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May 03 2016
May 03

With the release of Drupal 8.1 on April 20th the BigPipe module was added to core to increase the speed of Drupal for anonymous and logged in visitors.

What does BigPipe do in general?

BigPipe is a technique to render a webpage in phases. It uses components to create the complete page ordered by the speed of the components themselves. This technique gives the visitors a feeling that the website is faster then it may actually be. Thus giving a boost in user experience.

This technique, originally developed by Facebook, deploys the theory of multi threading, just like processors do. It disperses multiple calls to a single backend to make full use of the web server and thus rendering a webpage faster then conventional rendering does.

What does BigPipe do in Drupal?

For “normal” websites with anonymous visitors, BigPipe doesn’t do much. If you use a caching engine like Varnish, or even Drupal cache itself, pages are generally rendered fast enough. When using dynamic content like lists of related, personalized or localized content BigPipe can kick in and really make a difference. When opening the website BigPipe returns the page skeleton that can be cached. Elements like the menus, footer, header and often even content. And then rendering of the dynamic content will start. This means that the visitor of your website is already reading the most import content, and is able to see the dynamic related list later on after it’s loaded asynchronously.

For websites with logged in users BigPipe can be a real boost in performance. Standard Drupal cache doesn’t work out of the box for logged in users. For Drupal 7 you had the Authenticated User Page Caching (Authcache) module (which had some disadvantages), but for Drupal 8 there was nothing. Until Drupal 8.1!

With BigPipe Drupal is now able to cache certain parts of the page (the skeleton which I mentioned above) and to multithread some other parts. And these parts are cacheable by themselves.

Click on the imgae below to watch a video on YouTube where you can see for yourself how much effect BigPipe can have. BigPipe in Drupal 8

Video is made by Dries Buytaert

BigPipe in Drupal

As I said, starting from Drupal 8.1. BigPipe is added as a core module. And everybody can use it. Whether you are using a budget hosting platform or you are hosting your own website with state-of-the-art servers, it is basically just one (1) click away. You can just enable the module and get all the benefits BigPipe has to offer!

Jan 06 2016
Jan 06


What if we had a Drupal theme that does exactly what we want? No more divs, in divs, in divs. No more weird css. Out of the box responsiveness, both adaptive as fluid. Debuggers, good javascript additions, Gulp. Maybe even a little styleguide generator.

That’s what we thought when we started working on our own custom Drupal starter theme in July 2013. We called it “FortyTwo”.

A brief history

Before we we started working with FortyTwo, we did theming, like many others, based on the Zen or Omega base themes. It worked, it got us where we wanted, but it had its downsides. Besides Zen we also looked at Omega and other major base themes. They all had their pros but also a lot of cons.

During a talk I had with one of the frontenders at Finalist about this we started to think: Why not create our own theme. Let’s combine all of the pros from all those themes to one, and maybe add some other nifty features.

The start

The first ever site we developed with FortyTwo, and the site that actually developed a big part of FortyTwo was the Finalist website. Back then it was a good starting point for us to develop website frontends the way we wanted to. Combined with good backend developers we could start working on good frontends.

Finalist.nl websiteThe Finalist website as built with FortyTwo

Because we developed FortyTwo as a base theme for Drupal we could use it to create all kinds of different websites, no matter the shape or size.


Let me enumerate some of the best features FortyTwo has right now:

  • SASS; FortyTwo has completely been made using the SASS css preprocessor.
  • Drush integration; Easily create your sub theme using our custom drush command.
  • Out of the box responsiveness; Without no effort themes developed using FortyTwo are responsive. Both adaptive or fluid. Extending the responsiveness is easy by just copying some files. Want to change the breakpoints? They are defined in the sass settings file.
  • Gulp; We have added gulp support for some extra features.
    • SASS watch and compiling with auto prefixes for IE8 and IE9.
    • JSLint integration, while watching the theme folder the console will output errors or warnings from JSLint if there are any.
    • Uglify of JavaScript files.
    • Clearing of Drupal cache on changes in PHP, include or info files in the theme.
    • And last, but not least automatic reloading of the browser on file changes.
  • Icomoon integration; For easy development we have created a starter set of icomoon icons and added them to the theme. You can easily extend those icons and use theme using our custom icomoon SASS mixin.
  • Layout styles; It is possible to choose different styles of layout, whether you want your content column on the left, right or the middle, it is just a setting;
  • Debuggers; We have added some handy debuggers in FortyTwo:
    • It is possible to show the grid on the background of the page. The grid uses the settings set in the sass settings file.
    • It is possible to show a responsive identifier. This makes it easier to create responsive websites. A bar at the bottom of the website shows you on what breakpoint you currently are viewing.

Debuggers in actionThe above image shows the mentioned debuggers in action.

There is more, but you have to see for yourselves what FortyTwo can offer you!

Drupal 8

Since August 2015 we have also started developing the Drupal 8 version of the theme. Since Drupal 8 is becoming the new standard we wanted to be ready for it when it came out. On the date Drupal 8 was officially released FortyTwo was already finished and is now in active development.

I will write a separate blog about the porting of FortyTwo from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 on a later date.

How about the future?

We are still in active development. Since the release of FortyTwo-8.x-1.0 Only bugfixes and really nice features are added to the Drupal 7 version of FortyTwo. Other new features are only added for Drupal 8.

On the roadmap are:

  • KSS; Knyle Style Sheets integration. Using KSS you can automatically create style guides from CSS and SASS.
  • FortyTwo admin theme; Admin themes are always difficult to pick. Because we work with a lot of clients, different kinds of content and content managers we believe that we can create a admin theme (of course based on FortyTwo) that suits the needs of everybody.
  • FortyTwo example theme; Since the start of development we always wanted to create a example theme that everybody can use, out-of-the-box.

Get involved!

Yes, we would love to see you around on the project page and the issue queue ! We heavily depend on your input, testing and feedback, but also on your commitment as a community developer, by helping us implementing new features and fixes.

About Drupal Sun

Drupal Sun is an Evolving Web project. It allows you to:

  • Do full-text search on all the articles in Drupal Planet (thanks to Apache Solr)
  • Facet based on tags, author, or feed
  • Flip through articles quickly (with j/k or arrow keys) to find what you're interested in
  • View the entire article text inline, or in the context of the site where it was created

See the blog post at Evolving Web

Evolving Web