One of the great things about WordPress is that it is constantly in development, and each new release brings a slew of new features and updates that make using our favorite CMS even more enjoyable. That’s why, as each new “named” release becomes available, we’re going to take some time here to go through the new bells and whistles for you.
If you have an existing WordPress site, you won’t see these new items automatically, you’ll need to upgrade your WordPress installation to 4.9 in order to see them. However, you shouldn’t update your install without backing up your entire site first and then double-checking everything is still working afterwards. If that isn’t something you are comfortable with, DON’T update. Instead, get a team with WordPress experience, like Solamar, to do it for you.
That said, we still want you to know what the new hotness is, so you’re up-to-date on what WordPress is capable of. So without further ado, here’s the good stuff that was added in WordPress 4.9 “Tipton”, named for jazz musician and band leader Billy Tipton.
Customizer Schedules, Drafts and Theme Updates
If you use the customizer a lot, then this is going to be a big one for you. While it was always a good tool for making high-level changes to your site, any edits you made there went live immediately. Gone is the “Save & Publish” button, and in it’s place a new “Publish” button with a little gear icon included. Click that gear, and you can access options to save a draft of your edits, schedule your edits to go live at a future date or publish them right away. This is essentially the way pages and posts have worked for a long time, but extending the functionality to the customizer opens up the possibility of saving design and layout drafts in much the same way we do with text. In addition, you can now generate a preview link for your draft or scheduled changes so that you can share them with others for review. Huge!
Changing themes or updating them via the customizer has also gotten better, with live previews so you can take a look before activation and the ability to install themes directly.
Code Syntax Highlighting
This is my personal favorite new feature, since I spend a lot of time dealing with the code side of things. WordPress is finally adding code syntax highlighting as a native feature! Using the open source CodeMirror library, WordPress will now color the code to make it more readable, and will also check it for errors, alerting you if anything seems amiss. While they haven’t yet brought this functionality to the post/page editor, having this kind of quality-of-life addition to any of the code editing areas is a big step forward for usability.
New Gallery Widget and More
In the previous update, WordPress added a bunch of new widgets including a bunch of media-focused ones. In 4.9, we’re getting another one, the Gallery widget. Using it does what you’d think it would do, create a WordPress gallery anywhere you can place a widget. While WordPress galleries are pretty simple, but this might solve some simpler gallery needs for you.
The new text widget has gained the “Add Media” button that posts and pages have. Now you can add images to your text widgets without having to hand-code them in, or generate the code elsewhere. You can also use any shortcodes you need in the Text widget by default. In the past the ability to use shortcodes in text widgets had to activated in the theme code. Finally, widgets now have oEmbed support, so you can add video, music or any other oEmbed supporting media by pasting the link into the widget.
There are tons of other little feature changes and bug fixes under the hood, including an update to MediaElement, which controls the default media players, updates to roles and their capabilities, so that granular control of plugins and translations is possible, and Customizer JS API improvements so that customization of the customizer is easier and more capable.
Want to take advantage of all the new stuff WordPress 4.9 has to offer? Contact the web team at Solamar and we’ll make sure your update goes as smoothly as possible.