Should I Use Context or Panels for Drupal Sites?

Should I Use Context or Panels for Drupal Sites?

There are multiple different ways to design a Drupal site. You can code your theme, or you can use modules such as Panels, Context and Display Suite.

I’m reluctant to answer the question of which solution is “best”, but we do often get asked about which approach Drupal site-builders should use.

In this video, Robert Ring compares Context and Panels, explaining different situations in which he’d choose to use each module. If you want to learn more, we have full classes on Context and Panels.


  • Steve Burge

    Steve is the founder of OSTraining. Originally from the UK, he now lives in Sarasota in the USA. Steve's work straddles the line between teaching and web development.

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Been using Display Suite and Context for over 100 D7 sites. Simple UI can handle any layout. Panels is a UI nightmare with a million hidden Easter eggs like Views. With Display Suite you can create your own PHP templates, assign fields to regions, over-ride most of the default field templates, and write code fields (either through the UI or in a custom module). After watching the nine short Display Suite videos on YouTube, I’ve never really needed to learn more. It just works awesome. Context is not really good for page layouts in the node content area. It’s great for everything around the node.


Thanks Jason. Thumbs up from me too, I’m a big Display Suite fan, for the reasons you mention.


You are talking about Display Suite mainly, not Context. Panels is good for layouts both inside AND outside the content area 😛 And also has variations, http response codes, substitutions, visibility rules..

Let alone that with IPE (Panels In Place Editor) you can later let the customer edit his website layout himself.
But I don’t have any experience with Context.. What can I do with it that I can’t do with Panels? And what is easier to do with Context than with Panels? Thanks 🙂


imo the entire idea of doing page layout with blocks at all, which is where context excels, is awkward, counter intuitive, difficult to work with, and antiquated to begin with. Context is an excellent way of trying to wrangle that particular beast, but it’s still lipstick on a pig.
Panels with panelizer is a much better way of handling page layouts because it allows exposing page design to editors and non-developer admins without allowing them into the potentially site breaking panels interface. Just fire up a [url=][/url] of openatrium or panopoly to take it for a spin.
Also, I just don’t like having to make tons of unnecessary block views displays when 90% of the time a simple default view will do the trick.
just my $0.05 worth 🙂

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