Happy days at the HQ as we're approaching the end of a long journey with the near release of Umbraco 7 - the artist formerly known as "Belle". I'd love to share where we are, what to expect and most of all hopefully calm a couple of concerns.
The same stable engine as Umbraco 6
While the version number is bumped up a notch, the runtime engine that runs your site and implementation is the same. This means that a website, implemented on v6 would work the same on v7 when it comes to your templates, macros and custom code - whether it's based on Webforms or MVC. This is really important to know, if you're concerned about the stability of a new major version of Umbraco.
A new User Experience
What's new in Umbraco 7 is of course the User Experience - the "Back Office" is completely new. With Umbraco 7, the project is returning to the roots from back when I originally created Umbraco, where the majority of the focus in Umbraco was making a tool that was easy for non technical people to use. A tool that supported the daily tasks of a website editor - back when they were called "Webmasters".
Not all roses
While we've begun the work and Umbraco 7 is much prettier and easier to use than Umbraco 6, we've only just started. There's plenty of things that we'd have loved to add to 7, but will have to wait for later. We believe that we got the foundation right and solid, which we find more important than new bells and whistles.
It also means that we had to keep the focus solely on Content and Media, despite that we have plenty of ideas to also improve the user experience for designers and developers. It'll come later this year. For now, we were able to find a simple way of re-using Umbraco 6 parts and while they won't be as slick and fast as native, re-written Umbraco 7 components, they'll do the job.
More than 70 developers attended our “Belle Lab” in London earlier this month, where Per Ploug Hansen showed how to write new Property Editors for Umbraco 7 – photo: Douglas Robar
With a re-written Back office, breaking changes is inevitable. In Umbraco 7, old custom Property Editors won't work, neither will Macro Parameter Editors. They'll need to be re-written and we've been in touch with the most popular package developers to encourage them to start the work and many have done so.
We've also done our best to make sure that old custom sections, trees and apps work. But some packages might have used a bit too neat "tricks" to customize the back office and they could break. We don't have the resources to check all the packages out there, so if you're a package developer, make sure to test your packages and submit any issues you encounter. Some might be possible for us to fix, some might require you to do things differently. Make sure to read the documentation on customizing Umbraco 7 and follow best practices. It'll also make your package more compelling.
Soon we’ll be able to high five to a fantastic new Umbraco version that we all collaborated on testing – photo: Douglas Robar
Let's get there together
We're releasing an alpha of Umbraco 7 tomorrow. It's an alpha. Not a beta and definitely not a release. It means that the foundation is done, that there's feature freeze and no more API changes. It also means that it's not polished and only have had limited testing. In other words, there's bugs and it's not for production.
But we need your help. The earlier you start testing Umbraco 7 and submit feedback, the sooner you'll have a stable product for your clients. And the more you do it - rather than hoping we or someone else in the communtiy do it for you - the more rock solid it'll be.
Testing Umbraco 7 will probably be an emotional rollercoaster ride. From wow to meh. From the feeling of "wow this thing is beautiful and fast" to "did anyone even test this thing". But hang in there and help us with reports. Then do it again when we've fixed loads of issues and release a beta.
You'll love it in the end and so will your clients. Here's to a bright and "belle" future of Umbraco - and for everyone - including you - to be a part of making it happen.