Drupal 7: first impressions

Last week Drupal 7 was officially released, there's already been a number of beta and release candidates, but this is the real deal. I thought I should take a quick look and see whether it has been worth all the anticipation. So far I am really impressed.

Installation is much simpler and with the added bonus that you can choose to install a stripped down version that only enables the most core of the core modules. This is great for those of us developing very bespoke Drupal sites where we want to start with a clean slate. With Drupal 6 I've sadly found that one of the first steps after installation has been to turn off a number of modules that we just don't need.

One of the big pluses of Drupal for me has always been its flexible content types which are incredibly better with this new release as the popular CCK contributed module has been brought in to the core install. This means that you can start adding additional custom fields, including image and file uploads, to your content types straight off; that's one less module to have to go and fetch as I am sure most of us have been doing with Drupal 6.

Possibly one of Drupal's biggest let downs has been the admin user interface which can be incredibly frustrating at times. Thankfully there has been a big push to improve the user experience on this front, and it looks to have paid off. It looks better, is better structured, and the terminology has improved to the point of making sense. There's a nice new configurable dashboard view, an option (via a module) to have the admin area overlay your site, a toolbar that works a little like a top level version of SimpleMenu, and contextual admin links that help you get the tasks you want done done (reminds me a little of the OpenCMS interface).

As an advocate of web accessibility, it is good to see that this has been given a great deal of focus too. Semantic markup is used throughout core, and is encouraged in contributed modules, and forms are being correctly labelled. It is also good to see that title attributes are not being made mandatory, so reducing the "noise" caused by repetition of information (see Roger Johansson's post on not duplicating link text in the title attribute).

Anyway, I'm sure there's much much more I could add to this list, but I am still exploring the joys of Drupal 7. Sadly, and unsurprisingly, there's not a lot of stable contributed modules out there for it yet. For example the indispensable Views module is still in alpha. Hopefully it will not be long before many of the essential modules reach a stable release, or at least start going beta and Drupal 7 will be easy to deploy.

Drupal 7 looks set to make Drupal the CMS of choice for many. Congratulations to all who contributed to this release in some form or other.

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