In just one day, WordPress 4.6 is slated to be released to the public. That means that tomorrow, you should be seeing that nice update notification in your WordPress dashboard.
But what does that mean for you?
If you’ve been following the weekly news on WPLift, you probably know that WordPress 4.6 has been navigating its way through beta and has finally reached the second Release Candidate.
That means that barring some small changes; Release Candidate 2 should essentially be the version of WordPress 4.6 we’ll see tomorrow.
So, to get you ready for the new release, I decided to install WordPress 4.6 Release Candidate 2 on my localhost and show you some of the new features. I'll also be sharing real screenshots of what everything looks like.
Here’s all the new stuff you should expect on Tuesday the 16th…
New Features in WordPress 4.6
First, I’m going to dig into the front end features that you’ll actually see in your browser, and then I’ll discuss some of the improvements that are going on behind the scenes.
After installing Release Candidate 2, the first thing I noticed was that the test comment in the default install now includes a cute Gravatar. No more gray box!
Ok, this might not be the most important feature, but after installing so many fresh WordPress installs, it definitely caught my eye.
Another thing that caught my eye is a new font. Which brings me to feature number one…
New Native Fonts
Instead of the Open Sans font that WordPress had been using for the admin area, WordPress 4.6 will now use native system fonts. This means that your WordPress dashboard experience may now vary slightly across different systems.
Here’s a screenshot of what my admin panel looks like running Chrome and Windows 10:
Why the switch? Two reasons.
First, for performance. By removing a third-party dependency in the form of Open Sans, you should experience slightly faster speeds.
Second, it’s just no longer necessary according to the devs:
Open Sans is no longer necessary. I originally introduced it into Core via MP6 because there were not good system fonts common to all platforms at the time. In the years since, Windows, Android, OS X, iOS, Firefox OS, and various flavors of Linux have all gotten their own (good) system UI fonts.
What else have we got?
Improvements to the WordPress Editor
Probably the biggest front-facing updates in WordPress 4.6 are two improvements to the WordPress editor.
The WordPress editor has an autosave function that runs approximately every 15 seconds. In WordPress 4.6, the developers have made this recovery feature a lot more user-friendly. Now, if you do something like refresh the page without saving, you'll see a much more user-friendly notice that gives the option to restore the data you forgot to save. Here's what that message looks like in Release Candidate 2:
This feature will also work even when revisions are disabled, which is nice for people who don't like cluttering up their WordPress database with lots of post-revision data.
As someone who's previously accidentally hit refresh and lost a good deal of post data, I'm all for making this feature more user-friendly.
Broken Link Detector
Another big improvement is a new broken link detector in the Visual Editor. As long as you're using the Visual Editor to write your posts, WordPress will now notify you if you ever accidentally input a broken link. Here's what it looks like:
WordPress will highlight any/all broken links in red.
Wondering how WordPress will determine whether or not a link is broken?
It will automatically send an HTTP request to the link. If the link responds as 403/404, WordPress will flag it as a bad link and highlight it in red.
Unfortunately, this means that even if the page is just temporarily down (but is otherwise a valid URL), WordPress will still flag the link as invalid. This scenario probably won't happen that often, though, so I still see this feature as being valuable 99% of the time.
New Updates System
And finally, the last major change to the front end is an improvement to the current update methodology. They're calling this Shiny Updates v2.
What's that mean? No more progress screen! You'll now be able to install, update, and delete plugins and themes without leaving the page. Everything happens in the background without any need for that ugly progress screen:
Once the plugin is installed, the button changes and allows you to activate the plugin (still on the same screen):
When you click Activate, the plugin will be activated, and you'll be taken to your full plugin list.
I like this feature a lot. Sure, it's not a huge change. But it definitely improves the user experience of the WordPress dashboard. Kudos, WordPress developers!
Behind the Scenes Upgrades
WordPress 4.6 isn’t just cosmetic stuff; there’s a lot going on behind the scenes to improve how WordPress performs. Here’s some of what that entails…
WordPress 4.6 standardizes metadata registration by introducing the register_meta() function.
The devs have also added new WP_Site_Query (#35791) and WP_Network_Query (#32504) classes. These allow developers to query sites and networks with lazy loading, which should lead to increased performance.
Multilingual users have some backend changes as translations that are managed by translate.wordpress.org will now have a higher priority and be loaded just-in-time.
They've also included a new library for HTTP requests that, among other things, allows for parallel requests. This should allow for increased performance for HTTP-driven applications.
The above is just a small sampling; there are a huge number of back-end improvements. You can check out most of the list here.
Ok, so there's nothing too mind-blowing about this release. The front end updates mainly involve making the WordPress dashboard more user-friendly. They're definitely nice, but they're not going to drastically change anything about how you use WordPress. They'll just make your day-to-day life inside the dashboard a tiny bit easier.
As for the back end updates, a developer might know better than me, but it seems like we have some nice new features with regards to lazy loading and customization options.
So, that's it for WordPress 4.6.
Are you particularly excited about any of the new features? Let us know in the comments! Or, if you're a developer, I'd love to hear your opinion on the behind the scenes improvements.