Drupal 8 Initiatives and New Features

Drupal, Drupal 8

The release of Drupal 8, which is currently still in development, will come with many improvements. Development of Drupal 8 has been organized into several main initiatives to help guide development towards the most important feature improvements.

Configuration Management

The way configuration options are saved and managed is going to be significantly improved in Drupal 8. In Drupal 7, almost all configuration were saved in the database. In Drupal 8, most configuration settings have been moved out of the database and into .yml files. In addition to easier version management, this will also provide an easy way to set up a set of configuration options and then copy them into a new site. The improved configuration management system should allow Drupal to be used more efficiently in corporate or enterprise environments where the setup of the site is more complex and a large team might be working on the project all at once.

The Drupal 8 Configuration Management Initiative will add the ability to:

  • Lock down configuration changes in a production environment.
  • Migrate pre-configured settings across sites.
  • Roll back to a previous configuration, or view the history of changes.
  • Manage configuration between development, staging, and production instances of a project.

Web Services

Drupal 7 is focused mainly on loading individual static HTML pages. While there are modules that can be used to provide access to data in other ways, they are not very straightforward to use. The Drupal 8 Web Services Initiative plans to transform Drupal from a CMS into a REST server with a CMS on top of it. This will make it much easier for developers to create interactive web pages with frameworks such as Backbone.js that can easily grab data and submit forms without loading new pages. (Backbone.js is built into Drupal 8 core.) It will also allow Drupal to be used as a back-end for native mobile apps.


The Drupal 8 Design Initiative plans to show off how easy it is to build beautiful websites with Drupal. In addition to re-working all existing core themes to be responsive, a brand new core theme will be included in Drupal 8. There are plans to establish a clear process for selecting and adding new themes to core. In addition, a new collaborative environment will be set up for designers and theme developers, to help improve the quality of contributed themes.


While it is possible to build multilingual sites using Drupal 7, the process is fairly complex and involves the use of external modules and tools. The Drupal 8 Multilingual Initiative plans to improve the process of building multilingual sites by collecting and organizing existing modules, and combining the best of them into Drupal core.


With Modernizer included in core, Drupal 8 will now support HTML5 by default. The following improvements will be made to core themes:

  • All existing themes will be updated to use HTML5 elements where appropriate.
  • WAI-ARIA roles will be added to improve accessibility.
  • All themes will be responsive, including admin themes.
  • In addition, support will be added for new HTML5 elements in forms. Support will likely be added in the future for and tags.


The focus of the Drupal 8 Mobile Initiative is to make Drupal a first-class mobile CMS. Several improvements will be made in Drupal 8 to support the use of Drupal on mobile devices.

In Drupal 7, it is easy enough to build your own themes to be responsive, but the themes that come with Drupal 7, including admin themes, are not responsive. Responsive admin themes in Drupal 8 will allow the CMS to be useful on mobile devices. All Drupal 8 core themes will be updated to be responsive.

In addition to responsive themes, Drupal 8 will come with several performance enhancements to allow pages to load faster on mobile devices. These improvements include:

  • Support for responsive images.
  • Optimization of javascript. A new technique for adding javascript files based on dependencies will allow pages to load only the script files that are actually needed.
  • Optimization of admin icons into sprites.
  • CSS and JS aggregation will be sensitive to file changes and enabled by default.

Content Editing

In addition to a cleaner looking admin interface, Drupal 8 will have a several usability improvements for content managers. Improvements include:

  • Inline editing. It is much easier for content managers to understand how their content will look within the page when it can be edited directly inline. The old editing page will also be available.
  • Toggle display of editing buttons. When logged into Drupal 7, the editing links can be distracting. In Drupal 8, you can turn them on and off as needed to make it easier to view your pages the way normal users will see them.
  • Improved image management. Drupal 8 had an improved interface for adding images to content inline. It also provides an interface for uploading multiple images at once.

Additional Features

  • Twig templating language used for theme templates. It will still be possible to opt-out of using Twig and use PHP templates instead.
  • WYSIWYG editor built into core instead of as a contributed module. Drupal 8 will come with CKEditor.
  • The Views module is included in core. This allows core modules to utilize views in their own displays. For example, Taxonomy pages have been converted into views, which will make them much easier to use and manage.
  • Additional javascript libraries included in core: modernizr.js, backbone.js, respond.js.
  • File structure for single sites has been simplified. Core themes and modules have been moved into a /core folder, so you can now use root folders /themes and /modules instead of /sites/all/. You can also nest modules into sub-folders such as /modules/contrib and /modules/custom.
  • Drupal 8 does not support IE7.

More Thoughts

Need help with your next digital project?

Click on that button and fill in the simple form.