Simplify your life with Panels

MidCamp 2015


Picture of Chris Hill

Chris Hill

krisahil (

Bonnier Corporation

A platform for high-functioning media websites.

Not the Drupal-famous "Chris Hill" of fame.

Weather Channel logo

Good ways to build,

and bad. :-(

Best practices is about learning from those who have succeeded.

'Do it right the first time' meme


  • Discuss block-placement strategies.
  • Convince you to do my our way.
  • Stay away from the weeds.

Who here is perfect?

We've all "architected" solutions we're not proud of.

  • Printed HTML in page TPL?
  • Programmatically rendered a block in a node's body?
  • Added inline CSS to node's body to achieve weird layout (like that's gonna be responsive)?
  • Added CSS or JS outside of drupal_add_css/js()?
  • Added SQL queries in template files instead of by preprocessing?

A better way

Plan your next site!

Research and decide modules before starting build. No fun, I know. :-)

Page layout

HTML page layout example
  • Header
  • Content
  • Sidebar
  • Footer

Big question: How to place blocks into those regions?

Core blocks administration

  • Deceptively simple
  • Each block can be placed into only one region.

Context module

  • Provides intricate control
  • It's not Panels. :-)

What is Panels?

Comprehensive suite to manage blocks across all regions.

Simplify your life with one toolset.

  • Drag-and-drop interface to place blocks.
  • Layouts: Avoid CSS for basic layouts!
  • Contexts: Blocks are always aware of what's available.

Panels tools

Why so many?! Their titles can be confusing.

  • Page manager
  • Mini panels
  • Panelizer
  • Panel nodes
  • Panels everywhere

Prereq 1: Layouts

Page manager page with arguments example
  • Each section is a "region".
  • The "blocks" can be regular blocks, Views, menus, etc.

Layouts provided

Panels layouts out-of-the-box example
  • Plugin method: Declares the regions, template, and CSS.
  • Can be stored in theme or modules.

Prereq 2: Contexts

  • What type of data is available on this page?
  • Only appropriate blocks are available for use.

Page manager

Page manager page with arguments example

Replacement (mostly) for hook_menu() for custom pages.

Arguments in URL become contexts (e.g. node ID becomes full node).

Page manager: Variants

Page manager variants example
  • Selection rules determine which variant gets used.
  • Don't get too crazy with the rules.

Mini panels

Mini panel example in header

Group blocks together as Panels layouts.

Can be used as blocks throughout site.


More checkboxes than you can shake a stick at!

Read tutorials before starting!

Remember, with great power comes... great complexity.

Panelizer: Why so great?

  • Allows editors to choose a Panels template per node.
  • Customize the Panel for one specific node. Powerful, and dangerous!
  • And both of these for each view mode for each node!

Panelizer: So many choices!

Screenshot of Panelizer choices on a node edit form

Panels is greedy.

Panels Everywhere meme

What is Panels Everywhere?

  • Frees you from core's blocks and regions.
  • Control the header, sidebars, and footer in Panels interface.
  • Variants allow easy switching of page layout and blocks.

How to use?

  • Use a supported theme.
  • Try to use from start of project.
  • Variants allow easy switching of page layout and blocks.
Screenshot of Panelizer choices on a node edit form

Next steps

Great modules to extend Panels:


  • Is Panels ecosystem perfect?
  • Mature project, with lots of supporting themes and modules.
  • Will tomorrow's you be happy?

Thank you!