Tutorial :ASP.NET developer trying to learn Drupal and PHP [closed]


I know ASP.NET C# very well. I make a lot of stuff like surveys and custom web applications.

I'm having a lot of trouble wrapping my head around Drupal and figuring out how to do 'special' programmatic things, like searching a list of clients, or creating a web application.

1 - I've been reading books and drupal API but I'm still having a lot of trouble getting started with anything at all. Where does custom code go in respect to pages, modules, snippets...? How do I replicate form X that I did in ASP.NET into a new page in drupal? Etc. It is super hard to wrap my head around Drupal, it seems so large and easy and extensible yet also like it is difficult for me to code. What can you recommend for an ASP.NET application programmer to learn to work with/in Drupal?

2 - Sometimes we write complete ASP.NET applications for clients, and these applications are not indended for clients to go editing them. For example, we will have our entire website in drupal, but inside of that website we will have a place for users to use a special search for database information. We don't want simple website editors and content providers trying to edit this specially coded page(s). How do I handle not wanting clients to edit anything in a Drupal application? Is it handled via page/user permissions? Is the best thing to develop and host an application completely outside of drupal? Is the drupal application it's own drupal instance inside of a drupal website (nested drupals?) ?

3 - Lastly, how do I handle databases? I understand Drupal and PHP are set to work best with MySQL. We have MS SQL databases that are used by multiple applications and would like to use them for new applications as we start using Drupal. For example, we have a Staff directory that feeds ASP.NET reporting application, ASP.NET Staff Listing application, and want to make a new Drupal PHP application that also uses (and perhaps inserts/updates more information into) that database. What is the best/easiest way to handle MS SQL databases and/or MySQL databases being used and updated by multiple Drupal and ASP.NET applications? Would it be easier to have all the applications use the MS SQL databases, or maybe to replicate the databases on MySQL for the Drupal/PHP apps and somehow sync the two databases?

I hope it is alright if I ask multiple related questions in a single post.


First of all, I think what's important to understand Drupal's limitations, there are things it's not really made for. It's sort of a web application framework but if you're doing a lot of custom work with your own custom datamodelling and stuff, Drupal might not be the most flexible or easily implementable solution to your kinds of problems. A more general framework like for instance Zend Framework might be more suited.

An important lesson in learning Drupal is: don't hack core or other modules. This will make upgrading core or modules very time-consuming. Instead "do like Drupal" and override using hooks. In theming you can also override with hooks, but also in other ways. Overriding is powerful so understand that concept well.

  1. I'd say, pick a way of learning that is your style, screencasts, IRC, hacking, user meetups IRL, books, articles or any combination and look for material on Drupal. Just start mucking around and get a feeling and understanding of how Drupal works. Understanding the jargon is an important part, so what are: nodes, blocks, regions, hooks, modules, themes.
  2. Drupal has a very flexible permission system, and it's probably the best choice to use that instead of making your own. You can write your own modules that add to or alter the behavior of Drupal. So if you want to write a new application that works with Drupal you can write a module performing the functionality the application has to have and make use of all the facilities Drupal offers, including users, the permission system, etc, etc. I don't really understand the last part of your second question "Is the drupal application it's own drupal instance inside of a drupal website (nested drupals?) ?". Drupal is a collection of PHP files on a server that, together with a slew of tables in a database serves request made to it. Multiple Drupal websites (so different PHP files) can reference the same database or parts of it (for example the user table). There's not really an "instance" of a Drupal site, as there's not really an "application". I could of course be too unfamiliar with these terms but I don't think PHP works with "instances" of "applications".

  3. That's a hard problem, afaik Drupal doesn't work with MS SQL, so any connections in that direction you might have to make yourself. I'd also ask around the Drupal forums or on IRC.

Good luck!


I'm afraid that I don't have any experience with Drupal so I can't offer any insights into your first or second questions, but on the third question:

What is the best/easiest way to handle MS SQL databases and/or MySQL databases being used and updated by multiple Drupal and ASP.NET applications?

If you are going to perform CRUD operations from both your ASP.NET applications and your PHP/Drupal applications, then I would recommend against trying to sync data back and forth between MySQL and MSSQL since this will cause latency problems plus you'll then have to deal with the differences between the two database management systems.

Instead, I would recommend that you look at using stored procedures to control all database accesses. This way you can ensure that all of your database CRUD operations conform to same rules and logic.

Using MSSQL in both ASP.NET and PHP shouldn't be a problem, especially not with the very excellent PDO library that provides a standard interface for accessing a number of popular database management systems. It should allow you to quickly and easily connect with and begin using your MSSQL databases within your PHP applications.


It is some good questions you ask. I'll try to answer them to the best of my ability. I haven't any experience with c# of APS.NET, so I don't know exactly where you are coming from. I myself learned Drupal as an inexperienced python/django developer. So in some ways I can understand some of the troubles you are going through trying to learn Drupal. Some of these things will simply require time/experience/experimenting before it will go away.

  1. To really understand Drupal and the Drupal API you will first need a good understanding of PHP. Sometimes Drupal do some complex PHP things, so if you don't understand the syntax or the PHP functions etc, you can easy get lost.

    • Where do code live?
      Drupal is built as a moduler system. Drupal itself is a set of modules, some of which are required for Drupal to work properly. If you want make some custom code, that is you want to do something, that you can't use a module for. There are about 5000 modules developed for Drupal. Often even when being a skilled programmer, the best choice is to find a module that will do what you need or can get you where close. So what you do, it to create a module of your own.

      1. Make a folder with the name of the module

      2. Create a modulename.info inside it which holds some info about the module formatted in a special way. Drupal will need it to fx display the module on the module list page where you activate modules.

      3. Lastly create a modulename.module file where the core of your code for the module will be.

      Another thing that is important to understand with Drupal, is that it uses a hook based system. Hooks are like events that fire once certain things happen that you want to hook into and either alter the flow, or do some things of your own. Fx you could record every time a specific form was displayed, or you could alter the form, adding/removing fields.

    • Forms
      Drupal has a FAIP or Form API, that is uses to generate form, this is something that has it's own page in the documentation. The idea is that you create an associative PHP array which holds information about each element of the form, and Drupal will use that to create the form.

    • Books There are a lot of good books for Drupal that you can learn from. The book I myself have learned the most from is Pro Drupal Development

  2. First of all, Drupal has a very fine grained role based permission system, that will allow you to setup exactly what your clients are allowed to do. You can create different roles, like moderator, content creator, admin, sysadmin ect, and give different permissions to each role. This is pretty easy and is setup within the Drupal AI. However, you will need to know the permissions as some are super permissions that will give access to a lot of things. Now for integrating your applications, that is something that you probably want to write a custom module for. I don't know exactly how you want to do this. But I think the best result would be gotten by letting Drupal create the pages, forms etc from your application and just send data back and forth. That way the theme = layout of the site would be consistent. That way users wouldn't get the feeling that they left the site, but this simply was yet another feature the site offered.

  3. Drupal is not just set to handle MYSQL best, You will actually need either MYSQL or PSQL as your drupal database backend. The reason is the way Drupal handles queries, that allow you to write non specific queries that will work, no matter on which of the two types you use, or if your tables has a prefix. So for all of the Drupal internals you will need one of the two. PHP can connect to MSSQL and run queries against that database, so you could without much problems write custom code that run queries to your other application's databases and either fetch or update data. Depending on the data, you might want to create a table in your database that you can read and write to, and then sync the databases when needed. It depends a bit on your use case. I have done the latter, in the case where I didn't need to write to the database, but only needed to fetch some product information form a legacy database that was still being used by other systems.



I've done quite a bit of Drupal and have strong ASP.NET experience. You really need to read up to get your mindset straight. They use layers in an MVC-like fashion that is very foreign to WebForms & ASP.NET MVC developers ... and quite frankly at first seems odd.

Here's a list of things I did to get really, really good quickly:

  1. Get a host like at hostgator for $8 which will let you install Drupal
  2. Get the book Pro Drupal Development for Beginners ... excellent and really covers a lot of areas http://www.amazon.com/Pro-Drupal-Development-Second-Beginning/dp/1430209895/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1257545528&sr=8-2
  3. Get on the Drupal forums
  4. Be ready to contribute. Drupal has a lot of features, but in the end the best way is to be someone who contributes code back

There are a number of IDEs to consider, but to start a text editor should be fine.

Good luck.


Some good answers here, so I'll just fill in some brief items.

1 - Learning Drupal: Pro Drupal Development is the best book for this. Getting into the issue queues and interacting with developers is a way to get familiar with specifics. Your question about forms relates to how Drupal handles forms. The FAPI is pretty robust in Drupal, and protects you from security gaffes. Also api dot Drupal dot org is where the code is documented, though there are docs elsewhere. Google is your friend. (On the Drupal site itself, use the native search to get faceted results.)

2 - This is a user permissions issue. You can limit creation and editing permissions based on content type. For access control (read), you will want to use one of the many modules for access control. It really depends upon your use case.

3 - Drupal has the most community support for MySQL, but people run Drupal on MS SQL as well. In Drupal 7, you will likely see much more support for non-MySQL as this release introduces database abstraction.

Probably the worst thing to do is hack around the margins. It really pays to learn the ins and outs of the Drupal basics -- administration and coding -- so that you can truly leverage the power Drupal brings to the table.

And if you're hunting for modules, http://drupalmodules.com is your friend. ;)

Note:If u also have question or solution just comment us below or mail us on toontricks1994@gmail.com
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