Strapi v4: Big changes in latest release of this open-source 'headless' CMS

Strapi's content management system has been improved from top to bottom.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Strapi, the company behind the most popular open-source headless content management system (CMS) of the same name, has launched the next stable release of Strapi v4. This includes a new design system, user interface, plug-in Application Programming Interface (API), database query engine, and improved REST and GraphQL API performance. 

But first, you may wonder, "What is a headless CMS?" Unlike conventional CMSs, such as WordPress, Joomla!, and Drupal, a headless CMS doesn't bother with the website's front-end. Instead, its focus is on the back-end content repository, which is used for storing and delivering structured content. This content is then made available for display via a RESTful API, typically using JSON or XML

Strapi claims that traditional CMSs, like 20-plus-year-old WordPress, have a monolithic legacy architecture that is difficult to build, often slow, and vulnerable to hackers. As a headless CMS, Strapi utilizes APIs to easily integrate into a variety of front-end frameworks, giving developers the freedom to choose their favorite tools, while reducing hosting and development costs.

Strapi isn't the only headless CMS. Others include Ghost, Contentful, and Prismic. Strapi claims it's the most popular of them all. The company bases that claim on stats like its over 40,000 GitHub stars, 700 active contributors, over 5 million downloads, and its top ranking on HeadlessCMS.org

Also: The future of enterprise content is modular and headless

The Strapi CMS, which is built on Node.js, is customizable using APIs. Its database and file content can be accessed for display on websites, smartphones, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices. This content is delivered via the JAMstack static-site generators and front-end frameworks, such as Gatsby.js, Next.js, Nuxt.js, Angular, React, and Vue.js. On the backend, it supports both SQL and NoSQL databases.

In this new edition, Alexandre Bodin, Strapi CTO blogged, "We have deeply reworked the Strapi core to make it easier to extend Strapi with plugins, smoothly migrate from one version to another, and boost API performance. All that with a brand new user interface and design system." 

In addition, it has the following features: 

  • Easily create and maintain plug-ins thanks to a new programmatic API and an inclusive Design System optimized for accessibility, thus providing a much smoother experience for both developers and content managers. 

  • Quickly migrate and upgrade between different Strapi versions. 

  • Give full control to plug-in and application developers on data querying through a more flexible and powerful database query engine, which also speeds up the development of new custom features.

  • Make the REST and GraphQL API simpler, more powerful, and customizable. 

  • Manage the access of the Content API through API Tokens administered from the admin panel to easily authenticate REST and GraphQL queries.

  • Quickly spot and fix errors in applications with standardized error codes and context.

"With Strapi v4, we have significantly improved the developer experience in terms of customization and extensibility," said Pierre Burgy, Strapi's co-founder and CEO. "These new capabilities together with the new design system provide a solid foundation for the Strapi ecosystem to grow along with the number of plug-ins and integrations."  

In addition, the new Strapi is faster. As Virgin Media Principal Delivery Lead Kuldeep Arora said, "Strapi v4 not only boosts performance compared to the previous version but also makes the process of integrating other tools in our stack a breeze."

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