provides a base designed to be used by various distributions as well as individual sites.
There are two ways to get apps:
- Install an apps-based distribution. You'll be prompted to select and install apps as part of the site installation process.
- Install the Apps module and an apps connector module. Some available connector modules are LevelTen apps and Debut apps. Log into your site and select Apps from your admin menu. You're connected to one or more apps servers and given a selection of
If you're a Drupal developer and want to produce and share apps, your process will include:
- Build an app. For hints, see the Phase2 documentation.
- Either submit your app to an existing app server or create your own app server using the App server module. The App manifest module can help with generating the code to use on the app server.
So far so good. But how well do the available apps play together?