The Future of Drupal – What You Can Look Forward To!

One of the reasons I love going to DrupalCon is that it’s a way to absorb everything new coming out of the Drupal community, and all the good things we have to look forward to in upcoming versions of Drupal. Here’s a summary of what I’m excited about right now!

New Goodies for Content Creators

Content editing features have been a focal point for Drupal in recent years. CKEditor 4 (the WYSIWYG editor that ships with Drupal) will soon be replaced by CKEditor 5. This new version provides improved editing features for content creation and editing features. These include track changes and revision history, intelligent text predictions and the ability to export to PDF. CKEditor 5 is now stable in Drupal 9.5 and undergoing testing so it’ll be ready when Drupal 10 is released.

The Drupal community has also made massive improvements to Localize.Drupal.org. This website, which is a means of incorporating languages into Drupal Core, promises to better translate the Drupal admin UI, which will result in a better UI for people who edit Drupal in other languages.

There is also an initiative underway to overhaul the Drupal toolbar in a way that is beneficial for content editors. The existing toolbar lacks submenu navigation and takes up too much space on the page in vertical mode. The goal is to adapt the toolbar so that it’s easier to use and more accessible for both content editors and site builders by introducing an up-to-date UI navigation pattern, adapting the information architecture and opening the possibility to include multiple menus that are built for the needs of different types of users.

Changes for Site Builders

DrupalCon Prague also brought news from the distribution and recipes initiative. Another tool that promises to make site building easier, recipes represent a more granular way of adding configuration to your site, allowing for a mix and match of a sort that you can’t do with distributions.

The current goals of the Distribution and Recipes initiative are to improve distribution discovery, allow for multiple distributions to be used on the same project, be installable at any time in a project's life cycle, provide for easier updates and enable distributions to ship demo content. A patch that can install modules, create and update configuration and apply other recipes is ready to use. More information is available at https://drupal.org/project/distributions_recipes.

Another exciting new initiative for site builders is the new project browser tool under development. This will enable site builders to search for contributed modules more easily through Drupal’s admin UI. Currently site builders are presented with an overwhelming selection of 55-plus categories of modules on Drupal.org. The new browser will simplify this with a more limited set of categories (which were brainstormed at DrupalCon), featuring useful information to help builders select modules that are good fits for specific projects.

Changes for Developers

A major piece of news from DrupalCon Prague of relevance to developers was the introduction of GitLab as a standard tool for developers to use to manage code and keep track of changes. This replaces the development tools offered on Drupal.org with a more complete set of tools (such as more streamlined merge request processes) and a whole product behind it. GitLab integration has already been added to Drupal, now it is now being added to all modules.

Automatic updates for Drupal Core were a major theme at DrupalCon Portland earlier this year and were again discussed at DrupalCon Prague. The Portland event featured considerable beta testing of the new update system, which brought this important feature closer to completion and ready for inclusion in Drupal 10. This is one of Drupal's most frequently requested features and will ensure that all Drupal websites stay secure throughout their lifecycle.

The future of Content Management

At DrupalCon I had the opportunity to give a presentation on the future of content management and how Drupal has evolved beyond simply being a content management system. It still functions as this, but it is also a digital experience platform and a platform that’s optimized for implementing your content strategy, whose strengths lie in its flexibility in terms of layering functionality on top of content in a way that actually integrates with your content.

I discussed how one of Drupal’s core strengths is its flexibility in creating structured content that matches your content strategy. This means you can create a strong strategy and build your Drupal platform to support it. Drupal can also integrate with other data sources and marketing tools in an open way, giving you choice as to what technology and marketing stack you want to use.

To sum up, I made a case for Drupal as an open digital experience platform. Focusing on content strategy first typically yields better results in terms of how you structure your content and the functionality, technology and marketing stack you layer on top of it. I also made the case that you need a strong content governance plan to keep your content strategy in place and in use in order to leverage Drupal in this way.

The roadmap for Drupal 10 and Beyond

One source of information for what’s coming down the line in the Drupal project is the twice-yearly Driesnotes, presented at each DrupalCon. In his customary keynote speech at DrupalCon Prague in September, Drupal founder Dries Buytaert expressed a certain frustration that his company doesn’t promote itself as well as it could. He began by discussing his discomfort with social media platforms and other forms of proprietary software while lauding Drupal as an open web champion, citing the freedom it provides to users to own their own content and code.

In his keynote, Dries spoke at great length about the many initiatives underway as part of the Drupal project, including the introduction of GitLab, which he cited as a major step towards making it easier for people within the Drupal community to contribute to the platform. He also noted that since his previous DriesNote in Portland, Drupal has achieved stability for Olivero and CKEditor 5, made preparations for the introduction of PHP 8.2, upgraded to Symfony 6 and made Drupal Core smaller – all of which will be included in the Drupal 10 launch at the end of 2022.

Dries also touted project browser and automatic updates as major initiatives that, while not set to be ready for Drupal 10, will probably factor into Drupal 10.2 or beyond. He cited these as features that enable average users to be part of Drupal and the open web (and will facilitate upgrading to Drupal 10). These features also help promote the great work done by Drupal developers, making that work more accessible to all Drupal users.

Have a migration project in mind? Join our migration workshop to learn more about moving your content and configuration into Drupal 9. This course takes Drupal 10 readiness into account, so you’ll also be ready for Drupal 10’s release or to migrate directly to Drupal 10, depending on the timing of your migration project.