There are three certainties in life:
- New versions of the WordPress core software
On November 14th, 2017, we’ll be treated to the third: the release of WordPress 4.9.
In preparation for that release, the team has started moving through the beta testing process. That gives me the chance to dig in and show you all of the new features!
I’ve got the most recent WordPress 4.9 beta release installed on my test site, so let’s dive in and take a look at all the new features and changes coming in WordPress 4.9.
But before I get to that, let’s start with a quick reminder of what WordPress 4.9 is not. It is not the release that will contain the Gutenberg Editor. That’s coming a bit later in WordPress 5.0 - so you’ll still have plenty of opportunities to spend some quality time with the TinyMCE Editor before then.
Ok - here’s what’s new in WordPress 4.9…
New Customizer Features And User Experience Improvements
One area that got a ton of attention in WordPress 4.9 is the WordPress Customizer. There are a few new features, but the biggest change involves how changes are tracked and saved.
Save Customizer Changes As Draft And Share Via Link
Currently (pre-WordPress 4.9), there’s no way to track the changes made in the Customizer. Once you, or someone else with access, hit that Save & Publish button, the changes are permanent.
WordPress 4.9 lets you change that by:
- Saving WordPress Customizer changes as a draft
- Letting you schedule Customizer changes to go live at a future date
- Discarding draft changes with the click of a button
And you also get a neat new feature that allows you to share a preview link with people who can’t access the WordPress Customizer.
Here’s what those tweaks look like:
This is a major improvement in my opinion. I often like to use the Customizer to play around with changes that I’m not ready to push live. Now, I can actually save those changes instead of having to trash them when I finish.
Currently, you can only save a single draft, though. I think it would be cool to be able to save multiple drafts. But with that being said, I’m still super happy with this new feature as is.
Install Themes Right From The WordPress Customizer
Another tweak to the WordPress Customizer is the ability to install WordPress.org themes right from the Customizer interface:
This one is a small tweak and doesn’t technically add any new functionality that you didn’t already have. But it is a tiny bit more user friendly, so I’ll take it!
Create Menus In A More User Friendly Way
Another smaller Customizer tweak is a rework of how you create menus from the Customizer. Again, there aren’t new features here, per se, but the process has been completely reworked to make it more user friendly:
New Gallery Widget Plus Tweaks To Other Widget Functionality
Besides the Customizer, another area that gets some love in WordPress 4.9 is the widget system.
New Gallery Widget
As a continuation of the new media widgets that were released in WordPress 4.8, WordPress 4.9 adds a new gallery widget.
All you need to do is select multiple images from the WordPress Media Library:
Then, you’ll have a working gallery on the frontend of your site:
You could already get this functionality with Jetpack or some other plugins - but it’s nice that it will now be baked into the core.
Add Media Support For Text Widgets
You can now use the normal Add Media button to insert media content into regular text widgets. Like with the Gallery widget above, this is a natural extension of the visual editing interface that text widgets got in WordPress 4.8:
Shortcode Support For Text Widgets
In WordPress 4.9, Text widgets will now automatically parse shortcodes. While you could always run shortcodes in widgets by adding a filter to your theme’s code, that will no longer be necessary for text widgets after WordPress 4.9.
Better Code Editing Experience Thanks to CodeMirror
If you’re the kind of person who likes to tweak code on your WordPress site, you’re going to love the new inclusion of the CodeMirror text editor into the WordPress core.
Starting in WordPress 4.9, WordPress will automatically use CodeMirror for:
- Adding custom CSS in the WordPress Customizer
- Editing your theme or plugin code from inside the WordPress interface
- Adding custom HTML to the Custom HTML widget
And other plugins will also be able to take advantage of CodeMirror via new APIs.
CodeMirror does a few things to make your coding experience better, notably:
- Syntax highlighting
- Live syntax error notifications
Here’s a peek at what the new interface will look like when you go to Appearance → Edit:
You’ll also get the ability to disable syntax highlighting from your user profile if you want to go back to the old way:
The team also introduced a sandbox for when you live edit code which should hopefully make it more difficult for you to fatally break something when editing code directly from your WordPress dashboard.
Other Misc New Features In WordPress 4.9
As usual, there are plenty of smaller, more behind-the-scenes changes that are coming in WordPress 4.9.
You can view a full list of changes here, but here’s a small sampling:
- You can use more video providers in the Video widget.
- New user capabilities for activating/deactivating individual plugins and managing translations
- Users need to click a confirmation email to change their email address
What Is The WordPress 4.9 Release Date?
The current target release date for WordPress 4.9 is November 14th. As usual, if something unexpected comes up, that date might change. But for now, you should expect access to all of these new features on that Tuesday.
Now it’s over to you - which one of these features are you most excited for? Personally, I'm a big fan of the WordPress Customizer drafts. I think it's a feature that will actually improve my day-to-day life with WordPress.