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5 New Features You'll See in Drupal 8.6

Drupal releases major updates only twice per year: in March/April and also in September/October.

Drupal 8.6 is the major update for September 2018.

Let's dive in and discover what new features we'll see. Some of the Drupal 8.6 improvements are outstanding!

New Feature #1. Demo Data

For the very first time, you can install Drupal and get a whole demo site to explore. If you install Drupal using your browser, you'll see a new option: "Demo: Umami Food Magazine". 

choose umami in Drupal 8.6

After you complete your Drupal installation, your site will be populated with dummy content for a food magazine.

umami screenshot

There are about 20 sample content items in the Umami demo. Many of them are in a sample content type called "Recipe". It looks like the demo data was chosen to give a good overview of multiple different field types.

umami content type in Drupal 8.6

There also a couple of landing pages, created with sample Views. All-in-all the demo data is short and sweet but it does look much better than a plain Drupal install.

umami recipes in Drupal 8.6

New Feature #2. Media Library

Finally we're getting somewhere with media in Drupal! For many years, Drupal has shipped with almost no media handling. This is the most commonly requested feature whenever we do Drupal training. 

Since the release of Drupal 8.4 in late 2017, Drupal has had some new media handling features. But, they were still very limited. With Drupal 8.6, we take a big step forward. There is now a "Media Library" module in the core. It is in the "Experimental" stage, so you'll need to enable the module:

media library drupal

To use the new library, create a field using the "Media" type. It will show as an "Entity reference".

media reference field

When you go to create content using this field type, you can click "Browse media" or "Add media".

media library

You'll be able to search through all the images uploaded to your site and choose the file you need. This is a huge - and long overdue - step forward for Drupal. This Media library is created using Views, so you can customize this screen however you wish.

media library with images

New Feature #3: YouTube and Vimeo Embeds

In addition to the new media library, Drupal 8.6 also has improved support for remote embeds. 

  • Create a field using the "Media" type and select the "Remote video" option.

media youtube

  • Go to Content > Media > Add media.
  • Click "Remote video".
  • Enter a YouTube or Vimeo URL.
  • Click "Save".

add remote video

  • Now when you go to create content with a video field, you can click "Browse media":

youtube embeds

  • You can choose the video that you added earlier:

choose media embed

The idea is that you save your content and see the URL automatically turned into a video on the front of your site. However, in my testing, I wasn't able to successfully select videos and click "Select media". Perhaps the bugs will be squeezed out before the final release.

However, in addition to the bugs, the workflow for this embedding is still clunky. You have to add the video before you create content, which is a significant hurdle for content creators.

New Feature #4. Layouts

Drupal's layout builder features continue to get better, although the two key modules are still experimental: Field Layout and Layout Builder. Enable both of those modules if you want to test the layout options.

field layout

You can enable the layout features for each content type individually.

  • Go to Structure > Content types.
  • Edit a content type and click "Manage display".
  • Check "Use Layout Builder.
  • Check "
  • Click the "Manage layout" button.

drupal layout options in Drupal 8.6

You'll now be taken to the front of your site, where you control the layout for this content type.

  • Click "Add Section" and you'll be able to choose from "One column", "Two column" and other options.

choose a layout in Drupal 8.6

In this image below, I've chose a new "Two column" layout. Confusingly, you will now see an "Add Block" link. This is confusing because, as we'll see, you can actually add much more than just a block.

add sections in Drupal 8.6

When you click "Add Block", you'll be able to choose from almost all the data on your site. You can add fields, user data, forms, views and much, much more. This option allows you add almost any site feature to your new layout.

choose blocks in Drupal 8.6

One of the most interesting things about this layout option applies to much more than just content types. You can use these layouts for media, contact forms, taxonomy, users, and more. I'm in the camp that feels that WordPress' Gutenberg editor is a good idea with poor execution. In contrast, the Drupal team seems to have done an outstanding job with this new layout builder. If you're a WordPress user, this new Drupal layout editor feels closer to a full-page designer like Beaver Builder or Elementor than it does to Gutenberg.

New Feature #5. Workspaces

The Workspaces feature allows you to prepare and preview your entire page before publishing it. Workspaces is still in the experimental stage, so you will need to actively enable the module. Two things to note about this feature:

  1. It's not yet compatible with Drupal 8's content moderation features. You do need to remove some key moderation features before enabling Workspaces.
  2. Don't confuse "Workspaces" and "Workflows". Workflows is a different feature, related to content moderation.

Let's see how to use Workspaces.

  • After enabling Workspaces, go to a URL on the front of your site. You'll see a green "Live" button in the top-right corner.

workspaces in Drupal 8.6

  • Click the green "Live" link.
  • Click the "Stage" link on the left-side of the black banner.

stage button in Drupal 8.6 workspaces

  •  Now you can activate the "Stage" workspace. Be careful because the "Cancel" button is where you'd expect the "Confirm" button to be.

activate stage in Drupal 8.6

  • Make changes to your content on this page. Any changes will not be publicly visible, even if you save them.
  • Click the orange "Stage" button.
  • Click the "Deploy content" button and you can make your changes live on your site.

deploy content in Drupal 8.6

I did find some bugs with this Workspaces feature, and the UI is a little clunky. You can see some mistakes in the image above. But overall, this is another excellent new feature in Drupal 8.

Bonus: Migration

Drupal 8's migration modules are almost all stable! The one exception is new "Migrate Drupal Multilingual" module which is new and experimental.

This is way too late of course. Drupal 8 launched three years ago and only now do we have a stable migration path. It seems fair to guess that this significantly slowed the adoption of Drupal 8. 


My Drupal 8.6 Summary

Gabor Hojtsy, who's heavily involved with Drupal development, called this the biggest update in Drupal 8's history. He's not wrong. If you want to compare, check out our recaps of previous releases, Drupal 8.1Drupal 8.2Drupal 8.3Drupal 8.4 and Drupal 8.5.

Drupal 8.6 really shows the potential of Drupal 8's release cycle and is full of useful, well-executed improvements.

What features are you excited to use in 8.6?

About the author

Steve is the founder of OSTraining. Originally from the UK, he now lives in Sarasota in the USA. Steve's work straddles the line between teaching and web development.