Some highlights from the Drupal Developer Days 2022

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This week I had the pleasure of being able to attend the 11th edition of the illustrious Drupal developer days. This latest edition took place in Ghent, and although I bought my ticket in 2019 I needed to wait more than two years for the actual event to take place. It was well worth the wait because it was great to attend this smoothly organised, in-person Drupal event. I did not have the time to see all the sessions but I am happy to summarize some of them here in this blogpost.

Whirlwind of Drupal improvements

In the Drupal Initiative Leads keynote presenter Gábor Hojtsy gave a couple of insights in the whirlwind of plans for Drupal 10, 11 and onwards. All initiatives are powered by teams that are actively meeting weekly or biweekly and that can be contacted via Slack. All teams are actively looking for members to help out , so if you have spare time this can be a great opportunity for you to contribute back to Drupal. 

One initiative is the Bug Smash initiative led by Len Swaneveld which aims to significantly  reduce the thousands of Drupal core bugs that have been reported over the years. Some bug reports are over 15 years old! Triaging is taking place and obsolete and duplicate reports are being closed. The Bug Smash team spends a lot of time mentoring others so that the Bug Squash team can quickly grow and eliminate as much bugs as possible.

Leslie Glynn leads the Project Browser initiative whose goal it is to make contrib modules and themes easier to find and install (via composer). It plans to greatly improve the modules list in the Drupal CMS so that site builders can search and filter all available projects. But it also wants to improve the project listing on drupal.org, for example by using better categories and adding better screenshots. One problem that it faces is that the current project metadata on drupal.org is inaccurate. So all module maintainers can help out just by double checking module metadata on drupal.org.

Alex Pott gave a quick update on the Distributions initiative. We have seen many Drupal distributions being launched over the years, but very few have become a success. One aspect of distributions that the initiative tries to improve is the discoverability of distributions. It also researches ways for letting users install, uninstall and try out distributions after a Drupal website has been installed. Besides that the team is figuring out tools to provide distributions with proper demo content.

Lauri Eskola leads the Core Themes initiative and he unfolded the plans for replacing the core themes Seven, Bartik and Classy with Claro, Olivero and Starterkit. The three new themes are very close to being ready and one should expect this replacement to take place soon. The team is currently recruiting PHP developers for fixing the last automatic tests for these themes so that they can be released as stable projects.

With the Promote Drupal initiative Suzanne Dergacheva and her team want to increase Drupal adoption outside of the Drupal sphere. The team is developing marketing materials such as PDF brochures, brandbooks, logos & videos. It also suggested improvements for drupal.org with wireframes for important drupal.org landing pages. The team is actively looking for volunteers with a background in marketing and social media to help increase Drupal adoption.

Neil Drumm had a few words to share on the work that is being done to implement more Gitlab integrations in drupal org. At the moment drupal.org is not using Gitlab features such as merge requests to their full potential. Projects and releases information will stay on drupal.org but more and more information that was used to be stored on the site, such as ssh keys, commit information and patches are being moved to Gitlab. So now is a good time to start getting used to merge requests on Gitlab and stop uploading patches to drupal.org.

The last initiative featured in the keynote is led by Wim Leers and it aims to replace CKEditor 4 by CKEditor 5. CKEditor 4 has been in Drupal for almost 10 years and it has proved to be an indispensable Drupal feature. But time has come to say farewell and replace it with its predecessor. CKEditor 5 is a complete rewrite that offers an improved editor and developer experience: it is smoother, faster and uses way less modals. If you are using Drupal 9.3 or higher than you can already switch to CKEditor 5 via the admin UI. So it is a great moment to start testing CKEditor 5 on your own projects. You can read all about it on drupal.org CKEditor 4 to 5 page

You can watch this session on the recorded livestream. Fast forward to about 03h 00m.

Send your content anywhere with Entity Share

Florent Torregrosa from Smile presented the latest version (3) of the impressive Entity Share module suite that allows websites to use each others entities.

There can be multiple reasons to share content between sites: for example to deploy it on various websites, or to have a central content repository, or to work with a preproduction environment where one can have a full preview of content before going live. Paid services already exist for this use cases but Entity Share is the only solution that can be implemented by anyone running a Drupal website. Thanks to this module, entities can be shared without any programming knowledge. 

Previous versions of Entity Share already contained all the necessary UI for the server and client sites to expose and pull content. The new version introduces processors that let the user transform any content that is being shared between the server and client. It keeps better track of shared content so that only changed content needs to be imported. The new version also includes much improved logging, a Diff tool to see the changes in the content and a lock function to prevent content from being overwritten. Finally a set of drush commands have been added to make it easy to share entities from the command line. The version 3 of Entity Share is very close to becoming stable, but a definitive stable release date has not been set yet.

You can watch this session on the recorded livestream. Fast forward to about 06h 35m.

Drupal, the accessible CMS

Accessibility researcher Bram Duvigneau from Firm Ground was present in Gent and brought good news for the Drupal community. With his extensive knowledge of accessibility he turned the Drupal 9 CMS upside down and inside out to find any accessibility issues. He found very few. 

Bram explained that accessibility isn't just about catering for blind people because there are many reasons why an accessible website makes sense: for example because the majority of website visitors are using a mobile phone, or because 1 out of 5 male visitors are colorblind, or because all of us experience at some moment a permanent or temporary disability.. Accessibility is not just about complying to WCAG and ATAG (which Drupal does) but it is a mindset that should be shared by everybody that is involved in the project: from developers to content editors. 

Having an  accessible CMS opens possibilities for a larger audience with various disabilities to start working with the CMS, whether as content editor or as ordinary visitor that want to share some content. 

There are just a couple of things to be careful with in Drupal. When hiding field labels, you must make sure to really hide them instead of hiding them visually, because the screen reader will still find them. Another accessibility issue in Drupal is that the alt texts inside images inside links result in difficult to understand screen reader instructions. But in general the accessibility verdict for Drupal is very positive. The accessibility knowledge within the Drupal community is good. Drupal checks all code added to core on accessibility and core is WCAG2 and ATAG2 compliant. 

Overall with a bit of care one can use Drupal to provide users with a pretty accessible CMS.

You can watch this session on the recorded livestream. Fast forward to about 03h 53m.

Rocketship to another editor experience universe

Wesley de Vrient and Frederik Wouters from Dropsolid presented Rocketship, a contrib module that their company has been developing over the last years. Rocketship fills the a gap that exists in Drupal content editing experience. 

For years now attempts have been made to make inline editing possible in Drupal. Many things have been tried from Quick Edit to a Drupal version of Wordpress' Gutenberg but all have failed in providing a decent editor experience while still delivering structured and revisionable content. 

Thanks to the Layout Builder that has been added to Drupal recently it has become possible to create new tools that enhance the editor experience. Core's Layout Builder does out of the box not provide that great experience. It lacks in many ways, for example in providing an easy way to add an image. But fortunately Layout Builder comes with an API that lets others improve it. 

And many improvements have sprang up. One of them is Layout Builder Paragraphs which is already becoming a well known name in this corner of the Drupal universe. And Dropsolid's Rocketship also seems to be a very promising improvement on top of Layout Builder. It gives the user an editorial UI within the front end theme of the website. 

The user can add sections to the page and divide each section in various columns. Each column can filled in using much improved modals with inline blocks (which are not related at all to the boring old Drupal blocks). These inline blocks can contain content items such as text blocks, media items, hero elements, call to action buttons and what have you. The inline blocks can be saved as library items and be re-used elsewhere. The metadata of the node (title, tags, etc.) can still be edited from the well known node editing form. All data is nicely stored in structured fields and everything stays revisionable. Layouts can be synced with other environments through an additional synchronisation module. Dropsolid's Rocketship is definitely a layout building module to look out for.

You can watch this session on the recorded livestream. Fast forward to about 06h 15m.

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