D9 isn’t a groundbreaking version of Drupal, but that’s kind of the point. After D8, Drupal adopted a much more incremental approach to releases. Minor releases occur on a regular 6-month schedule. Major releases are relatively painless; Drupal 8.9.x is going to be nearly identical to Drupal 9. Drupal 9.9.x will be very similar to Drupal 10.
This is different than how Drupal versions used to be. D6 was different from D7. D7 was very different from D8. Moves between versions meant a lot of effort but a lot of new features, too. For example, a move to D8 meant a move to object-oriented programming and a Symfony framework.
So, if you’re running D8 and must move to D9 soon, you may not necessarily be thinking about what you get by staying in Drupal aside from the obvious; continued community support and security patches.
This doesn’t mean, however, that there aren’t new features in Drupal 9 that will improve the functionality of a website or make that website easier to manage. We asked a few Agileana developers about what features of D9 they’re most excited about:
Christian Le Fournis, Drupal Developer:
The world of frontend web development has changed a lot in the last decade. A site built in 2011 is likely to look a lot different than a site built in 2021. Coincidentally, Bartik, D7 and D8’s default theme, has been around since 2011. Because of this, the Drupal community is working on a new default frontend theme called Olivero.
According to the Drupal community, Olivero is more modern and designed to age well. In addition to this, Olivero will support functionality like second level navigation, embedded media, and layout builder. It will also be more accessible than the previous standard frontend theme, too, adhering to Drupal’s own accessibility guidelines and WCAG 2.0 AA.
Sounds good, right? Well … there still are a number of issues yet to be dealt with, primarily around accessibility. Dries Buytaert, Drupal’s founder, alluded to this during his Driesnote from DrupalCon 2021.
A beta version of Olivera was shipped with Drupal 9.1. Another version is set to ship with Drupal 9.2, which is going to be released in December of 2021.
“Looks promising but has still some pending issues,” Christian says.
Benji Damron, Drupal Developer:
Workspaces, an experimental module in core
According to Drupal.org, Workspaces is “a copy of the live site, that exists in parallel to the live site.” A workspace can be used to prepare multiple new content items that can be deployed simultaneously.
With Workspaces, you can set up multiple live sites within your site and the content for each only lives in the sandbox site until you publish it to live. That way you can see exactly what it’s going to look like before you publish it. This was not always an easy thing to do in Drupal 7 and 8, which had a “preview” feature that was never quite the same as seeing the published content.
“This is pretty huge. Clients are usually creating content in one environment and then recreating it on the live site. Workspaces allows them to do it in one place,” says Benji.
Sergio Sanchez, Drupal Developer:
Updated dependencies for a better development experience
Of course, the biggest change in Drupal 9 is a new version of Symfony. D9 uses a Symfony 4 framework, which is lighter and more secure than the Symfony 3 framework used in D8. Making the move to Symfony 4 also means you’re ready to upgrade to new versions of third-party plugins. But that’s not the only dependency that gets an upgrade, the template system Twig moves from version 1 to version 2. All this to say: there’s a lot going on in D9 that might not be apparent but will improve site speed and a developer’s experience.
“I’m excited about the idea to work with command bus pattern and application services, Symfony 4 has better ways to support these new approaches like the messenger component,” says Sergio.
Gordon Makely, Drupal Developer:
Easy upgrades between versions
You’ve probably heard it before … but the relatively seamless transition between D8 and D9 to D10 and beyond is worth it. By adopting the Symfony framework, Drupal supports some backward compatibility between versions. So, as long as you keep your themes and modules updated, moving from version to version is relatively seamless.
“Moving from D7 to D8 is about as painful as it can get, a lot of money and a lot of time can go into migrating a large site. But the move from D8 to D9 is a much better experience. There is almost no manipulation or massaging of content like what happened in the D7 to D8 move,” says Gordon.
Thankfully, this should be the case with Drupal 10 and 11 and into the foreseeable future.