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March 13, 2012

Drupal apps - an overview

If first there were modules, then features, - the time for introducing something new has finally come – Drupal apps. 
This is still an unexplored field for the Drupal community, although there has been many controversial discussions regarding this subject especially at Drupal presentations and camps. If you are interested to know more about this, a good idea would be to check out some videos related to Drupal apps that you can find on drupal.org. 
We have decided to gather some information on Drupal apps and see what they are about. This is yet another short review we will present on Drupal apps and how do they work.
What is this and how do Drupal apps work?
Drupal apps is a selection of entities that help the user add new features on his website very fast. Drupal apps are meant to provide a better user experience through the facility to pick all the modules you need for a certain functionality fast, without much research needed. To compare it roughly - it is practically like a frozen pizza that you just need to microwave and there you have one meal with all the integrated ingredients ready. 
The difference between Drupal features and Drupal apps is that the latest it presented nicer with a neat, user friendly interface that offers all the options, a demo version and other documents that you might need when using them. Drupal apps is way much more simple than Drupal features (oriented on developers more), making it easy for users that have no programming knowledge whatsoever to build websites with the help of this CMS. 
What Drupal apps do is summon a certain module or a set of modules through just one click. This feature is useful for a specific problem or a need that the user wants fulfilled for his website building process.
Apps components
Every app carries the same elements and those are:
- A new functionality
- The ability to install, turn it on/off, and uninstall the app
- A user friendly interface that lets the user choose what options to use
- A detailed description, screenshots and other useful information on every app, so that the user will
Apps can be built by any developer from the Drupal community. The developer gathers all his experience into one or several apps that are logically built in order to be helpful and understandable for the end user.
A Drupal App Example
If you would like to create a blog for a website, the usual Drupal way – you would have to create a content type, create different views and add fields for this content type. What Drupal apps offer is a simple option- you will just have to go through the apps library and select whatever you need to install. Once you pick the blogs app you can get all the features you need for this app out of the box through an intuitive method and voila – you have the blog integrated on your website with just a few easy steps.
The Drupal Apps Environment
Let’s see what other features evolve around apps and the environment they dwell in:
App Market: app shop, where the user can browse for and download the needed apps. 
App Manifest Specification: Every app needs to have detailed information that describes all the modules it used and its functionalities. It needs to have clear information that defines it, as well as screenshots for a better visual understanding. 
App Server: This is an internet shop where the end user can browse for apps and install the ones he needs. The app server will have to be able to deliver the apps to the users’ website. 
App Client: The web client that connects to the app server.
Drupal Apps workflow
The logic behind the workflow of Drupal apps has to be already known to users that have at least once used different other applications from other companies. The user connects to an app store, through a special section on his website, chooses the app he would like and immediately installs it to his website. Steps:
1. Install Drupal 7
2. Install Drupal Apps Module
3. Install the connection module to the needed app server (we can use for example OpenEnterprise that is already connected to Drupal 7 app store)
Once you pass through all these steps, you will have a new admin panel on your website that will guide you through the features you can use. 
After that, you can just choose the features you need and “Install” it. If you want to disable that app, there is a clear intuitive way to do that.

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