Overview of Drupal 7's improvements
Overview of Drupal 7's improvements
The Drupal community started planning Drupal 7 all the way back in February 2008 when it released Drupal 6. In fact, planning started in earnest a few weeks before than when Drupal creator Dries Buytaert posted a list of 11 things he wanted to see in Drupal 7. You can see that list at the URL you see on your screen. For the most part, Drupal 7 has hit these points pretty well. Let's take a look at them. If you attended any of the five semiannual Drupal cons between the release of Drupal 6 and Drupal 7, you saw how hard the Drupal community was working to improve Drupal's usability.
You see the results of these efforts on every page of Drupal's administrative interface. Mostly because of two major changes. The first one is what's called the Administrative Overlay, and you see that when you click on any sort of administrative page. See, it just popped up right there, and you close it just like this. Drupal 7 second big usability improvement is the new administrative theme called 7. If you were a Drupal 6 user, then you've already noticed the difference. In Drupal 6, you saw the same theme when you administered the site as when people visited it.
That is, the Garland theme. But in Drupal 7, you can see it looks quite different and you immediately know that you are administering rather than looking at the site. The second big success in Drupal 7 is something called Fields in core. In Drupal 6, you needed to add extra modules such as the Content Construction Kit or CCK to create new content types. Drupal 7 incorporates most of that CCK module in the core itself. You do that by going up to Structure and Content types, and now you have these choices: manage fields and manage display.
That gives you a lot more options than you had in Drupal 6, where you could add a content type, but it was really no different from the ones that we're already built-in. The next Drupal 7 feature is one of my favorite's: easier updates. Dries pecified automatic upgrades in this wish-list, and we didn't exactly get that. You still have to notice when your Drupal installation goes out of date, and then do a few clicks to bring it up-to-date. But the important thing is that you can do all of that through Drupal itself. No longer do you need to know Unix, or Windows, or Mac administration. All you need to do is to go to Modules and say Install new module or update module, and then you could just install it from the URL or from a file you've downloaded, very easy.
The next big change is better media handling, and this shows up in small ways when you first install Drupal. I'll show you by going to Content, and Add new content, and then add an article. You see this field here for an image. To do that in Drupal 6, that is, add an image into an article, you either had to mess around with HTML or you had to add three, or four, or even five modules to make it work right. In Drupal 7, it just works. We'll go through the whole process of adding images to content in the video using images and content.
Talking about content brings us to the next item on Dries' wish-list: better tools to structure and organize content. There are only a few small improvements in Drupal 7 along these lines and you see them when you go up to Content. For instance, you can now see a complete list of content on your site with one obviously placed click. In Drupal 6, it took some hunting around to find the path to that page. The next three improvements are substantial, but they don't really show up in the interface in very obvious ways. We'll only talk about them in the video "Developing for Drupal." The first is better internal APIs, a feature you'll mostly only notice if you're a programmer or system administrator.
One example is the new database layer. In Drupal 6, you pretty much had to use MySQL or PostgreSQL as your backend database. But Drupal 7 lets you use pretty much any backend database at all, as long as there is a driver for it, and if there isn't you can write your own. You can find more information about that at api.drupal.org. Then if you click Drupal 7, and the Database abstraction layer, of course, you'll find all of the APIs that you need at api.drupal.org.
Another API that got better in Drupal 7 is the node access system, which lets you better define who can access content. As long as we're talking about module development, I want to mention that Drupal 7 now also includes a testing module that makes it easier for developers to control the quality of their code. The next improvement on Dries' list is better external APIs. Like changes to internal APIs, you won't find these unless you're a programmer. That's really important if you're integrating external web services into your site, such as those from Yahoo!, Google, or Amazon.
If you're not, don't worry about it. But if you are, you'll really notice a difference. There are three last things that I'm afraid we weren't able to get into Drupal 7. Better performance, a basic Views like module, and a WYSIWYG editor. But that's okay, because you can still get modules that do all of those things. I'm told that some of the underpinnings for both Views and a WYSIWYG editor are now in core, so I'm expecting to see those in Drupal 8, whenever that comes out. For more discussion about whether Drupal 7 fulfilled its promise and to read some comments from the community, see a blog post I made before Drupal 7 came out.
It's titled "Will Drupal 7 fulfill Dries' wishes," and you'll get that at the URL on your screen.
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