Drupal 8 Arrives: Top New Features

More than a year after the first Drupal 8 beta release came out, there is a firm date for the official release of Drupal 8: November 19, 2015. It’s a major milestone in the Drupal world because Drupal 8 delivers more than 200 new features and enhancements aimed at improving ease of use for administrators, users, themers, and developers. Here are some of the highlights:

New Functionality

  1. Mobile support: Drupal 8 finally catches up with the mobile world. User pages, tables, and the admin toolbar all size and work properly on mobile devices, and all the built-in themes are responsive.
  2. Easier content authoring: Popular WYSIWYG editor CKEditor is bundled in to Drupal 8. Content editors can get even more WYSIWYG convenience with inline editing that lets you modify and text right on the page.
  3. Multilingual support: we live in a multi-national global economy. Drupal 8 has a language module; if you don’t enable it, Drupal assumes English. When you enable this module, you will be able to download and configure language settings by simply selecting and adding in the language, and then assign language to administration language, taxonomy terms, user role names, etc.
  4. Accessibility features: WAI-ARIA markup, and better semantics in HTML5 are just a few of the things Drupal 8 provides for low-vision viewing. Whether it’s color contrast or alt text, this release is serious about making Drupal a platform that supports accessibility.
  5. Views: you can forgive yourself if you didn’t know that Views was not part of Drupal core. This module is so popular and so functional that many Drupal distributions shipped with Views. Now that Views is part of core, the integration provides developers with more powerful functionality for default lists and blocks, as well as administration pages.  
  6. HTML 5 support: this is one of the changes that make it easier to develop and design for mobile screens, but it also means simpler style and script elements, more security, support for accessibility, and providing developers and module contributors a way to move to richer and more interactive user experiences.
  7. Built-in web services: via support for the REST API, Drupal 8 lets developers expose web content to make it easier for external applications such as mobile apps to consume web content.  
  8. Faster theming: Drupal 8 uses Twig, a PHP-based compiled templating language that’s more secure and powerful, outputs optimized PHP code, and makes it easier to create templates.
  9. Object oriented programming: moving closer to industry standards, Drupal has adapted to object oriented programming to provide a more modular approach, improve reusability of modules, and better structure

What if I’m on Drupal 6?

Drupal 6 will move to "unsupported status" three months after the official release of Drupal 8, This is consistent with the Drupal community’s policy of providing support for the latest two releases. This means:

  • Drupal 6 websites can upgrade to Drupal 7 any time between now and February 19, 2016. Drupal 8’s core includes Migrate and Migrate Drupal modules for Drupal 6/7 to Drupal 8 migration support; read the documentation carefully to determine whether you need to do some manual configuration for the migration.
  • Drupal 6 sites that can’t migrate just now will need to check with the Drupal Security Team for third party organizations that are willing to provide long term support.

What if I’m on Drupal 7?

Drupal’s stated position is that they will support two releases at a time. Therefore, Drupal 7 will be fully supported software until Drupal 9 comes out. According to Drupal, a current best-guess based on historical evidence means Drupal 9 will probably come out in 2018.

Therefore, upgrading your site from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 is not urgent unless there are Drupal 8 features you really need to have. However, you should definitely put it in your radar and know what to expect. There are instructions on how to prepare for an upgrade and executing an upgrade.