It’s that time of the year again. The time when all around the world, the WordPress community wakes up to an update notification with a whole new number! I’m talking about WordPress 4.8 - the update to the current WordPress 4.7 base version that we’re all running. While it’s not out yet, the WordPress 4.8 release date is scheduled for June 8th. Less than a week away.
But what’s new in WordPress 4.8? Well, not a ton. But there are some front-end additions that are worth a look. Mostly, the new stuff comes in the form of widgets and minor improvements to the WordPress Editor. Not especially exciting for a regular WordPress user, but some neat stuff nonetheless!
I’ve got the WordPress 4.8 release candidate installed on my test site, so let’s dive in and check out everything that’s new in WordPress 4.8...
New Widgets - Multimedia and Visual Editors
The largest additions to WordPress 4.8 are three brand new widgets as well as a massive improvement to an existing widget. While not a huge change by themselves, these widgets will make it much easier for you to quickly add a few different types of media to any widgetized area.
All in all, I think they’re a helpful new feature, even if they aren’t going to drastically change how you work with WordPress.
Rich Text Editing for Text Widgets
This first one isn’t so much a new widget as it is a major improvement to an existing widget. Remember how the only way to style a text widget was with HTML? Yeah, that’s gone.
Now, you can use a stripped down version of the same TinyMCE Editor from the WordPress Editor to create rich text designs in a text widget. Because it’s stripped down, you don’t get all of the options. But you can still:
- Bold text
- Italicize text
- Add bullet lists
- Add numbered lists
- Insert items from the media library
And you can also switch between Visual and Text tabs.
Not a huge change, but this will make it much easier for regular users to work with text widgets.
I’m assuming the team has vigorously tested compatibility issues with existing text widgets - but it might still be a good idea to double check that everything is working properly with your existing text widgets after you upgrade.
Brand New Image Widget
Another neat addition is the new image widget. With the image widget, you just drag it over, give it an optional title, and then select an image from your media library (or upload a new one):
Again, this is much easier than the previous method of using a text widget with HTML.
Currently, you're limited to a single image, though. That is, you can’t use this widget to insert a gallery or anything.
Brand New Audio Widget
The new audio widget does the same thing as the image widget except for...you guessed it - audio.
Currently, you can use it to insert audio files from your media library or an external URL. When you insert an audio file, it will automatically show up as a playable piece of content on your front-end:
Brand New Video Widget
You probably see where this one is going…
The new video widget does the exact same thing for video. You can either insert a raw video file from your media library or paste in a URL to YouTube, Vimeo, etc. to automatically embed the video on the front-end.
For example, here’s what it looks like when you paste in a link to a YouTube video:
And on the front-end, that widget looks like this:
Users can just click to play the video.
Less Frustrating Links in the WordPress Editor
It’s hard for me to illustrate this one with screenshots. But another major addition is improved link boundaries when you try to add a link to text in the WordPress Editor. Basically, this is aimed at removing the frustration of adding links and accidentally selecting more or less text than desired.
As part of that process, you get this new blue highlighting on links:
Again, a small thing. But it will make working with the WordPress Editor less frustrating.
Nearby WordPress Events Right In Your Dashboard
This is another small change. But WordPress 4.8 also introduces a new dashboard widget that displays nearby WordPress events on your Dashboard homepage:
Of course, if you would prefer not to have this widget on your dashboard, you can always disable it by going to the Screen Options and unchecking the box for WordPress News and Events.
These are the “under-the-hood” improvements that the team made to the core WordPress software.
If you’re a regular WordPress user, you probably won’t notice any of these changes in your daily WordPress life. But if you’re a developer, these might have some small effects on how you work with WordPress.
Here are a few of the bigger changes. This list is by no means comprehensive, though.
More Accessible Admin Panel Headings
The team added new CSS rules to make the admin panel more accessible (as well as require less extraneous content).
Media Widgets API
A new base media widget REST API schema opens the possibilities for even cooler media widgets for things like playlists, image galleries, and more. This API is the basis for the media widgets I covered above.
Removal of Core Support for WMV and WMA Files
Such files will no longer be automatically embedded. Instead, they’ll just display as a download link.
Customizer Width Variable
The team added new responsive breakpoints to the customizer sidebar to make it wider on screens with especially high resolution. As a result, you should base customizer controls on percentages instead of pixels.
WordPress 4.8 adds some new hooks, functions, and user count controls for WordPress Multisite.
Wrapping Things Up
Ok, so there’s nothing mindblowing for the average WordPress user in this release. But the visual editor for the text widget is a nice touch, as are the new media widgets. Additionally, the link boundaries do help solve what was a sometimes frustrating situation.
As I mentioned, I recommend double-checking any existing text widgets after you update. While I don’t think you should expect problems, it’s always better to be safe than sorry!
Now over to you - what do you think about the new features of WordPress 4.8? Excited? Disappointed? Ambivalent?