very helpful lioness

Drupal 7.x itch of the week: permission descriptions

Mon, 02/11/2008 - 21:33 -- webchick

I noted in my Drupal 7.x Personal Battleplan that I was going to focus on Usability and QA stuff this go around. So I've started a new segment called "itch of the week" to keep track of the efforts I'm working on to that effect. It'll be interesting (well... to me and probably no one else :P) to see if I can keep up with these weekly or not. ;)

Anyway. The first itch goes to.... permission descriptions!

Permissions screen before and after permissions get descriptions.

This is a patch that was originally written by kkaefer way back in fall of 2005. It came back on my radar when I was observing Marci working with Drupal on her blog and struggling to figure out what the various options meant. It further came back on my radar when I heard a support request come in from a client about why their editor could see private site content intended only for administrators. Permissions are sometimes poorly named (I've come across some doozies in contrib :P) or have other implications that are not immediately obvious, such as roles with "administer nodes" permission bypassing any access control on content. This patch attempts to make these more obvious to folks.

Anyway, if this sounds like something that's interesting to you, please help review the patch, and we'll see if we can get it into Drupal 7.x. :)


Great idea Angie! Setting permissions from the large confusing table can be a headache. Probably the only reason I use the admin theme functionality too - as it almost never fits!

My 2c regarding the table, is to repeat the role-names next to each permission table (if one has more than 3 roles, there's always a scrolling up and down to check which column is which role)

ie. <tr><td>menu module</td><td>anonymous</td><td>authenticated</td><td>author</td><td>editor</td></tr>

Submitted by webchick on

One of the nice improvements that went into Drupal 6 is "sticky" table headers which keep the headers at the top of the page, even as you scroll down. Check it out, cos I think that does what you are suggesting here, but not only on the permissions page, but also on modules, themes, etc. :)

I confess, I don't test the Release Candidates or attempt to upgrade until all the modules used in any of my sites have been released. Just installed a test case and checked out the sticky table headers for permissions. Works like a charm!

Of course - none of my themes are compatible with Drupal 6 (yet) :/


Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on

Admin please meet me on e-mail !.

While we are it, renaming "administer nodes" to "administer content" is a good first step to make permissions a little bit more consistent IMHO :)

Basically you're right: what do the options mean? Especially non-experienced administrators can cause quite a mess in setting them wrongly.

But having had lengthy discussions and various ideas how to shorten overlong forms in drupal, I see this with a laughing and a crying eye. The permission form is already one of the longest. With descriptions, it will span from Vancouver to Denver and back...

Solution idea 1: strongly think about the "help text toggle" option http://demo.guruburu.com/ that experienced administrators will use with joy to get the list back to the old size at least.

Sulution idea 2: (much favored): Keep the help texts (and maybe also help text toggle), but as well as for Modules page, think about a way to break it up. Maybe by use of two columns (like this mockup for translation server illustrates, even if it cannot be directly compared http://drupal.org/node/215286 ), by use of pagination, or how about grouping things more tigthly in some way like the Views UI Mockup does to tame the beast Views edit page http://www.couzinhub.com/Views2-UI/views2-9.pdf )

Rather than scratching we should think of healing the wound ;)
I'll stand to my word and be handy at least with mockups.

I think we should group the permissions to specific tabs, not module specific but "topic" specific. I'd envision a more specialized matrix for the node permissions, now that we need to set more permissions per node type per role. Some modules are fine with this simple table, but more specialized UIs for specific modules would be great. I am working on exposing input format settings as filter module permissions for example right now.

Great idea which will demystify some of the access control features and help bring it to "the earthlings".
I've worked with really un-internet oriented crowds (elderly women over 65 in http://www.machsomwatch.org) and I understand the value of adding the "About" regarding what the permission does.
What if we add a "Why" as well - it can be optional but could serve to document some of the user story assertions we might have.
If I have an optional comment regarding the "why I marked this permission this way" I can document stuff like "because we agreed that students can only comment on assignments and can't create them themselfs.".
Just my 2 cents - if anybody is in the area this could be interesting..

Submitted by Mike (not verified) on

I confess, I don't test the Release Candidates or attempt to upgrade until all the modules used in any of my sites have been released. Just installed a test case and checked out the sticky table headers for permissions. Works like a charm!

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Submitted by Marc Espie (not verified) on

Promote `masquerade', I don't know if it works with d6 or d7 yet.

I discovered it by accident, and it's a complete must-have as soon as you have a few roles and complicated permissions around.

Submitted by joachim@drupal.org (not verified) on

Nice one!