Finally Time to Upgrade to Drupal 6

Go Drupal 6It's a week into the new year, and many of us are nearly finished breaking the last of our resolutions. However, there is one resolution you should not break if you're still running a Drupal 5 site. You've put it off long enough and it is finally time to upgrade to Drupal 6. If you're not convinced I'm going to tell you why you should.

First, a bit of background and a brief look to the future. It used to be that the world could expect a new Drupal release every 12 months or so. Drupal 5.0 was released about a year after Drupal 4.7. Drupal 6.0 was released February 13, 2008, 13 months after Drupal 5. And, you may have noticed that it is now January 2009 so you might expect that there is a Drupal 7 release on the horizon.

I wouldn't blame you for thinking this, but a funny thing happened on the way to a Drupal 7 release.

First of all, it took a long time for contributed modules to catch up to Drupal 6. While core was ready a year ago, some essential contributed modules only became available as late as November 2008 (2 months ago). The other funny thing that happened along the way is the Drupal 7 ballooned into a massive release that depends on several major architectural changes. If that weren't enough, there has been a herculean undertaking in the works to provide 100% automated test coverage for Drupal core.

There has been amazing progress on Drupal 7, but there have been a few late additions to the Drupal 7 release that are going to delay it. Drupal is finally going to bring a few key contributed modules into the fold and release them as part of the core distribution. The largest of these modules is CCK (Content Construction Kit - which lets you create content types as needed for your site).

As a result, Dries (leader and benevolent dictator of the Drupal project) has predicted that Drupal 7 will be released in Q4 of of 2009.

So, what does this all have to do upgrading the Drupal 6 now?

When Drupal 7 was expected in Q1 of 2009 many people considered skipping Drupal 6 and upgrading to Drupal 7. At the best of times a two release upgrade is taxing enough. However, in a Drupal world where the philosophy is to eject legacy rather than maintain backwards compatibility it is even more difficult to tackle a double upgrade. And that doesn't take into consideration all the contributed modules that your site likely uses. The longer you wait, the more difficult the upgrade path will be. All those contributed modules aren't standing still and many are going through their own massive re-writes (ejecting the past and looking to the future).

Still, if Drupal 7 were coming in Q1 2009 you may have been willing to take on the double upgrade some time in Q3 2009 when contributed modules had caught up. But if you're thinking of waiting for D7 it looks like Q2 2010 would be the earliest realistic upgrade time frame. Can you really wait another year to take advantage of all the amazing features Drupal has to offer now?

In case you missed all that has been written about Drupal 6 a few of my favorite highlights are:

  • any number of performance improvements (where uses/visitors are primarily logged in)
  • theming is easier (way easier)
  • javascript handling and libraries are much improved
  • multi-language support is wonderful
  • plus many more

And if the improvements in the core Drupal distribution weren't enough I cannot say enough good things about the improvements found in the Views 2.x and CCK 2.x contributed modules. These are night and day improvements compared to their Drupal 5 counterparts. With these modules now officially released after lengthy beta testing, they are more than production ready and will put a smile on your face.

For all of these reasons, as well as a promise to myself to upgrade at the start of the new year, this site just made the move to Drupal 6. And, I'm not the only one contemplating the change now as several recent Twitter messages have shown. Upgrade isn't only on my mind, but on the minds of several Drupal veterans.

So what are you waiting for? You're running out of excuses. Tomorrow I'll even share how I upgraded this site to help you plan for potential 'gotchas'. After that you won't have a single excuse. Upgrade now and feel good. With each Drupal upgrade another kitten will get its wings (or something like that).

Update Follow up posts Step 1 and Step 2 and Step 3 and 4 of my How to Upgrade Drupal 5 to Drupal 6 series are now on-line

January 8th 2009 12AM
By: andre



1. Many, many contributed

1. Many, many contributed modules haven't caught up with the core. Even my simple blog requires some essential modules that are still in dev or alpha/beta state for 6.x (e.g. Image and Image Assist, CAPTCHA, xmlsitemap, custom_pagers, etc). I simply can't upgrade without chopping off functionality of my website.

2. You guys are happy to run your sites in English, so you simply have no idea how painful is to localize Drupal. There are tons and tons of strings which need to be translated, and the "official" community translation is unbelievably crappy and non-consistent. As for contributed modules, many of them need to be patched because their authors missed some strings or used Drupal locale framework incorrectly for the sake of convenience. That means I can only afford using stable versions because deploying another beta means going through the patching/translation process again.

That's why I'm certainly staying with Drupal 5 for a while, at least until all modules that I use have been stabilized.

"So what are you waiting for?"

Panels 2.

Thanks and thoughts

@Wim and @fellow drupaler - thanks of the kind word re: the theme - still a work in progress (just made some adjustments to the comment display)

@Isriya - if a single module is mission critical, then I would suggest helping the module along by a) providing bug reports b) providing patches c) offering money to the module maintainer d) all of the above. In all cases it would help you, the module and the community as a whole. And you get to upgrade quicker.

@greg - Convincing clients that 'beta' is okay is sometimes tricky. Sounds like you're familiar with Ubercart. In the expert role you know best if its production ready. Or perhaps production ready for the way it is being used. At any rate you can start the upgrade planning and maybe find a single brave customer willing to be a beta tester.

Advertisement 6.x is still

Advertisement 6.x is still buggy. It's essential for my content site.


I couldn't agree more, it is certainly time to move to Drupal 6. I have been holding off with my own sites but I need to upgrade pronto. At work, all our sites but one are Drupal 5, so we need to schedule in time for that also.

Also like the new theme. I looks amazing! Nice work

Convincing business to go with beta software...

...for their ecommerce package can be a major sticking point with the Drupal 6 upgrade.

The only sites I have running Drupal 5 are ubercart sites.

Welcome to Drupal 6

Welcome to Drupal 6 and congratulations on the new theme, it looks smashing!