Review of Drupal 7 New FeaturesReview of Drupal 7 New Features

NOW UPDATED FOR THE DRUPAL 7 OFFICIAL RELEASE!

Drupal 7 has finally been released, which means it's time to get serious about understanding what the new version will bring to your website. This time around developers have done a complete overhaul of the structure of the CMS, with particular attention given to the administrative sections. A major goal for this release was ease of use and there have been amazing strides made to overall usability. Those familiar with past versions of Drupal will undoubtedly love the improvements this time around.

At CMS QuickStart, we have been working hard to stay on the cutting edge of the newest updates. We are also currently in the process of updating and releasing our entire Drupal Theme library for Drupal 7. This newest version brings some of the biggest ever changes to the Drupal CMS, so let's take some time today to go through and see what we can expect from the new release.

 

Setup:
Install profiles

Installing Drupal is still a simple process. The setup now includes 2 install profiles: one for a ready-to-go installation that enables most modules and lets you dive right into the action. The other profile is a minimal installation that only enables a few core modules and is geared towards people will will develop their own site from the ground up. We're also incorporatingour own install profiles into all of our Drupal 7 themes so you can hit the ground running with your new site.

 

Drupal 7 install profiles
Installation is still a snap.

 

Administrating:
Admin menus and overlays

An immense effort was made to improve the Drupal administrative front end. For most people, you will notice a bunch of new useful features and many key differences in how your site works. At the top there is now a content menu with administative links. This menu is "stuck" to the top of the page and will move when scrolling. Admin links now display in an overlay over your main site. This feature helps separate your actual site from the admin sections and allows access to admin functions without ever having to navigate away from your currently loaded page. The overlay depends of javascript, but keeping in tune with Drupal's focus on universal accessibility, it can be disabled.

Users of our Drupal 6 themes are probably well familiar with the "admin bar" module that we install with our themes. Our Drupal 7 themes will no longer require this extra module due to the new administrative menu built in!

 

Drupal 7 admin overlays
Administrative tasks are handled with a nice overlay that helps differentiate your site from your admin tasks.

 

Information architecture

Previous versions of Drupal contained ambiguous categorization for various tasks. Modules had a tendency to install themselves into various arbitrary categories which made configuration a confusing mess. This categorization has been improved so each task goes into a clear, accurate category like "content," "appearance," "people," etc. Hopefully this will help you find what you need more easily and aid in reducing the number of clicks you need to get from one task to another.

Dashboards and shortcuts

Dashboards are a new feature to Drupal 7. They are are fully configurable set of blocks that present various bits of pertinent info to the user such as the last 10 pieces of submitted content, lists of new or online users, and management links. Each user can tweak their own dashboard as they see fit so they have a one-stop overlay of any site information they desire. Shortcuts are simple commonly visited links that users can pin to the top menu (and also to the dashboard). What this means for you is little to no additional customization of the administative parts of your site. You'll spend less time visiting various different pages checking on new comments and posts and instead focus on one very useful page. On big, multi-admin sites its usefulness really comes into play if you have various admins that concertrate on specific parts of the site.

Content creation and editing

The new overlay system makes editing a breeze. All blocks and content can now be edited and saved in place. Those of you that used the "vertical tabs" module for previous versions will love the new Drupal default behavior of dealing with content options. Instead of endless lists of collapsible (or non-collapsible) fieldsets, all options are now tabbed for quick access. A similar set of options applies to block edit overlays as well.

 

Drupal 7 content creation
Vertical tabs are a nice way of saving space and allowing quick access to content creation options

 

Help text

What does this module do, anyways? What is this setting for? Previously, help text was either too verbose or non-existent. Now, most help text is contained in a single line of easy-to-understand text.

 

Design and Development:
CCK Fields

Drupal's powerful content construction kit has finally been upgraded to a core module. CCK (now simply called "Fields") allows you to attach various pieces of information to a content type. You can then use pieces in your themes to do things like display an image or video, create a list of footnotes, or allow for different types of summary text for different pages of your site. Integration into core means that now every input box are treated in the same manner (where as before, some fields were CCK and some were not and thus had different display variables). This should make things remarkably easier for themers.

With this integration again means less external modules, more compatibility, and less configuration.

Regions

Previously, Drupal contained some features that were hard coded into design templates. Things like system messages and errors, help text, and even the main body content of the page were immobile in a template. Thankfully, version 7 now allows your site admins to move these pieces around just like you would with blocks. This is achieved via the block layout page.

Module settings

Older installations of Drupal didn't have hard rules regarding module settings or menu placements. Often times you had to do quite a bit of searching just to find the settings page for your modules, even frustratingly to find out that no settings page even existed. Thankfully, now all module settings, permissions, and help files can be accessed directly from the module list page.

Upgrades and module installation

Could this be the last time you'll have to use FTP? Drupal 7 allows updating of existing modules directly from your web interface and now you can install new modules from your admin section as well. Current settings allow for 2 options: input for the file URL (like from drupal.org), and also uploading from your computer hard drive.

 

Drupal 7 module page
Module related tasks have never been easier to handle.

 

We're pretty excited about all the new great features and improvements in this release of Drupal. You can read all the up to date news about Drupal 7 and its development community at Drupal's website. If you're in the market for a Drupal 6 or 7 theme, please have a look at our versitile Drupal themes!

Ranjan's picture

Drupal 7's administration interface is quite an improvement. Drupal forums could have been improved a lot more.

Srikar's picture

Nice Review :)

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