Every six months, the Drupal team get to release new features.
We're now starting to get a clear view of what we can expect in Drupal 8.4.
This week, we got the first Alpha version of 8.4. The final release is due on October 4.
So what new features will we see in 8.4? Here's our early overview of what might be included.
New or Updated Features in 8.4
Perhaps the major thing theme with 8.4 is that there's a major push to make progress with experimental modules.
Until now only one experimental module (Big Pipe) has become stable. There's a chance that 5 very important modules will go stable in 8.4:
- Content Moderation: Move from alpha to beta (or even stable? Watch this space)
- Workflow: Move from alpha to beta (or even stable? Watch this space)
- Layout Discovery: Move to stable (watch this space)
- Migrate / Migrate UI: Get as close to stable as possible.
Those five modules form the basis of Drupal's new content moderation and layout systems, plus the long-awaited migration path to Drupal 8.
The Drupal team are also looking to make progress with at least 4 other experimental modules:
- DateTime Range: Move to stable (Done!)
- Inline Form Errors: Move to stable (watch this space)
- Place Block: This won't go stable but may become a patch to the Block module for 8.5.
- Settings Tray: Move from alpha to beta.
This is a lot of progress for one release of Drupal, but it isn't even the most interesting part of this upcoming release.
Media in Drupal 8.4
The most intriguing part of 8.4 is probably Media. Better media handling is the most commonly requested feature in all our Drupal training sessions. Here's what the official Media initiative has to say:
While Drupal core includes basic file and image support, it is a far cry from what a modern web system should support out of the box for media handling. External media cannot be embedded easily in core and media cannot be reused.
So what will the Media module do? That part is still a work-in-progress, particularly for 8.4. Yes, the main module is in the core but there's more work to be done. The file field and image field widgets need to be converted to use the Media module, and a lot more of the Media ecosystem needs to be built out. There's a chance that the main UI features won't be available until 8.5 arrives in April next year.
If you want to see what the final version of Media will look like, it's worth trying the Lightning distribution. This is a project from Acquia. It is designed to bring core features to market early. Lightning allows Acquia to move more quickly than the Drupal core, putting new features into production and then contributing them back. Click here to install Lightning at SimplyTest.me.
When using Lightning, content creators get access to a searchable media library:
You can embed videos and save them to your media library:
You can embed tweets and save them to your media library:
This is a reusable system. It can also be applied to documents, audio files, Instagram posts, Slideshare documents and any other type of media you want to use with Drupal.
All-in-all, this will be a big step forward for Drupal. It will make the platform much more user-friendly.
There are a couple of other notable things about the Media module:
- This module wasn't even in the Drupal 8.3 core. Instead, it has skipped the experimental phase and jumped straight to "stable" status. Perhaps this is because Media module in 8.4 is a direct copy of the Media Entity contrib module.
- The Drupal team will hide the Media module. You won't be able to disable or enable the module, but developers can rely on it.
This is a very early look at Drupal 8.4 and much can change between now and the final release in October.
However, 8.4 is currently shaping up to the most interesting update since 8.0.
We'll update this post as new features are either confirmed or postponed.