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Category: Drupal

Useful how to’s for Drupal

Introducing ScholarWriter

Making ScholarWriter portable and researcher-friendly

During the last few months, I have been packaging ScholarWriter into a portable version that comes on a USB stick.  Simply, take one USB stick holding ScholarWriter, start it up, make sure the Apache and MySQL servers are running, – and you can start work on a private website in your browser.

At the end of the day, log out, shut it all down, and backup using a simple .zip file.

If something goes wrong, take your backup and unzip it.  And, you get straight back to work without any angst.

Why ScholarWriter?

So ScholarWriter is portable, but “what is the aim” as Chris Hambly of Audana  and Cornwall said last night on Twitter (@audio).

Anyone who writes long reports – dissertations, theses and papers in academia and long management consulting reports – will be familiar with something not much talked about – research is physically exhausting.

We get relevant material

  • We look for relevant material in the Libraries of the world
  • We get the source material

We read and take notes

  • We track what we have read and what we haven’t read
  • We take notes and carefully put the full reference on the top and paginate our pages

We file and re-file notes (endlessly)

  • We file those notes somewhere
  • When we need our notes, we rely on memory to remember where they are
  • Then if we need them elsewhere we re-file them

We copy our notes again and again

  • Then we start writing and that means cutting and pasting notes from our notes file to our main writing file and carefully putting in the references

Ha!  Try doing that without losing something and having to go through file after file checking details or looking for something you lost.

Now you have the reason for ScholarWriter.  Keeping meticulous track of who said what is incredibly difficult as you move things around physically and your argument evolves as you learn about the subject.  It is not only difficult, it is exhausting. I think that is what we learn in academia and why most people give up and flee to commerce.

ScholarWriter: Software for academics

The key software for academics at the Library end will remain Endnote, or something similar – we want to find references and import them into Word.

And at the other end, the final draft stage, the key software remains Word – we want to layout out our dissertation or paper ready to send electronically to our supervisor or publisher.

ScholarWriter sits between the two ends.

We get relevant material

  • We can import and export our bibliography as single references or a list in .xml format (don’t worry – Endnote and ScholarWriter sort that out for you)
  • We can load .pdfs into the same system so they get backed up nightly with our notes and moved to other computers as one large package
  • We can keep links to online references bundled with the reference in case we need them

We read and take notes

  • We write our notes into something like a “blog post” that has an extra field – type a phrase from the title of the article and ScholarWriter cross-references to the reference (and moreover keeps a list with the reference of where the notes are!)
  • We can open the relevant .pdf file in another window (we can do that anyway but nothing is stopping us doing that)
  • If we come back to our notes and want to make a comment, we just use the normal comments section of a blog post – there is no need to open the file even

We file notes ONCE not endlessly

One large folder in date order

  • We save everything – references, notes, drafts, scribbles, entries into our calendar – in one running file by date order in one folder.

Searching thousands of files is easy

  • You can save everything in Windows too – you don’t need to make folders but this one central folder gets larger.  This is where Drupal, the CMS underlying ScholarWriter comes in.  Drupal has a powerful internal search function.  It searches the content of all your content, it searches by title, it searches by date, and it searches by tag.

Develop and maintain outlines of your dissertation or paper

But that is not all, as the advertisements say, the outlining feature of Drupal is very powerful.  Instead of physically moving files to a folder, you hyperlink them into the outline of a book.

  1. First you set up the cover page.
  2. Then you add child pages for each major section – Title Page, Introduction, Method, etc.
  3. And lastly, after you have saved some notes or a reference or some scribbles that popped into your head, you drop them into the right place in an outline.

You don’t physically move the file from its position in the giant running file – you simply tell an outline which files are relevant to that section.  And you can see the outline developing on the screen in front of you. It is not buried in Windows Explorer in another file.

Using Outlines to speed up your writing

I am always struck that US universities push outlining. This is how you use outlining in ScholarWriter.

When you want to develop a section, yourrepeat the general process.

  1. You break the section up into sub-sections and then you add a child page for each subsection.
  2. Then with a few clicks for each, you attach files to the sub-sections.
  3. The content never moves – but the outline develops.
  4. The outline develops with a few clicks – not opening and editing a file – simply because an outline is simply a “view” it is not a file that is saved anywhere.

Commit your Outline to writing

So if an Outline is never actually saved, how do we “commit it to writing”?

When you want to see everything you have for a section, you ask for “Print Friendly”.  If you have, say five files in that section, those five files will be collated in the order you have them, into one display in another Window in your browser.  Now you can see not only the headings but everything in the files as well.

To print out everything, simple print.  It is that easy.  Five files, say, printed one after another.  A huge saving in physical work.

How can you write up a section?

When you have all the “facts, figures and quotations” collected for a section, it is time to write.  Usually, you would open all five files and possibly physically print the notes on several articles.

Using Scholarwriter

  1. First you preview what you have using Outline and Print Friendly
  2. Then you sort your notes into order – using a drag ‘n drop system
  3. Then you check again with Outline and Print Friendly
  4. If you are ready to write, you use CTRL A and cut ‘n paste to take everything into Word
  5. And now you are ready to turn your notes into a compact paragraph, largely through deletion, and then be writing one tight, cogent, paragraph with references and page numbers.

 Building the text of your dissertation or paper

Now that you have written a powerful and complete paragraph, instead of saving in Word, you copy ‘n paste back into ScholarWriter, or to be more precise, onto the child page ‘holding’ that section.

You no longer need the links to the original notes, so you de-link them.  Each with four clicks, I believe.  You don’t lose your notes though. They sit snugly where they have always sat, in your giant running file, organized by data and fully searchable without any arduous opening and closing of files.

So at this point you have a paragraph written for your growing magnus ops saved as file and positioned correctly in your Outline. And your notes sitting where they always have been but no longer linked to the Outline because you have written that section up.

One paragraph down!  Next!

ScholarWriter fits the advice – little and often

The best feature of ScholarWriter is that it allow you to concentrate on one task at a time.  And to complete small tasks in the time that you  have.

If you only have 30 minutes to an hour in the morning, you can realistically turn the notes on five articles into one paragraph.  A paragraph a day does not sound like a lot, but it is a lot more than no paragraphs a day and a lot quicker than wasting the time you do have on trying to get over procrastination and get down to work when you have been away from your writing for some time.

Imagining the working day with ScholarWriter

Your working day with ScholarWriter amounts to

  1. Adding a reference
  2. Reading an academic article and making notes which you drop into an outline
  3. Structuring your outline getting down eventually to one child page per paragraph (think of an upside down tree)
  4. Writing a paragraph which you save as a file and keep linked to its position in the outline.

Do any one of those and you have made progress. Do four of those and you have made a lot of progress.

Security and ScholarWriter

We made ScholarWrite portable, partly to lower the IT knowledge needed to use it (slap it in and fire it up) but more so for security. When everything you need – your server, your WYSIWYG, your bibliography, your sources, your notes, your outline and your drafts – are in one folder, it’s dead simple to backup. Zip up the folder and send the .zip someone safe by email (start a special gmail account?).

Eveything is safe and can be recovered by unzipping the folder.   Fire up ScholarWriter and you are back in business within minutes.

Stay oriented with ScholarWriter

Even after three decades in this business, I still find the feeling of disorientation when I shift tasks most uncomfortable.

With everything in one place and Drupal’s powerful views, I have lists refreshing themselves to help me get my bearings.

  • When you add a reference, or a bunch of references, to your bibliography, your What I have yet to read list is automatically updated.
  • When you take notes on an article and cross-reference a reference, the reference drops off your What I have yet to read list and joins your What I have read list.
  • When you procrastinate in the morning – focus by looking at the five things you put in your To Do list the previous night using a simple a click of a flag
  • At the End the day, when you are feeling exhausted yet you are asking – What did I do all day? – Click the Ta Da flag as you go and admire your list grow.
  • Take off items from your To Do list and watch with pleasure as it shortens during the day!
  • And ScholarWriter has a full Calendar. Put in dates up to five years’ out (fits a part-time PhD or the publication of a research paper).  Put in recurring dates such as tutorials and include times and details like room numbers

That is ScholarWriter – portable software for academics and other writers of long documents with many primary sources.  Plug ‘n play, easy to back up, and cutting down on the effort of managing your many documents.  You are still the Scholar and the Writer, but hopefully your work is not so exhausting and hopefully you cut a significant amount of time from completing your meticulously prepared document.




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Install a WYSIWIG editor on Drupal in 6 clear steps

I hope these instructions will save other people that many hours I spent.


I am setting up a blog with Drupal and I want to add a WYSIWYG.  If you blog already, you will recall that WordPress, and very likely other blog progams, allow you to write directly onto the screen.  This is called “Visual”.  Alternatively, you can write in plain text and add HTML (e.g., mark a heading with  <h1>).  This is called HTML.

The core of Drupal comes with HTML only.  I am trying to add a WYSIWYG or Visual option.


Basically, we have to

  • Download and install the WYSIWYG module.
  • Go to Configuration and look for WYSIWYG profile.  Select it.
  • Look at at the choice of WYSIWYG editors.  I chose CKeditor.
  • Make a new folder in the root directory of your website.  More  just now.
  • Download and unpack the CKeditor following the link provided.
  • And now for the trick.  Rejig the position of the files of CKeditor.

Taking these steps one-by-one.

#1 Download and install the WYSIWYG module

You have two choices.  Install the WYSIWYG module manually (go to Modules in the top tool bar) and then remember to install the module which requires only that you check a check box.

Alternatively, if you have already installed Drush, go to your Windows Command Line (at Start, All Programs, Accessories), check Drush is working by typing “Drush Status”, and then change your directory to your website.  “cd c:wampwwwmywebsitenamesitesallmodulescontrib”.

Use Drush by typing

drush dl wysiwyg

drush en –y wysiwig

Note the module name is typed in lowercase.   The commands just mean “use drush to download wysiwyg” and “use drush to ‘enstall’ wysiwg”.

#2 Find the WYSIWYG Profile

Don’t use the profile on the Modules page.  Select Configuration on the top tool bar and look for the WYSIWYG profile on the left.  It should be immediately under “Text formats”.  If you cannot see it, go to your modules folder, delete WYSIWYG and start again. At least, that was my solution.

#3 Choose a WYSIWYG editor.

If you see the WYSIWYG profile, select it and you should see a long list of WYSIWYG editors all highlighted in blue.

I chose the first one, CKeditor.

Now, don’t rush.  This is not a module.  It is a library.  So, the download instructions are different.

#4 Make a folder to store the library

Using Windows Explorer, make a folder to receive the library.

I am working in WAMP and I will make a library folder at “sites/all.”  So I create C:/wamp/www/sites/all/libraries.

#5 Download the WYSIWYG editor library

Now go back to the screen where you had the choice of editor (highlighted in blue), download the library, and unpack it into your library folder.

#6 Rejig the files in the library

And now the catch which I will try to explain well as it caught me out for a while.

You will know have two folders, both containing files.




Copy all the files from the lower folder (ckeditor/ckeditor) into the upper folder.


Now when you go back to the top tool bar and select configuration, and go to the WYSWYG profile, you will see a boring white and grey table containing the label “Input Format”.  Congratulations!  You have done what defeats many – activated the CKeditor on Drupal.

Use the drop-down lists to pick the CKeditor and save.  Nothing happens, so go back to the WYSIWYG profile and you will see a new screen where you can “edit” the settings.  This is where you set up your WYSIWYG editor.  Reward yourself. Here comes another learning curve!

Have I written on a similar topic?


Install Drush on WAMP slowly but successfully

I am presently building a website based on Drupal using my WAMP server on my laptop as a development site.

In these notes, I record the rather frustrating task of installing DRUSH. Drush is a facility for automating repetitive tasks involving in clicking together a Drupal site.   In particular, I wanted to simplify the tedious process of downloading and implementing all the modules needed to create a website.

Where I start from

These notes begin when two important stages have been completed.

Completed: Install a Wamp Server on your laptop.

Completed: Use a 5 minute install to create a Drupal site.

I am also assuming email has been set up for your development site and that you have looked around sufficiently to find the Modules tab at the top of the page.

It might be useful to install and activate one Module by hand so you appreciate the timesavings involved in using Drush.

Getting oriented: check your file structure

It is also helpful to look at your file structure before you begin.  I have WAMP stored under c:wamp and I store useful tools that I have downloaded from the internet at c:tools.

Each of my websites is stored in c:wampwwwwebsite1, c:wampwwwwebsite2, etc.  If the website is based on Drupal, then Drupal is placed in the website folder.  This means I may have more than  one copy of Drupal on my laptop. That strikes me as inefficient, but that is my set up at present.

Find Drush and gnuwin32 online

To get Drush, working, locate the Drush site through Google and download version 5 (not 4 – it doesn’t work  on Windows) to a folder called Drush under c:tools.

Now find gnuwin32 using Google and download the following using whatever setup.exe there are.  Gnuwin32 will give you Unix commands.  Download the following into your Program Files (x86).

  • Libarchive
  • Gzip
  • Wget
  • Gtar
  • Bsdtar

An extra step

I found advice to copy bsdtar.exe onto tar.exe.  No feedback occurs at all so it might be idea to run through the whole setup and if you have trouble, come back to do this step.

Adjust your path statement

Now adjust your Path statement (very carefully).  Adjusting the path statement allows you to call Drush from c:tools and for Drush to call PHP and SQL from WAMP and to use the Gnuwin32 commands.

Practically, open Word or a text editor, and then open Windows Explorer.  Go to c:toolsdrush and confirm that you can see the drush.bat file.  If so, copy the path, e.g., c:toolsdrush from the browser at the top of the screen to the text editor and add a semi-colon (;).

Now do the same for the other critical components.

  • C:Program Files (x86)Gnuwin32
  • C:Program Files (x86)Gnuwin32bin [where gzip hangs out]
  • C:wampbinphpphpn.n.n [whatever numbers you have]
  • C:wampbinmysqlmysql.1.36bin

You should have a long line of paths separated by semi-colons(;).

Now find your path statement. Go to Computer/Properties/Advanced/Environment Variables and be very careful. Messing this up can mess up the entire system.  It is also hard to see what you are doing.

Make sure the current Path Statement ends with a semicolon (;).  Copy the extra paths from your text editor and save.

Test the installation of Drush

Get your Command Line (got to Accessories) and check whether all is well by typing “drush status”.

If all looks sensible, then you are ready to download another module.  First, go to Windows Explorer and add a subdirectory to your website as follows.


Then use the Windows Command Line to work within this new directory.

  • Cd c:wampwwwmywebsitenamesitesallmodulescontrib


  • Drush dl module
  • Drush en –y module


When you log in to your website the module should be installed and activated, saving you a lot of effort.

Just remember to use the CLI to work within the subdirectory so that Drush downloads here and not elsewhere.

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5 minute install of DRUPAL on WAMP

Install Drupal with WAMP

Situation: To develop DRUPAL on my laptop

I want to download DRUPAL onto my laptop so that I can develop DRUPAL websites on my laptop before I load them up to my hosted server accessible by the public.

I already develop WordPress and Wikis on my laptop and with a local server WAMP.  I got the instructions to download WAMP from Lifehacker.

Mission: A 5 minute install of DRUPAL on WAMP

I want to download Drupal and set it up successfully.

Execution:  Critical steps for downloading DRUPAL quickly and successfully first time

#1  Check my directory structures

  • C:WAMP
  • C:wampbinapached
  • C:wampwww. . . .[all my development sites]

#2  Make  a directory to receive DRUPAL

  • C:WAMPwwwmynewsite


  • Go to Start/All Programs
  • Active WAMPSERVER (my installation asks me to confirm permission)
  • Look for icon in the bottom right of the task bar (W)
  • Check options ( localhost, phpMyAdmin, PHP which includes php.ini)
  • Go to localhost and see the folder you create “mynewsite” (though there is nothing in it yet)

#4  Set up my new SQL database

  • Go back to the WAMPSERVER menu (W) and select phpMyAdmin
  • Look in the middle of the page for Create database
  • Insert the name of the database.  I usually use the name of the website. Hit Create
  • Check your privileges.  If you set up your WAMPSERVER using the instructions from Lifehacker, then you will have two root users and yourself and all three users have global privileges.  Note your username (!) and recall your password.  You will need them shortly.

#5  Download Drupal and unzip it into your folder : c:wampwwwmynewsite (or whatever you called it)

#6  Install Drupal

  • Go back to the WAMPSERVER menu ( W on taskbar bottom right)
  • Select localhost
  • Select “mynewsite” (or whatever you called it)
  • You should be looking at the Drupal installation screen.

#7 Activate the DRUPAL installation programme

  • Select standard install
  • In English (assuming that is your preference)
  • Leave the selection as SQL
  • Insert the name of your database
  • Insert your username (see step 4 above)
  • Insert your password
  • Let DRUPAL do its thing

#8  Now do as DRUPAL asks and put in the email address, admin name and password for the website

  • NB These are not the same as the database in steps 4 and 7.

#9  Go to configuration

  • Make sure “clean urls” (pretty permalinks) is ticked.


I now have a working DRUPAL website accessible through my WAMPSERVER/local host or through my browser http://localhost /mynewsite and in under 5 minutes.

It’s ready for tweaking and development prior to being loaded up to a hosting service for public use.