Really excited for Version 9

In the last week or so I’ve been taking a closer look at RC4.

I’m overall really impressed, and we’re very excited about version 9 of Concrete CMS.

Obviously it’s still being worked on, being a release candidate there’s still bugs to squish and styling to tidy up, but overall my impression is that it has really come together well.

The things I really like:

  • It feels noticeably faster than v8. Panels and adding blocks feels a snappier.

  • Containers are going to be a game-changer. Whilst containers immediately appear useful to be able to easily add preset groups of editable areas to a page, I suspect they’ll be more useful than they initially appear. They functionally seem to like moveable elements, in that they can contain any template code. I can imagine some creative uses like outputting contents from page attributes in them, and being able to move that chunk of output around a page, without having to build a block as such. Like page and block templates, I reckon we’ll be using containers for some very cool ways to manage content output.

  • The overall look and feel is cleaner, fresher and generally more modern.
    I know that some people prefer dark interfaces, but I never thought having a mix of both light and dark panels was good for visual consistency. Now, things feel consistent. Many of the subtle changes, like the top edit bar turning flat, all add to the modern feel. The block panel is immediately more useful with being able see more block types at a time.

  • The small, but impacting change of the dashboard navigation dropping down a level really helps with usability. No scrolling down to navigation an add-on’s dashboard pages on every page load!

  • The new file manager is a very welcome addition. Moving file details and management into the one page clears up all the different dialogs and modals.

  • The new gallery block is handy, and I’m hoping that we’ll be able to use and abuse it with custom templates in the future.

  • The new included theme looks great, and although I haven’t explored it heavily I’m confident it’s a great direction.

  • But on a technical level it’s proving to be suitably backwards compatible, with pretty much all V8 code working fine. A project of this size is always going to have many technical legacies, but overall I’d say it’s doing a damn good job of remaining pretty stable API wise. Considering that V8 was first released late in 2016, we’re up to pretty much 5 years on that version (wow!), thats a long time to get used to the ‘V8 way’ of development, but even the majority of 5.7 code still works. Yes swapping to BS5 means there’s some visual issues with backwards compatibility, but this really doesn’t happen every year!

This week I finished uploading all of our V9 ready add-ons to the marketplace, and what I thought was going to be a painful job ended up pretty straightforward.

Whilst there was a bit of work required to update some of the more complex interfaces, overall the work was very reasonable, and worth it considering we’re now able to build with Bootstrap 5. I haven’t had any trouble so far supporting both V8 and V9 using the same version of code, it’s just required using in some places both BS3 and BS5 classes on elements.

Community Store has also been updated for V9, and is working and looking fine.
The current master version in github is V9 ready, and is not far away from a proper release. It simply needs a bit more testing and refining due to the size of the add-on (and I’m adding a few features at the same time).

We’ve always been confident and proud to put Concrete in front of our clients - they’re continually impressed with platform. Many of our long term clients have multiple Concrete sites built by us, to the point where it’s become their ‘department’s expected CMS’.

Now with these improvements to V9, in particular the visual improvements, we feel that Concrete is even easier to promote. V9 feels like an evolution of the platform, adding new features and a new look whilst retaining all the great features and technical abilities already present in V8.

For years we’ve been building complex sites with Concrete, with all sorts of customisations and setups. With V9 we’ll be able to continue to build such sites, with even more editing control.

We, plus pretty much every developer I speak to are at a loss as to how developers build and manage complex sites with Wordpress. The Wordpress examples we’ve seen are a complete mess, with terrible code, confusing interfaces and convoluted ways to manage trivial bits of content (like sidebars or footers). Wordpress just lacks so many features out of the box, features that really should be present in a modern CMS without plugins.

Concrete really just does a better job, in pretty much every regard, with a tiny fraction of the developers involved!

With V9, we’re excited to really try to promote Concrete, show what it can do it, and get it the prominence it really deserves. With the new Concrete websites, branding, and a V9 release, we’re feeling really positive.