Unit 5 – Using Drupal for my digital collection

Discuss either a) which module you decided to try to try from assignment 2 and how it enhances your collection; include if you like any problems or tips related to installation; or
b) now that you have some experience, how you feel overall about the suitability of Drupal for your collection.

It is clear that Drupal, in the hands of a trained Drupal programmer, would be a powerful and customized tool that could be used to manage my digital collection; although it seems that it is not really designed for the type of content I would like to include: many large searchable text files (in pdf or other formats, especially including files with specialized markup). When I say that it is not really designed for it, I mean that the native content types don’t lend themselves to it (although I have not experimented with the “book” type).  Of course there are many modules that add that type of functionality; I saw several that seemed designed to make RDF-type relations between nodes; but I was too intimidated by all the dependencies to try to install such modules, and the help material was too highly technical for a casual Drupal user to understand.

I did find an apparently simple module that added some necessary functionality to my site, i.e., the ability to search attached text files. The module is called, appropriately, search-files.Here is a screenshot of the kind of output the module produces:

sample of the results returned by the Drupal serach module

Because this is a crucial function for my collection, I decided to install it, even though it requires several “helper applications” in Linux.

Helper Applications

In order to extract text, this module calls ‘helper apps’ such as cat and pdftotext. Drupal administrators can configure any helpers they like. Helper apps need to be installed on the server and need to be setup to print to stdout.

Most Linux distributions have the following helper apps available:

  • cat – generic text (txt) files
  • pdftotext – Adobe Acrobat (pdf) Documents
  • catdoc – Microsoft Word (doc) Documents
  • xls2csv – Microsoft Excel (xls) files
  • catppt – Microsoft Power Point (ppt) files
  • unrtf – Rich Text Format (rtf) files

For more information about helpers and how to configure them, see hints for Linux and Windows. It is also possible to configure helpers in a shared hosting environment.

I assumed that my Linux installation might already have these applications available, although I could enable them separately if need be. So I downloaded and installed search_files-6.x-1.6.

I had no difficulty installing it or configuring it in Drupal. But it can’t search the pdf files I have attached, so I’m assuming I also need to install the helper applications in Linux.

UPDATE: as it turns out, this module worked in Drupal 5 but is broken in Drupal 6. Evidently it works in Drupal 7, so hopefully when I update my system I can get this working. Else I will need to find a different CMS, because this search functionality is crucial.

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Filed under Content Management, Digital Collections, Digital Humanities, Drupal, Operating systems, SIRLS 675

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