3 great Drupal 7 Modules you may have missed

Posted by JD Collier on April 06, 2012

I am such a nerd about Drupal modules … I get really excited when I think I need something that does [blank] and then I find a module that does exactly that. I love even more when I find a module that makes some UX or usability problem go away. We have talked about the Drupal 7 contrib modules Digett considers foundational to every project. Today I'm sharing three of my personal favorites that make UX or usability problems go away.

Block Class module 

I am a big fan of this little module which does one thing I LOVE. With this module, I can style a block with something like ".sidebarcta" instead of "#block-block-5."  I have never been a fan of styling anything with a specific reference to something in a dynamic and changeable CMS.  Haven't you also had situations where you make a new block and then realize that you styled by the block name and then had to adjust your CSS to include the new block?

Another benefit I have found with this module is the ability to create a class like "contactstyle" and then apply that same class across multiple blocks. No need to look up the machine name of each block and add them to my stylesheet, I can just name the style and put that in each block.

I also appreciate the elegance in my CSS … I can read what the style is for rather than depending on a comment around the #block-block-5 style declaration to tell me which block that is talking about.

External Links 

This module is a brilliant fix to a common client/web/usability issue. We need links to external sites to open in a new tab/window, but that requires the client to understand  "target=_blank" in the WYSIWYG link dialog. 

No more!

Use this module and any external links automatically open in a new window.


Linkit adds a new button to the CKEditor (or through WYSIWYG) to allow you to easily add internal and external links. With this module, you can simply type the title of the content for the destination link. When you select the correct page using the Autocomplete field, it adds the correct link.

Do you have any goodies to add that are your favorites? I'd love to check them out!

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Submitted by ColoursAlive on Sat, 04/07/2012 - 9:38am

Thank you for the useful information in this post. The only one I'd heard of was the 'external links' module.

Very useful.

Submitted by Mathijs Groothuis on Sat, 04/07/2012 - 9:54am

I like the 404blocks module which does render blocks on 404 pages. Many drupal sites totally break on a 404 page when navigation and such are really needed. Even websites as Dries his own and webchick are hit by that flaw.

Submitted by John Mark Maina on Sat, 04/07/2012 - 10:27am

Cool stuff man.. I absolutely love the ext link..

I appreciate them all.

Submitted by Jon on Sat, 04/07/2012 - 1:09pm

Nice suggestions, I will check them out.

Submitted by Adam on Sat, 04/07/2012 - 1:32pm

Hard to believe anybody would have missed linkit, but block class is nice.

Submitted by TafkaS on Sat, 04/07/2012 - 1:38pm

thanks for your tips!
If you like the block class module, you may like even more "display suite" module

Submitted by MRobit on Sun, 04/08/2012 - 8:57pm

Great stuff! Definitely checking out these modules - they seem very helpful.

Submitted by E on Mon, 04/09/2012 - 8:09am

Forcing links to open in new tabs/windows is bad UI design, and should never be done generally.

Submitted by JD Collier on Mon, 04/09/2012 - 11:48am

@Mathijs: I do like the D7 equivalent 404 Navigation. Have you tried Search 404? It's great!

@TafkaS: Display Suite ... agreed! We use it on just about every site!

@E: There is quite the flame war still burning on the UX impact of forcing new windows. I am in the camp that feels it is the right thing to do for external links ... and I know good people who believe the opposite of me :) I haven't found any real quantifiable, modern data on the topic one way or the other...just opinions.

Submitted by Hugh Barnes on Wed, 04/11/2012 - 5:41am

I nodded when I read E's comment, just as I reeled when I read you describing new windows as a UX improvement. I don't believe in taking away users' control over their own web browsing experience.
There's contention over this, for sure, so let me finish telling you the experience I had on this site which prompted this post. I came here from Drupal Planet, didn't notice the link had opened a new tab. Got to the end of the comments (your response to E), muttered my disagreement :), and then hit Alt-backarrow to go back in history. No response. Moment's confusion, annoyance … ah, new tab, bingo. A minor annoyance in the scheme of things but don't we live by "Don't make me think"? I wasn't feelin' the UX love.

Submitted by E on Wed, 04/11/2012 - 10:49am

Jakob Nielsen (use-it.com) did a lot of great research on UI and why opening new tabs/windows is a bad idea. Although his research dates from a few years ago, it's still just as valid today as then (even more so, if anything, given the common concept of tabbed browsing now). External links are no different than other links in this regard.

On the off chance one would do this due to thinking that links should open externally to keep people from "leaving your site" is nonsense 1990s-think (and was invalid even then).

Submitted by Susheel Chandradhas on Wed, 04/11/2012 - 12:31pm

Personally, I always open links in new windows. So it's always Rtclick+new tab or Ctrl+Click... I hate losing the page that I clicked away from...

Submitted by Joe on Thu, 04/12/2012 - 1:47pm

The LinkIt module is probably the most brilliant thing I've ever seen. Thanks!

Submitted by Rachael on Tue, 06/12/2012 - 10:03pm

Interesting modules! I've been playing with them and a couple others you've recommended, and have a question.

Any idea if there is a way to only use the External Link module for certain, specified links? We run some services on our site that we pay for, and consider vetted/authority resources, but also want to include other sites. Management wants to put a disclaimer on those sites we aren't sponsoring. Any idea on how to make this happen, or know of a module that can do that?

Submitted by JD Collier on Wed, 06/13/2012 - 11:44am

@Rachael: I have used External Links on to allow some sites through and others not (for example, I didn't want external links on YouTube pop-ups. I did have some problems with it though. It didn't work quite right for me.

Submitted by 3 great Drupal… on Tue, 02/12/2013 - 4:47am

[...] 3 great Drupal 7 Modules you may have missed From www.digett.com - Today, 5:47 AM I am such a nerd about Drupal modules … I get really excited when I think I need something that does [blank] and then I find a module that does exactly that. I love even more when I find a modu Ludovic Coullet's insight: [...]