Drupal 7 Administration Toolbar Roundup

 

The admin toolbar is a user's first look at Drupal. A complex, cluttered toolbar gives the n00b a sense that things in this site are too much to handle. A clean, well-curated interface that presents content tasks first gives the n00b a sense that Drupal is easy to use. Drupal 8 promises a simplified toolbar that gives the user this cozy sense of belonging.

Default Drupal Toolbar

The toolbar module is a big improvement over no toolbar at all. But when you hit "content" it loads the content administration screen rather than giving you a dropdown where you could conveniently select "create content." This is just too much time waiting around for Drupal. Too slow. The top-level links are mostly good, but there are too many of them. All the sitebuilder stuff should be shoved into a single dropdown.

Back in the day, there used to be a module that gave the core toolbar dropdowns. But I can't seem to find it. If you know what it's called, please put a link in the comments!

Drupal Mobile Friendly Navigation Toolbar

Overall, the Drupal Mobile Friendly Navigation Toolbar is pretty handy. OpenChurch and Sparks distributions both make use of it. It can be configured with content creation links under "Shortcuts" using the core Shortcut module. However, clicking an item like the not-very-descriptive "Menu" link takes one to the Drupal default admin page rather than to a dropdown menu. True, a sub-menu loads, but only after waiting for page load. Ain't nobody got time for that. Plus, and this is just a small quirk but one that's important for users, when hovering over the menu items, the cursor changes to a text bar rather than to a click pointer, which makes it seem as though one is about to enter text rather than click a link.

Now, of all the admin toolbars, this one is best for mobile. Operating the tiny dropdowns from Administation menu is not the best. But in a professional context, I still think most content creation happens from a traditional desktop, and the tradeoffs of poor administrative organization (Drupal default) and waiting for page load aren't worth it for me.

Coffee

Coffee is a pop-up menu that is invoked by pressing Alt+D, rather like Quicksilver on the Mac. It's an amazing little tool, and it's the first thing I install on a new site. But it doesn't index pages like /node/add/blog so you can't just type "Blog" and get to a content creation screen. I hate digging around in the Drupal menu tree for admin tasks like changing the file system path (wait, was that under "administration). With Coffee, I just hit Alt+D and type "File System" and I get to the configuration screen.

Simplemenu

Ah, simplemenu. This used to be the best toolbar, IHMO, in the Drupal 6 days. The "Create Content" dropdown was all I needed for my users, and then there was a massive "Configuration" dropdown for us sitebuilders. Now, the interface is unfinished and doesn't even include many crucial menu items. I have no idea where it builds its menu tree from.

This is what Simplemenu looked like in Drupal 6:

And this is what it looks like now. Fallen glory.

Administration Menu

Until recently, if I was going to be using a site, I turned on Administration Menu. It's got dropdowns for all the things I need to get to while developing a site. It's got a few too many top-level options for the novice, but with dropdown menus and a nice-looking theme, it makes it easy to get around. But it offers too many top-level menu choices, and the side-flying dropdown menus are a little twitchy to get to. Content create types should be second level, not third level.

Admin Menu

Back in the Drupal 6 days, Admin Menu was supposed to be the hot stuff. And I can see the appeal, it's a great module. But I just never liked the way it worked. And really, I don't think "Context Editor" and "Switch Theme" should be top-level. Who needs to switch themes all the time? What? Why is this top level? And only advanced sitebuilders need to edit contexts. It seems like it's got a developer-friendly architecture and I could change this if I wanted to, but I don't want to. I want something that works well out of the box with sensible options.

Here's how it looks while it's asleep:

Here's what it looks like awake:

DQX AdminMenu

DQX AdminMenu is a new module for me. I am really impressed. It depends on Administration Menu, and it adds some usability improvements. Inline tasks like create content by type now don't require navigating to a third-level dropdown, and cool descriptions of each menu item pop up in the lower right of the screen.

Now, it's not as pretty as Administration Menu with the submodule Administration Menu Toolbar Style turned on, but it's a winner, despite the tiny text. In fact, I liked it so much I created a tiny little submodule that makes the text bigger and adds the drop shadow from the Administration Menu Toolbar Style module. You can download it from its project page here.

It takes a little longer to load, sometimes up to five seconds after page load, which I assume is due to it pulling in the menu descriptions. And I did get a warning after I enabled, but most prod sites should have strict warnings off anyways:

Strict warning: Only variables should be passed by reference in dqx_adminmenu_pageapi() (line 52 of ...sites/all/modules/dqx_adminmenu/dqx_adminmenu.module).

To Conclude

I really find all of these slightly deficient (except Coffee!), in that they present too many irrelevant links top-level and don't prioritize content creation. But overall DQX AdminMenu in combination with Coffee is what I'll be installing on all my sites from now on. Neither of which are very good on mobile. Overall, I can't wait for the new Drupal 8 toolbar.

Did I miss any? What do you think the best admin toolbar module is? Am I wrong? Tell me why!

About the Author

Hi. My name is Jeremy John. I'm a scifi writer and activist working to build a liberationist Christianity.

Right now, I'm writing a dystopian science fiction novel, and building a website that will connect farms and churches, mosques, and synagogues to buy fresh vegetables directly and distribute them on a sliding scale to those in need.

In 2003, I spent six months in prison for civil disobedience while working to close the School of the Americas, converting to Christianity while I was in the clink.

I'm always looking for dialogue, so kick in below in the comments, connect on Twitter or Facebook, or. . . Read More