AADL.org upgrades to Drupal 4.7

A little over a year after launch, AADL‘s Drupal-powered site has been upgraded to 4.7 from 4.6. Those familiar with Drupal’s release schedule and changelog will know that this is a substantial upgrade that puts us in a good position to be ready for the touted and forthcoming 5.0 release (for which there is now a code freeze).

Drupal 4.7 sports a number of great new features. I’m most excited about the new search engine which does a much better job of indexing the site and allows users to do an advanced search. Searches now actually return meaningful results. Other features include a new Ajax-enabled content creation system with nifty improvements such as re-sizable text fields, collapsible elements, a file upload system that doesn’t require authors to leave their work, and live menu updates. On the development side, these new features are accessible via the new form-handling system. In other words, coders can easily incorporate these new Ajax elements in their own work. Theme developers will be happy with the ability to create an infinite number of regions–nice to achieve that highly-polished CSS look. I think a couple new block types were added as well.

Another great feature is the wiki-style revision system that allows editors to roll-back their work and leave editorial log messages (a very useful feature in large, collaborative environments). Commenting benefits, as well, with the ability of site administrators to manage and moderate multiple entries at once. Finally, Drupal 4.7 supports free tagging. Not something we’re using at this point, but, from my point of view, it means that the engine is there for future module work. I have a feeling I’ll be using those hooks for some forthcoming feature upgrades on the website itself…

The upgrade was fairly smooth. Drupal ships with an update script which ran flawlessly, but that’s the easy part. A fair amount of prep-work was done ahead of time to ensure that all of our custom modules were 4.7-compatible. Basically, this meant updating all of our form-handling code to handle the new system. We also segregated all of our own code and theme information from Drupal’s using the multi-site capability. This means that we can easily keep track of our own work without it getting mixed up with the vanilla code-base. This wasn’t completely necessary, but it was worth the work because it’ll make all future upgrades much easier to do. Doing things this way is also in-line with my philosophy of never touching stock code unless you absolutely have to.

The long and the short of this whole upgrade means that our users will probably not notice a lot of difference, but we’re now in a good position to work on AADL 3.2. And that they will notice.

For more info, check out these Drupal videocasts:

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