To the uninformed, the development cycle of new Drupal versions can seem complex and quite confusing.
Before a major version of Drupal core is released, a collection of alpha releases, beta releases and release candidates are first made available to developers.
These releases allow people knowledgeable with the backend of Drupal to test new featuresand make sure any bugs or glitches are fixed before releasing a new Drupal core to the masses.
Photo by Markus Spiske
Not surprisingly, alpha releases are the first to be made available. Alpha releases are a great opportunity for developers to test out the newest version and report any bugs they can find. Because this is the very first release, it is certainly not recommended for use by anyone not technically comfortable with Drupal or to be used to produced websites.
Beta releases are the next to come out, and these versions should feature solutions to any bug reported in the alpha release.
A release candidate (or RC) follows a beta release. A release candidate usually is made available once all critical bugs in a beta release are solved, and it is often the last release before the official core version is unveiled to the public.
Why am I getting into the nitty gritty of releases? Well, earlier this month, Drupal 8.4.0-rc1 was released (rc1 indicates this is the first release candidate for the version), and Drupal 8.4.0 (the newest version of Drupal core) is scheduled to be released Oct. 4.
There are a variety of new stable modules and improvements in the new version. Allow me to walk you through some of the updates.
Each new version of Drupal features a variety of new core modules — some “stable” and some “experimental.” As you can probably guess, these modules start as experimental; they become stable modules once they are considered fully safe to use.
In Drupal 8.4.0 there are four new stable modules:
- Datetime Range
This module makes it possible to include an end-date in contributed modules like Calendar.
- Layout Discovery
The Layout Discovery module provides an API for modules or themes to register layouts as well as five common layouts. This enables different contributed layout solutions to be compatible with each other and will have a major impact for major layout modules like Panels and Display Suite moving forward.
This new module makes it possible to have an API for reusable media entities.
- Inline Form Errors
This module offers users with a summary of any errors at the top of a form, and it also provides an individual error message to the form element. This is a great accessibility feature, particularly for someone who uses a screen reader to access online content.
Drupal 8.4.0 also includes seven new experimental modules. I’m not going to get into the details of each and every one of these now, but know that they address issues like migrating content on the back end and visualizing layout and setting changes on the front end of your site. If you’re curious, you can learn more about these modules.
Other improvements This new version also features a variety of improvements for content authoring and site administration, performance and scalability, and overall developer experience. These improvements include:
- A new “Published” checkbox and “Save” button is featured on the back end in place of the “Save and keep (un)published” dropdown button that previously existed in Drupal 8.4. The earlier version was found to confuse users, so this is an attempt to improve the user experience and resemble the Drupal 7 interface.
- On the back end, the time zones selections are grouped by regions and labeled by cities instead of time zone names, making for an improved user experience
- In the past, the maximum time in-progress forms would be cached was six hours by default. Now, this time period is customizable.
- The Drupal installer now checks whether themes are already installed.
- The html_tag render element now supports nested render arrays, enabling the creation of dynamic SVGs. This makes dynamic SVG creation for charts, graphs, and more much easier.
At Duo, we’ve spent a good amount of time looking at the alpha and beta releases and the newest release candidate for Drupal 8.4.0. We can’t wait to start implementing it for our clients.
Is your site ready for Drupal 8? Want to learn more about Drupal 8.4? Get in touch, and we’d love to talk.