The release candidate for Drupal 8.3 has arrived.
At this stage, features are frozen and so this release gives us a clear view of what to expect in Drupal 8.3's stable release. Our training classes are already up-to-date for Drupal 8.3.
Let's dive in and see some of the changes and improvements in Drupal 8.3.
Change #1. Workflow improvements
From my experience talking with large companies adopting Drupal 8, this is the feature they are most interested in. These companies often have large numbers of content creators, and need an approval and editorial process. In fact, much of this project is driven by a single enterprise user: 6 key members of the Workflow team are Pfizer employees.
The UI has changed with Drupal 8.3. You can now see a whole workflow on a single screen. In the image below, you can see Workflows enables you to create custom publishing states and control the transitions between them.
This does mean that the Workflows configuration screens are surprisingly simple. You can control who has access to each stage of the workflows by going to People > Permissions > Content Moderation.
Change #2. New Layout modules
The Field Layout module is new in Drupal 8 and so is the Layout Discover module. Both of these are also experimental modules. This code is adapted from the Layout Plugin module.
These modules currently provide two rudimentary layouts, but additional layouts can be added by others modules. Here's the plan for the layout options in future versions of Drupal. Modules such as Display Suite, CTools, Panels, and Panelizer all now have branches compatible with these new layout options.
Change #3. Big Pipe is stable
This is the first module to graduate from Drupal 8's experimental module program.
The purpose of BigPipe is to allow sites to deliver personalized content more quickly. Normally, dynamic and personalized content is slow-loading. Dries wrote an overview of BigPipe, which was originally a Facebook project:
Instead of waiting for the entire page to be generated, BigPipe immediately sends a page skeleton to the the client so it can start rendering that. Then the remaining content elements are requested and injected into their correct place. From the user's perspective the page is rendered progressively. The initial page content becomes visible much earlier, which improves the perceived speed of the site.
Here's a visual comparison between BigPipe and standard Drupal:
Change #4. Authoring improvements
You can now upload images directly via Quick Edit. I suspect this is a feature we may see rolled out to other Drupal administration screens in upcoming versions.
What didn't change?
The Drupal team have ambitious plans to improve Drupal 8's media handling, but those changes will have to wait for Drupal 8.4 later this year. Unfortunately, the migration paths to Drupal 8 are also still largely not stable.
Drupal 8.3 dates and downloads
You can download the Drupal 8.3 release candidate from this page on Drupal.org.
The stable version of Drupal 8.3 is due on April 5.