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Say Hello to Drupal 8

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The fourth release candidate of Drupal 8 is here, and in just a few days the full official release will be available. Ashday's been keeping a close eye on Drupal 8 for a couple years now, and now it's finally ready. As a bit of a "test drive" of all of Drupal 8's new features, we've rebuilt our very own site using it, giving the site a much-needed facelift in the process. We're already planning our next Drupal 8 project, but with Drupal 7 still being supported for several years to come, why the hurry to make the switch?

Well, a few things stand out about Drupal 8 which make it the superior choice.

Managing Configuration

Probably the biggest one of these is its new configuration management. One of the big challenges in Drupal 7 was, when updating a site, you'd need to manually change countless settings, and it was always easy for things to get missed. In Drupal 8, most of those settings can be easily included in the website's code with the new config management system. Now, rather than needing to remember every detail and precisely recreate them, most of the site can be updated in just a couple easy clicks. Not only does this make deploying updates to a site much easier and less prone to error, but it also allows us to easily keep track of changes to the site's settings.

More in Core

In Drupal 7, one common task was to install and configure the Webform module to create a contact form for the site. Although Drupal 7 came with a contact form by default, it had no real customizability. In Drupal 8, contact forms come with all the customizability we need built-in. This is just one example of a common trend in Drupal 8: The tools most sites need to use are now included in Drupal, rather than in separate modules. That means that not only can the features be better-supported, but with more people using them and maintaining them they get better faster. For developers, it means that most everything we need comes with Drupal out-of-the-box, so we don't need to hunt down as many extra modules.

Features New and Old

Interestingly, Drupal 8 is missing a few features which were built into Drupal 7, such as the Blog module. "But wait," you might ask, "I'm reading your blog, and you said this is a Drupal 8 site now; what gives?" Well, Drupal 8's improved content management makes it easy enough to make a custom blog that having a pre-made module isn't really as important or useful as it was in the past.

Drupal 8 comes with plenty of other new features, of course, among them integration with the Twig templating engine, better comment management, and improved speed and performance throughout. A few aspects of it are still being improved, but fortunately the Drupal 8 release schedule includes plans for new "feature releases" which will add significant new features to Drupal even before Drupal 9's eventual release. Speaking of which, now that Drupal 8 is out, Drupal 7's days are numbered; if past trends hold true, once Drupal 9 comes out, Drupal 7 will stop receiving new updates, while Drupal 8 will continue to be updated for some time thereafter. A Drupal 8 site built today can last for years before an upgrade becomes necessary.

Working with Drupal 8 for our own website allowed us to see many of its new features, and we're excited to start using it on more sites going forward.

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Jay Kerschner

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