UT Drupal Kit

UT Drupal Kit 3.0.0 stable release

In August 2017, the UT Drupal Kit (UTDK) team began work on a complete rebuild of the Kit, driven primarily by the need to have a distribution that is compatible with Drupal 8 (and now Drupal 9). Today, we are happy to announce the availability of the stable release of UT Drupal Kit 3.0 (UTDK 3).

For a full history of the UTDK 3 development process prior to October 2019, please see the release announcement post for our first beta release. Since that time, we have produced 10 bi-monthly beta releases, fixing bugs and adding functionality towards a release that we believed would qualify as ready for use by the university web community.

Timeline of UT Drupal Kit development by

During the UTDK 3 beta phase, our team has also worked with departments around campus to build and launch six production sites using the UTDK 3 beta releases, with two more in progress to be launched later in 2021.

A new way of working with Composer

Composer is a dependency management tool for PHP which is used to manage code for most major modern PHP frameworks and libraries (WordPress being a notable exception). When Drupal 8 was first launched in late 2015, Composer was used for managing dependencies of Drupal core in the development process for Drupal itself, but it was far less common to manage a Drupal site entirely using Composer. Over the duration of the UTDK 3 development cycle, this situation has gradually evolved to the point that use of Composer is now the de-facto standard for creating and managing a Drupal 9 site.

One of the final blockers to a stable release of UTDK 3 has been the availability a new feature from Pantheon called “Integrated Composer.” This feature is a key part of our strategy to pave the way for developers unfamiliar with Composer to manage a UT Drupal Kit site with the lowest possible learning curve, and to follow best practices for Composer without requiring the use of an external Continuous Integration tool to perform site “builds.”

Integrated Composer allows us to provide UTDK 3 to developers as a custom upstream on the Pantheon platform, just as we did with UTDK 2, which used Drupal 7. But unlike the UTDK 2 upstream, which contained all of Drupal core, contrib modules and our UTDK custom code, this custom upstream is an extremely “light” repository.  It mostly just defines the dependencies of the Drupal Kit in a composer.json file — all of the actual code for Drupal Core, contrib modules, and UTDK custom code is pulled in from via Composer and automatically built on the Pantheon platform. This gives us all of the advantages of Composer and Pantheon’s traditional “custom upstream” architecture, while still following the best practice of excluding Composer dependencies from a site’s Git version control repository.

More information about getting started with UTDK 3 and Integrated Composer is available in the UTDK 3 documentation.

For developers wishing to use UTDK 3 on platforms other than Pantheon, it is still a requirement to use Composer to build and manage your codebase. You will additionally be responsible for their own development workflow for building and deploying that codebase to a server environment. There are different models to follow for this type of workflow; the important thing to keep in mind is the higher degree of technical skill required to be able to evaluate, select, and use a deployment workflow on your own.

More information about options for non-Pantheon workflows is also available in the UTDK 3 documentation.

Going forward

While we consider today’s release to be “stable,” it is by no means the end of the road for development of this new generation of the UT Drupal Kit. Our top priorities for the next release cycle are to complete a list of remaining features for each of the three add-ons (News, Events, Profile), as well as continuing to work on completing a programmatic migration path from UTDK 2 to UTDK 3 using Drupal’s Migrate API.

Because migration of existing sites will be a major focus for the UTDK community over the course of the next 18 months, we will include posts dedicated to that topic in the future.

What to do next

Updating an existing codebase

Please visit the UT Drupal Kit 3 documentation for complete release notes and instructions for updating an existing codebase using Composer. Always be sure to check for available database updates after updating the codebase.

How do I get started with UTDK 3?

The first thing anyone interested in starting with UTDK 3 should do is to head over to our brand-new documentation site:

The “What is the UT Drupal Kit?” chapter contains detailed explanations of what the Kit contains, as well as a list of differences between versions 2 and 3.

The “Getting Started” chapter includes technical requirements for running version 3, as well as detailed instructions for setting up an environment on Pantheon or other environments.

If you run into problems or have questions, please check the “Support” page for available support options.

Next releases

The 3.x (Drupal 9) branch of the UT Drupal Kit is updated on a bi-monthly maintenance release schedule, with releases targeted for the second Tuesday of odd-numbered months. The next planned release is UT Drupal Kit 3.1.0, due on July 13, 2021. Please see Release Schedule for UT Drupal Kit for more details.

By Paul Grotevant

Paul Grotevant is the Senior IT Manager of Web Content Management Solutions for Information Technology Services at the University of Texas at Austin.