New Update – WordPress 4.9 – The rundown

So, it’s that time again. WordPress have released their latest version of their PHP based Website CMS system after four beta releases and three release candidates from 443 developers and translated into 43 different languages.

This version contains some pretty cool updates, including an improved customizer with drafts and scheduling built in, a new gallery widget and an updated text widget, alongside some more technical updates like syntax highlighting in the code editor and error warnings to avoid the dreaded ‘White Screen of Death’

Improved Customizer

The customizer, the place to edit menus, widgets and theme settings whilst having a live preview of the changes, has had some pretty useful features added, namely scheduling, drafting and the ability to share those drafts with others.

When developing a site that is already live, it is pretty much always recommended to make those changes on a locally hosted test site first, so if you break anything or (possibly more likely) a client decides they don’t like the changes, there is no harm done to the live version. However, with the latest features in WordPress 4.9, those smaller changes – menu amends, sidebar edits ETC. – can be done straight on the live site and saved as a draft. Once your changes have been drafted, you will be given a unique link that you can then send to the rest of the team, or the client, to get

feedback and approval before using the schedule feature to set a specific time and date for the changes to go live.

This has the possibility to streamline the design and development process, so you have to spend less time backing up your site, copying over all your files and setting up test sites before every change, and more time getting the job done!

Have you ever spend a while editing your site, changing some content, maybe changing a few settings in the customizer, and after you save your hard work, you realise somebody else has been working on the same thing and overwrites all your hard work? It happens to me far too regularly and it’s one of the most frustrating things that can happen. With this WordPress update, you will be warned when you start working in the customizer, and it is already opened by somebody else, making it harder to accidentally overwrite somebody else’s hard work!

Content Rich Widgets

The next big feature in this update is new and improved widgets, allowing you to create rich content in your sidebars, footers, headers and just about anywhere else.

When using the standard widgets on your WordPress site, there isn’t a huge selection of widgets to choose from when it comes to creating rich content, that is content containing images, videos or other engaging elements. You have the arbitrary text widget which, if you know how to write HTML, allows you to add some images and other HTML elements into the content. With the new changes to the WordPress widgets, having to understand HTML code and writing it all in manually is a thing of the past. You can now add a “Gallery” widget, allowing you to create galleries to place into your sidebars, footers and anywhere else your theme supports widgets. As well as the new gallery widget, there is now an “Add media” button on the text widget, allowing the less “HTML-knowledgable” among us to create beautiful widgets just the same.

Another new widget feature is the ability to use shortcodes in text widgets. This is a feature that, even the WordPress devs themselves admit, has been requested for a VERY long time. Simple as it may be, using a shortcode natively in a widget, it opens up potentially limitless possibilities for better, more interactive and engaging content to be put into sidebars ETC.

A Helping Hand To Developers

A new feature in WordPress 4.9 aimed specifically at the website developers, could prove to be a shifting point for the way developers edit websites, especially for smaller tweaks.

Most web developers use an IDE, or Integrated development environment, to work their magic. This is essentially a program that integrates many different tools used by developers, such as error detection and debugging, syntax highlighting (Showing different parts of the code in different colours to represent different things) and file transferring, personally I love JetBrains PHP IDE called PHPStorm.

Using an IDE helps improve code efficiency and help you find errors and problems quickly, but it can take a while to get used to, to find your way around and to set up every time you want to work on a different project. That’s where the new WordPress development features come in, with the new syntax highlighting, error detection and sandbox, starting up your IDE and spending time setting up your project could potentially become a thing of the past. Now, developers will have the opportunity to use the built-in code editor, complete with some of the helpful tools of an IDE, to perform minor changes to a site with ease.

Will you be switching over to the WordPress editor for smaller tweaks or sticking with your tried and tested IDE’s? Leave a comment below with your thoughts!

Under The Hood

There have been some rather large changes in the background of this update including Javascript library improvements and CodeMirror support for themes

I won’t go into too much detail with these updates here, so if you want to see the full changes I’ll leave a link to the WordPress.org blog for you to check out. But a few of the big changes are the Customizer JS API has been improved, adding in support for the new changes as well as some other bits and bobs. Improvements to Roles and Capabilities, allowing for more granular management of plugins and translation files. MediaElement.js has been upgraded to version 4.2.6, modernizing the UI and removing dependencies on jQuery.

See the full list of changes on the WordPress site here.

Worried about updating your site? Don’t know whether your plugins will be supported or if your site will fall over after updating? Get in touch now for help and support in updating your site and plugins, avoiding any potential catastrophes!

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