I first used Panels 2 about a year ago. Panels allows the Drupal webmaster to add different sections and alter the layout without the need to tamper directory with the theme code.
It is a very powerful module and for those serious about Drupal web design it is inevitable that sooner or later you will end up using it.
There were some fundamental code problems with Panels 2that could only can be resolved by tearing it up from the roots and starting again. Hence the recent release of Panels 3, albeit as a release candidate.
The main coder for this project is Earl Miles and the funding for much of the work has come from Sony due to the necessity of this module on their own Drupal site.
Panels like Views, CCK and Contemplate are essential addons for most Drupal installations as they allow the webmaster to create fundamental changes in layout and structure with little or no knowledge of PHP.
I took a deep breath before upgrading from Panels 2 to 3 as I wasn’t sure what sort of learning curve to expect. The first thing I did was completely remove version 2; including deleting the MySQL tables. It was clear that such a version jump would need a clean slate.
Well that wasn’t helpful and the file it pointed to looked seriously complicated.
Looking for help elsewhere I found some tutorials but they were from the beginning of year when Panels 3 was in a more primitive state.
Okay then, I thought, lets make some coffee and get prepared for a long day.
As it happens it only took a couple of hours to get the layout I wanted. The interface of Panels 3 is extremely intuitive as it allows a step-by-step progression from the first parts of creating a layout to the last. In this regard it is certainly a far superior beast than Panels 2 ever was.
Admittedly, I have used both Views and Panels before so I’m not sure how a complete novice to this side of Drupal would find it, but I reckon it wouldn’t be too complicated for somebody who is a bit green.
I think what I’ll do is create a guide to the basics of using this module with screenshots.