It has been a little over three years since March 2011, when development commenced on the latest instalment of Drupal, version 8 to be precise, and the developer world looks forward to release of the first beta. What with the number of significant issues (beta-blockers) petering down to just six (yes, 6!) [errata: We had wrongly stated 2 beta-blockers earlier.], the logical next step is going to be a beta release.
The latest and greatest incarnation of what is already a formidable content management framework stuffs the stockings tight with tons of goodies, both at the front-end, as well as behind-the-scenes.
A strong focus on user-friendliness and content presentation mark the upcoming release, and new ways to create data structures, build APIs, multilingual capabilities and improvements in mobile presentation as well. Symfony 2 powers the Drupal 8 backend, a lighter and faster core with tons more steam for modules and themes, and a lower migration curve from previous versions of Drupal translates into all the more reason for you to make the switch.
We present a round-up of the more prominent new features of Drupal 8.
1. New Theme Engine
Drupal 8 includes a brand new theming engine called Twig, which is PHP-based, flexible, fast and secure. It is much easier to create beautiful and more functional Drupal websites using Twig, as its templates are written in a syntax that is not so complex as phptemplate (or others) while being more secure.
2. Mobile from the Get-Go
Drupal 8 is mobile-first in its approach. All the built-in themes that come with Drupal 8 are responsive, along with an admin theme that adapts to different screen sizes, and a ‘Back To Site’ button to go back to the last page you were at. Tables fit into any screen size without a hitch and the new admin toolbar works well on mobile devices.
3. More HTML5 power to you
HTML5, is now more or less the de facto standard when it comes to writing web mark-up. The same is now available natively in Drupal 8, giving you access to input fields like date, e-mail, phone etc., and even more functionality and compatibility with mobile and handheld devices.
Drupal 8 boasts extensive multilingual features right out of the box. The admin interface has built-in translation. You can also create pages with language-based Views filtering and block visibility. Translation updates from the community are also facilitated automatically.
5. Manage Your Configuration
Drupal 8 has configuration management built into it at the file-system level, so that carrying over configuration elements, like content type, views, or fields etc., from local development to the server is a breeze. You can use a version-control system to keep track of configuration changes. Configuration data is stored in files, separate from the site database(s).
6. Authoring Improvements
Drupal 8 brings unprecedented power into the hands of the Content Editor, with WYSIWYG editor CKEditor now bundled with core. However, the most touted improvement remains the in-place editing capability that Drupal 8 will afford users, a result of the Spark Initiative. Site and content creators/editors will be able to edit text in any page without having to switch to the full edit form. Drafts are now much easier to create, and web security is now implemented better as a result.
7. Views now part of Core
Views sits high up in the Drupal module hierarchy, as it is an integral part of most website projects, and a lot is pretty much impossible without it. Site designers have used use this hitherto-contributed module to output galleries, maps, graphs, lists, posts, tables, menus, blocks, reports and what-have-you. With Drupal 8, Views is part of, and strongly integrated with the core. The front page, and several administration pages, are now Views, and users will now be able to easily create pages, blocks, admin sections etc., and modify existing ones just as effortlessly.
8. Better Support for Accessibility
Drupal 8 has great support for industry standard accessibility technologies, like WAI-ARIA. ARIA Live Announcements API and TabManager are great improvements in D8, which provide control for rich Internet applications. Bells and whistles like better font sizes, tweaked colour contrasts, jQuery UI’s autocomplete and modal dialogs go a long way towards making Drupal 8 a breeze to use.
9. Web Services Built-in
Drupal 8 now makes it possible to use it as a data source, and output content as JSON or XML, even post data back to it from the front end. Hypertext Application Language (HAL) is ably implemented in D8, and makes exploitation of web service capabilities a painless possibility.
10. Fields Galore
Drupal 8 ships with bucket-loads of field types in core, thus taking its characteristic content structure capabilities up by many a notch. New field types like entity reference, link, date, e-mail, telephone etc., aid content creation, and now you can attach fields to more content types, as well as create custom contact forms by attaching fields to them.
11. In line with Industry Standards
Drupal 8 aligns with the latest PHP standards like PSR-0, namespaces and traits, and uses outstanding external libraries, Composer, PHPUnit, Guzzle, Zend Feed Component, Assetic to name a few. Modern, Object-Oriented Code is the order of the day, and is powered by Symfony 2.