So, we recently say the major update for WordPress known as 4.9 hit the main update channels. Here at Social Saxon we have been using this release for a fair few weeks as part of our test bed servers and suitable impressed. We know that the new v5 isn’t going to be seen until at least mid next year so this update brings some much needed features to our hands and at least gives a lot of user orientated improvements and changes to keep you going in the mean time.

So yes, for now Gutenberg will have to wait until next year but for now we have some exciting new features to play with, in fact it is well worth the update especially if you are actively working on, editing or changing your site (which you should, it’s good for SEO you know!). Anyway, we have moved through all of our hosted sites, tested and upgraded now, so here’s the features we like and why you too should ensure your WordPress is brought up to date to 4.9

 

1. Code Editor – Syntax Highlighting

For us, this represents a huge change and potentially can save us hours, if not days of time each year! It comes in the form of CodeMirror and allows full syntax highlighting and additional features within the code editors! Quite simply we have lost count of the number of times a simple missing semi colon has caused an entire update to produce no results, followed by some time head scratching and debugging to solve the issue

The new code editor (image above) will highlight the code and give suggestions as to errors, provide auto complete functionality and colour the code to match. Now only does this assist beginners with coding it also provides a useful tool for speedy, experienced developers to help iron out bugs, increase their workflow and improve efficiency.

Don’t fear though if you don’t want or didn’t like this feature as it can be turned on and off easily by visiting your user profile within the users area and unticking the box marked ‘Disable syntax highlighting when editing code’

Smart move, smart move!

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2. Schedule and Draft Customisation

So most of us are used to the ‘theme customizer’ area within your WordPress install, but it’s always been a case of all or nothing. You visit the customizer, make your changes and click ‘save and publish’ to instantly release them on your unwitting visitors! However sometimes you may want to save and come back, or make the changes live during a less busy time, or to adjust to a specific date such as a public holiday. Well, now you can!

Eagle eyed WordPressers would of noticed that the button has now been changed to say ‘Schedule’ with a nice cog next to it and clicking this will give you a few options (see image above). From now on you can actually make your changes at a time that suits you and then schedule them to go live, this is perfect for those changes you want to make to suit specific events, timings or public holidays! No longer do you have to sit up and wait for that specific time to come to hit apply! Perfect.

There is some nice extra touches here too, such as the ability to now save your changes as a draft and then copy the link for this draft to send to others. For many these changes are the start of a game changing new path for WordPress allowing 2018 to be full of many surprises going forwards.

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3. Widgets, Widgets & More Widgets

There have been some overhauling going on with the widgets and these are immediately obvious to any WordPress user. One of the nice touches is the way WordPress 4.9 now has improved widget mapping so when you make any change considered major (e.g. switching a theme) your widgets should have a much greater chance of staying in place and working!

As well as this we also see some changes to the widgets themselves,

Gallery Widget
With WordPress 4.8 we were treated to some nice media widgets based around single images, videos and audio but with WordPress 4.9 we are now gifted with a gallery widget, simple drag your widget, give it a title and select your pictures to gain the perfect mini gallery for any sidebar, footer or similar widget area! neat.

Shortcodes To Text
We now have the ability to add our shortcodes to the text widget, it’s as simple as now typing in the shortcodes as part of the widget and watch as the witchcraft and magic happens making them work.  What’s more, this is even bigger, we have oEmbed support in the text widget. You can now embed using the relevant embed shortcode content from sites such as Facebook, Youtube & Ted,a real game changer for bloggers! A nice, but very useful touch!

Media to Text
Touching on the shortcode part above, you can now add media such as images directly to your text widget! Why? some may ask, as we know WordPress 4.8 added media widgets but this is all in preparation for when Gutenberg arrives next year. Again this is a handy addition for the widget world.

 

4. Honourable Mentions

Wait, what? I know, I know, we promised the top 3 new features but there was just a few bits we couldn’t ignore and they are well worth a mention here so they aren’t left and forgotten about. After all most of the new features in WordPress 4.9 are very useful and orientated around a more streamlined, efficient user experience.

Theme Customizer – Theme Management
Previewing, managing and browsing through your themes via the customizer has seen a lot of improvements inc being able to see nice live previews through the theme customizer. Perfect.

 

Editor Warning & Display
When using the editor e.g. for ammending core theme files there is now a handy pop up warning just to alert users what they are about to do. Whilst not useful for an experienced developer, a WordPress novice may cause damage in here and any warning that could potentially stop this is a helpful addition. For those of us who just use the editor to lookup files or code, then there is a nice new recursive display on the right hand side! good touch.

Under the Hood
There are a fair few under the hood changes too such as the SWFUpload removal, the widget mapping changes and a confirmation link for when a user changes e-mail address. These are all little touches but essential in the route WordPress wishes to take.

Menu / Navigation Interface
There are some changes to the way the menus are created, just small tweaks but they make a big difference with the new layout allowing a bit more effective creation and management of menus

 

We do hope this has made sense and shines a bit of light onto the 4.9 update and why it brings some more features our way whilst we wait for the eagerly awaited WordPress 5.0 that is due next year! Whilst this isn’t a ground breaking update, it certainly has brought some missing features into play and brings WordPress a bit closer to being complete.

Now the waiting game comes for the pending release of 5.0 in the next year, what changes are you looking forward to?

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