End User Perspective: Drupal 8 Begins Making Headlines

While Drupal 8 has been been under development for two and a half years, I haven't talked much about it. I learned long ago that it doesn't do much good to talk about an upcoming release of a CMS until the software crosses over from what most of us would consider "vaporware."

The software needs to be close to beta, allowing for normal folks to actually be able install for testing purposes with a reasonable amount of certainty we don't need to be a developer. If you're a loyal reader of Planet Drupal, by now you should be getting a sense that the time has come to finally talk about Drupal 8.

There are a great number of changes coming with Drupal 8. So many, that I'm bound not to understand them all at this point. However, if you take a look at the core initiatives you can see where the core developers are working their hardest in improving Drupal 8.

Some of the great things planned for Drupal 8 include better HTML5 and mobile support, improved multilingual features, and setting up Drupal 8 on a modern web development framework (Symfony). Additional focus includes configuration management improvements and support for Views in the Drupal 8 core. While there is still work to be done, the core developers are starting to see the finish line in their sight.

As I mentioned, there are some headlines within the Drupal community that tells me from the user point of view it's time to show some interest in the upcoming Drupal 8. Some of the recent blog posts within the Drupal community I see worthy of mentioning can be found below.

We've got Drupal 8 on video

I'm one of those people that isn't comfortable with installing anything without seeing proof that the software actually is something I want to install. In other words, I'm one of those people that insist on seeing a video, screenshot, or demo before I'm willing to put the effort into installing the software.

Albert Volkman, a Senior Drupal Developer for MediaCurrent, recently kicked off a 6-part webinar series on Drupal. In their first webinar of the series they discuss and review the Drupal 8 Site Install, Module Installation, and Directory Layout. For long time users and site administrators of Drupal, the discussion of changes in the directory layout will probably interest you most.

Module and theme developers have an API (almost)

On July 1, Drupal announced that its Drupal 8 API was "freezing," giving way to only changes in the API that are necessary to resolve important issues before Drupal 8 can be released. API stands for "Application Programming Interface", and it's important in that it allows developers to extend the core functions of software in such things as modules, plug-ins, and third-party applications. In the Drupal community, this means that module and theme developers can start working on their "own stuff" so that it works within the Drupal 8 platform.

While there are still a number of outstanding Drupal 8 API changes for core and contributed modules to resolve, it's close enough for Dries Buytaert to say now is the time (with some caveats) for developers to start the initial stages of porting over their modules and themes to Drupal 8.

Module and theme developers are encouraged to start porting now so they can uncover critical and major API problems while they can still be fixed. But if you are hoping to go through the process of porting your module or theme only once, the best time for that is after the first release candidate (see "What can I expect for beta?" below). At that point, the number of critical issues should be at or just above zero, meaning API changes should be extremely rare and only occur if there's no other way to resolve a severe problem.

In the same blog post, Dries also talks about sitebuilders (that's people like me) should being trying out and testing Drupal 8 at the start of Beta 1. If you're not really interested in providing feedback to the Drupal community, then you most likely will want to wait until the first release candidate is out.

How to get your Drupal 7 site ready for Drupal 8

Moshe Weitzman, Director for Research and Development at Acquia, recently wrote a nice blog post on how to get your site ready for Drupal 8. If you haven't been through a major Drupal upgrade before, articles such these are a "must read." For long-time Drupal users who have migrated their sites (I have some sites that originated with Drupal 4.6), most of this is "common sense," but I still encourage you to read it. Nothing can kill a Drupal upgrade more than "I already know how" cockiness, and lack of humility. As Moshe points out, "Upgrading to Drupal 8 is non-trivial."

The more you do your homework now, the smoother your Drupal 8 upgrade will go when Drupal 8 is finally released.

What I liked most about Moshe's post is that he also points to Drupal 7 modules available that will give you a taste of what Drupal 8 has to offer. In other words, you have some options to "backport" some of Drupal 8's features into your Drupal 7 site. Little things like installing the Navbar module will allow your Drupal 7 site administrators to become more comfortable when it's time to adjust to the upcoming Drupal 8-way of doing things.

A version of this article first appeared as Drupal 8 Begins Making Headlines at The CMS Connection.