Seven Useful Drupal Modules to Enhance Usability for Administrators

24th August 2011 | Tags:

One of Drupal’s weak­nesses, I feel, is that out-​of-​the-​box usabil­ity for admin­is­tra­tors is a lit­tle poor (the Dru­pal team them­selves would prob­a­bly agree with me, how­ever this is some­thing that’s now being addressed in a big way). There are, how­ever, plenty of ways to make the expe­ri­ence bet­ter through a set of Dru­pal mod­ules which I’ll be cov­er­ing in this post. How­ever before even think­ing about mod­ules, it’s impor­tant you have a good admin theme — and there are a few good options. Root­candy is a peren­nial favourite, and comes in three flavours; stan­dard, fixed (i.e. a fixed width) and dark.

The Rootcandy admin theme for Drupal
The Root­candy admin theme for Drupal

Rubik is an admin theme based on the Tao base theme, and it’s by Devel­op­ment Seed, whose work on Dru­pal is usu­ally char­ac­terised by great inter­faces and UI design.

The Rubik admin theme for Drupal
The Rubik admin theme for Drupal

Seven is a back­port (for Dru­pal 6) of the default admin theme in Dru­pal 7.

The Seven admin theme for Drupal
The Seven admin theme for Drupal

Themes out of the way, onto the modules.


The Admin mod­ule pro­vides a slide-​out menu on the left-​hand side of the screen (although this can be altered in the set­tings) pro­vid­ing easy access to all admin­is­tra­tive func­tions. You can even pro­vide your own blocks to sit in the admin menu.

The Admin module for Drupal
The Admin mod­ule for Drupal

Admin Menu

The Admin Menu mod­ule is a bet­ter known alter­na­tive to Admin, and pro­vides a drop­down, hor­i­zon­tal menu at the top of the screen (see fig­ure below). Sim­ple, but invaluable.

The Admin Menu module for Drupal
The Admin Menu mod­ule for Drupal

One thing that is par­tic­u­larly good about the Admin Menu mod­ule over and above the Admin mod­ule, is that out-​of-​the-​box it pro­vides a quick and easy way to clear one or all of the caches — an all-​too-​common task dur­ing devel­op­ment. Just click the icon top-​left to reveal the option.

QA Mod­ules

Enabling and Dis­abling mod­ules through the UI (hint: use Drush!) can be a chore when there are depen­den­cies among mod­ules — you can­not enable a mod­ule if a mod­ule it depends on is dis­abled until you click save and start again. QA Mod­ules does away with this restric­tion whilst keepi­ing these restric­tions in place, by enabling and dis­abling the check­boxes for you dynam­i­cally using Javascript. So, for exam­ple, if you were to enable a mod­ule which relies on another three, those three will be enabled auto­mat­i­cally in the UI.

Ver­ti­cal Tabs

The Ver­ti­cal Tabs mod­ule — inte­grated into core in Dru­pal 7 — tidies up admin forms by con­dens­ing field­sets into ver­ti­cal tabs, as illus­trated below. It also, use­fully, sum­marises some infor­ma­tion about the options con­tained within the field­set in the tab itself — pro­vid­ing, for exam­ple, infor­ma­tion about the pub­lished sta­tus of a node at a glance.

The Vertical Tabs module for Drupal
The Ver­ti­cal Tabs mod­ule for Drupal


The Linkit mod­ule pro­vides an easy inter­face for inter­nal link­ing (i.e. to Dru­pal nodes), offer­ing an auto­com­plete drop­down for find­ing con­tentyou wish to link to. It also stores that link inter­nally in the node/​nid for­mat, yet ren­ders any alias which may have been applied — thus, if the alias changes the link remains intact.

Bet­ter Formats

If there’s one con­cept of Dru­pal that causes all sorts of con­fu­sion to new­com­ers, it’s prob­a­bly input for­mats. Bet­ter For­mats aims not only to extend the input for­mats sec­tion — for exam­ple by set­ting default for­mats by role or by con­tent type, but also to enhance usabil­ity by tweak­ing the interface.

Remem­ber Filter

Remem­ber Fil­ter also works with the input for­mat sys­tem, and sim­ply remem­bers what input for­mat you selected the last time you added or edited con­tent. So, for exam­ple, if you’re adding a bunch of con­tent and it all needs to use a for­mat dif­fer­ent to the default, you don’t have to keep chang­ing it, or indeed remem­ber to change it.


    I’m pretty new to Drupal but I’ve found the Admin panel really useful for navigating the menues quickly. I might try and tempt our developer to use the Rubik theme, it’s very sexy.

    26th August 2011
    Tom Wilks
    Tom Wilks

    I was really searching for useful drupal modules. It defiantly increase speed and accuracy. Thank you for sharing.

    8th November 2012
    Brian Parker
    Brian Parker

    I was really searching for useful drupal modules. It defiantly increase speed and accuracy. Thank you for sharing.

    28th November 2012
    Pauline Taylor
    Pauline Taylor

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