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What are the main features of Umbraco 14?

  • By 3chillies

In the 3Chillies blog we regularly keep up with the latest changes at Umbraco, an open-source Content Management System (CMS) and Digital Experience Platform (EXP) that continues to evolve. It’s one of the platforms we work with regularly and we’ve delivered multiple sites based on Umbraco over the years. The latest release is Umbraco 14 and is now in Beta, but with a release date due for the end of the May.

In this article we’re going to explore the main features of Umbraco 14 and what it means for existing Umbraco customers. Let’s dive in and see what’s in the new release.

  1. A complete recoding of Umbraco back-office
  2. Usually, a major Umbraco release will have something of interest for both developers and digital marketing teams, but Umbraco 14 is definitely one for the coders rather than the content creators. In terms of new features for content editors there’s few perceivable changes, but in some ways, this is a good thing.

    The centre of the release is a complete recoding of the “Umbraco back-office” – the administration experience used to craft, configure and manage customer experiences. But for business users and editors the experience remains mainly unchanged, keeping the intuitive and easy-to-use interfaces that are one of Umbraco’s key strengths.

    Umbraco HQ have been dropping updates about the new back office for a while – naming it Project Bellissima – so its release should be no surprise. The previous AngularJS from the current back office how now been completely replaced by Type Script, Web Components, LIT and the Umbraco UI library. At a high-level this is designed to:

    • Enable a “less error-prone developer experience”.
    • Provide more options for package developers to use their framework of choice.
    • Bring a more consistent UI across the back office that also enables consistency for developers evolving their own back-office UI.

    Realistically for some developers this does mean there might be an associated learning curve with the new back office, but there is supporting documentation and guidance to help. Ultimately Umbraco HQ has a philosophy to make life easier for developers and allow them to work in the way they want to, and this feels like it has influenced the direction of the new back office.

  3. Supercharging extensibility
  4. The new back office brings more flexibility and extensibility to the platform. The release candidate notes for Umbraco 14 even describes it as “the most extendable version of Umbraco ever” and that it has been built on what’s been known internally as an “Extension First Strategy”.

    Basically, everything within the new back-office is an extension. So effectively the new back office in Umbraco 14 is built based on default extensions, but you can then easily add your own. This means the new back-office can be highly configurable to your own needs and those of your users.

  5. Improvements to APIs
  6. Umbraco 14 brings new major APIs to the table that ultimately support the “extension-first” strategy behind the release. In more recent releases Umbraco has introduced a new Content Delivery API and Media Delivery API. The new APIs focus more on the management of the platform rather than specifically the content.

    A new Management API allows you to theoretically control anything within Umbraco, with a more lightweight approach that places the business logic in the service layer. This means you can control users, content, media, document types and more. Technically it means an organisation could create their own custom back office with the required experience and governance in place.

    An accompanying Extension API also means that extensions can be easily loaded into the new back-office and also leverage platform elements such as an expanded set of tests to ensure everything works.

    These new APIs also support headless publishing and a composable architecture. Theoretically they mean you can integrate other non-Umbraco services into Umbraco so it could act as the central console to support content experiences. On the other hand, it also means there is the potential to allow users to control parts of Umbraco from another application.

  7. Add-ons
  8. Umbraco operates a number of key “Add-Ons”, features that are optional and supported, helping to extend the capabilities of Umbraco beyond just the CMS. Some of these are based on acquisitions, and it’s quite possible that these will expand in the future. All four current Add-ons (Workflow, Deploy, Commerce and Forms) will have new versions that will be available for the time of the actual 14 release date, still set for the end of May.

  9. Stuff that’s missing from Umbraco 14
  10. The new back office and APIs represent a major release and it’s not surprising that some back-office features are likely to have dropped out of Umbraco 14. These include things like tours, help, keyboard shortcuts, preview, custom icons, label templates and more. Some of these may follow swiftly after Umbraco 14, but all this is standard and expected from a major release like this.

What does this mean for developers and digital marketers?

Umbraco 14 is one of those releases that helps to extend what you can do with Umbraco. It increases flexibility and extensibility to create customer experiences but also configure the backend experience too, while helping to make life easier for developers. It also supports the ability to use Umbraco for headless publishing or as part of a composable DXP.

For existing Umbraco customers, three will be some new ways of working for developers and admins that will require some investment in time. There is also some work that will need to be done with an upgrade, although this should be straightforward for most. However if you’re on a much earlier version of Umbraco or you have any customisations with the way your current back office is set up then there may be more effort and cost in upgrading. Customised elements may need to be rebuilt, for example.

Marketing teams will have less to think about with this release, except they will likely need to be involved in some light user acceptance testing in any upgrade.

Need help upgrading to Umbraco 14?

Umbraco 14 is another important release of one of our favourite platforms. If you’d like to discuss any of its features or upgrading from a current version of Umbraco, then get in touch!

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