AEM 6.4 Release – Have You Upgraded?

Topics: Adobe Experience Manager

With the release of AEM 6.4, it is time to start thinking about upgrading to this latest offering. And while businesses might be asking themselves “why should I upgrade?” and “when should I upgrade?”, there are a few factors to consider when answering these questions. Let’s take a look at what AEM 6.4 has to offer as well as the pros and cons of upgrading right away.

Why should I upgrade?

AEM 6.4 is a feature-rich update, adding many new features that improve the “quality of life” for developers, marketers, and designers. Adobe had three main areas of focus for this version:

  • Fluid Experiences
  • Innovation
  • The Cloud

The following is a list and description of the new features that implement the vision Adobe is trying to achieve with AEM 6.4, and they offer a compelling reason to upgrade.

Experience Fragments – Building Blocks

Adobe has expanded the capabilities of Experience Fragments by adding a new feature called Building Blocks. Each component of an Experience Fragment (e.g. image, text, video) can be turned into a Building Block. Users can add this component to a new Building Blocks menu for reuse.

The power of this shows when creating new variations of an Experience Fragment. Content authors can easily reuse the Building Block component in the new variation, which is ideal for when there is common content for each variation. Additionally, Building Block can be edited once and cascade to all of the variations.

The new Building Blocks menu
The new Building Blocks menu

Additional Information: Using Building Blocks with AEM Experience Fragments

Experience Fragments – Target

Experience Fragments can now be leveraged by Adobe Target, adding more power to personalize experiences.

Style System – Theming

AEM developers and designers have been creating Style Systems to help ease the authoring load. These systems allow content authors to easily reuse components in different themes. Adobe recognized the fact that this was being done repeatedly, and made a standard way of creating components that can easily use different themes and layouts.

Adobe’s Style System is currently available with the latest service pack in AEM 6.3; however, it is officially announced with the 6.4 release. The Style System allows for defining styles and themes at the component level, giving content authors style options for the component. For example, an author could use the dialog to define exactly how an article teaser should look (e.g. showing an image or date, hiding a description, or modifying text colors).

A key to getting started with the Style System is Adobe’s Core Components library. This library has pre-built components that are a great reference for building your own Style System components.

Additional Information: Style System Overview, Core Components

Adobe Sensei

Adobe Sensei is an AI and machine learning tool that Adobe has developed to create new experiences in AEM. The following new features take advantage of this technology.

Additional Information: Machine Learning in AEM

Smart Crop

Smart Crop is a Dynamic Media offering that uses Sensei to make cropping suggestions for image assets. Authors can easily review and edit the suggested crops, and Sensei learns from previous decisions so as to make better suggestions in the future.

Additional Information: Using Smart Crop with AEM Dynamic Media Assets

Smart Layout

Smart Layout takes data from Adobe Analytics and leverages Adobe Target to decide the best order for grouping and laying out content. Powered by Adobe Sensei, this creates a way to automatically give personalized experiences, removing the need for a content author to create an experience for each new user segment. An example of this is a grid of items that reorder depending on who is visiting, thereby offering them the most relevant content.

Reverse Translation Memory Update

Translation engines typically have a translation memory store or cache. These caches make it so common phrases or pieces of language are more quickly translated in subsequent translations. This cache is generated on by the translation service. In the past, content authors have had no ability to affect that cache. However, with AEM 6.4, Adobe has added the ability for content authors to push translations to the translation memory from AEM.

Content Fragments – Content Models

Prior to 6.4, Content Fragments were created using a standard WYSYG editor. Adobe had added the ability to create more complex Content Fragments by adding content models, which allow for the creation of Content Fragment templates using text-based form fields. For example, a Content Fragment can use a model that has fields for a title, date/time, or tags. While Content Fragments still remain text-based, they now have structured content in them.

Content Fragment Models have been added to the Assets tools menu

The Content Fragment Model Editor

Additional Information: Content Fragment Modules

Single Page Application Editor

Single page applications that leverage technologies such as Angular and ReactJS have been difficult when it comes to managing and updating content for them. Adobe has created a way to edit such applications using the standard AEM drag-and-drop interface. Existing single page apps can be brought into AEM and made authorable with required development changes.

Additional Information: Single Page Applications

AEM Cloud Manager

Adobe has added new tools to help manage code and deployments. This is specifically an Adobe Managed Services offering. The goal of the new services is to help customers deploy more frequently and rapidly. The offering adds tools in AEM for managing deployments using CI/CD. In addition to these tools, the cloud manager offers code quality tools for unit testing, code scanning, security testing, and performance testing.

Additional Information: Managed Services Cloud Platform

AEM Assets Updates

  • A number of features have been added to Assets to improve current functionality, including:
  • New viewing options for the list and card view.
  • Addition of content navigation tree for improved navigation of assets.
  • Better search filtering options (facets).
  • Ability to search in different languages and get the same results.
  • Lazy loading optimization.

The new content tree navigation tool for navigating assets

Alongside these feature improvements, Adobe had added the following new functionalities:

  • Adobe Stock integration into AEM. Authors can search Adobe Stock assets and license them directly from AEM.
  • Smart tags via Adobe Sensei. Sensei learns from previous decisions and image data and can automatically tag assets.
  • Adobe Asset Link. AEM integrations in the Creative Cloud products have been added so designers can easily check out/in assets from Adobe Assets.

When should I upgrade?

There are a few things to consider when deciding a time to upgrade. Perhaps you have an older version that Adobe is not continuing to support, and it is necessary to upgrade. If that is the case, upgrading to 6.4 quickly makes sense.

Is there a business objective that the newest version solves? Again, upgrading sooner may be the best answer.

AEM 6.4 is a very stable release, and it is definitely one of Adobe’s best yet. The only thing that might hold a user back from upgrading quickly is whether there are features introduced in 6.4 that the user intends to leverage immediately. Oftentimes, when new technology is added, there can be bugs, and while the majority of bugs are worked out when the first service pack is released, this usually is about 6 months after the release of a major version.

This version of AEM has many new great features and a lot of potential. This is an exciting new chapter for AEM.

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