The switch to Drupal 7

The latest version of Drupal, Drupal 7, has been released for quite sometime now and I'm very pleased to have developed a few projects with this latest version of Drupal.  These most recent projects were quite a bit simpler in scope so I knew that I had a great opportunity and wouldn't face much disappointment from modules that hadn't been ported or upgraded to be compatible with D7.

A few things that I'd like to point out from working with the newest version of Drupal 7 are the improvements in the administrative UI as well as the integration of several modules which in Drupal 6 were required to be added on separately, most notably CCK and Views.

Prior to version 7 of Drupal, I often found myself installing 40-60 contributed modules to get Drupal tuned to my particular needs — to create the best possible interface for my users and the most options.  Because of the granular nature of modules (performing one task very well) it was necessary to do this.  For example, imagecache to automatically crop and resize images, cck filefield for uploading and attaching images.  Both of these modules are now bundled with the latest version of Drupal.

The integration and improvements of CCK and content types in general are also a huge step forward for Drupal.  CCK is a feature that Drupal got right from the beginning, and I've yet to see other CMS's integrate as well.  With Drupal 7, CCK is almost fully integrated and has added interface improvements so you can differently define the order and appearance of fields to the editor and the viewer. In Drupal 6 for example, the order that you placed the fields in the form was the order that they appeared to the viewer — not always ideal.

The other major improvement is the addition of a completely ajax powered administrative interface and the inclusion of a better, more powerful admin menu with shortcuts.  Navigating around the adminstration menus is incredibly fast now, clicking on a menu item launches a lightbox style window over-top of your website.  Once you make changes and hit save the lightbox closes and the page is refreshed to reflect changes you've made.

The other major advantage of this admin UI is that I no longer have to be concerned with how my theme will effect it.  The Admin UI has it's own custom theme which is unaffected by the design or styles I've created exclusively for my Drupal site.

If you're wondering about upgrading to D7, I can't weigh in, since I've not yet gone through that process, but if you're building new I highly recommend it!

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