#7: Easier Programming
As long as we're talking about less-visible improvements, we should mention some of the great things that make programming for Drupal easier. (The full list is far too long to include here, but you can see it at http://drupal.org/node/224333 and http://drupal.org/node/394070.)
- The biggest news is the inclusion of SimpleTest (now simply called Testing), a Drupal-specific framework for testing code (see Figure 7). Although it's been around for more than three years, its use was central to making Drupal 7 as stable as it is, and you can use it to test any module you write yourself.
- Drupal is now "database-agnostic," so you're no longer limited to using only MySQL and PostgreSQL. An effort called Database: The Next Generation" (DBTNG) has resulted in an application programming interface (API) that theoretically lets you hook Drupal up to pretty much any databaseas long as you write the connector code for it.
- The availability of RDF (Resource Description Framework) information means that data in your Drupal websites could be more fully understood by other sitesin particular, by search engines. RDF is central to creating the semantic web, in which sites regularly trade and interpret each other's information, for the benefit of all parties. (Of course, you can still choose to keep your data private!) Much of this is already possible through Drupal's built-in RSS feeds, but Mr. Buytaert explained how RDF makes data-sharing even better in his great blog post about the semantic web.
- Improvements to installation profiles make it easier to create your own installable Drupal "packages" with custom modules and settings. Installation profiles are important to Drupal's growth because they allow anyone to "productize" Drupal. For example, someone selling commercial online services to real-estate agents could create a Drupal installation profile and give it to clients, who would then use that package to create their own individual real-estate sites… which automatically hook into the vendor's services.
Figure 7 Drupal 7's Testing framework helps programmers develop more stable modules.