WordPress 4.9, the latest version of the popular publishing platform has been released with several new features and updates.
After releasing four beta versions and a release candidate as part of the new update process, WordPress 4.9 has been finally shipped to everyone.
Codenamed “Tipton” after jazz musician Billy Tipton, WordPress 4.9 mainly aims to improve your website customisation and design workflow. The 4.9 release was led by Mel Choyce and Weston Ruter with support from 443 contributors.
We will talk more about the new features and updates later in this post but first, let’s get started with upgrading your WordPress website to the latest version.
If you have updated to WordPress 4.9 already or if your host has automatic updates enabled, feel free to skip this section.
How to update to WordPress 4.9?
The 4.9 version of the software is now available to download and update directly from your WordPress dashboard.
From your WordPress dashboard, go to the updates section, Dashboard -> Updates and you should see the update available.
Feel free to update your installed themes and plugins to their latest versions while you are in the updates section.
WordPress 4.9 New Features and Updates
The main highlights of WordPress 4.9 include an improved Customizer workflow, new code syntax highlighter, new Gallery widget and several under the hood changes.
Let’s get started with discussing one of my most favourite updates, the new Customizer that can significantly improve your workflow.
Updated Customizer Workflow
Customizer is the gateway for most new users to start customising and designing their website. As such, it’s really nice to see WordPress contributors focusing on the customizer in this latest update.
Some of the major customizers updates include;
Drafting and Scheduling Website Customizations
This is probably one of the biggest changes in customizer that can completely simplify your design changes workflow. Similar to editing posts and pages, with WordPress 4.9 changes, you can now save a draft of your customisations and schedule to publish them when you want.
See the screenshot below to see the feature in action.
The Save & Publish button is now replaced with Publish button with additional settings which lets you save drafts or schedule it to be published at a future date.
Website Preview Links for New Design
You can now save your design and get preview links to send it to anyone before you lock in the changes. This can be really useful if you are collaborating with your team or send changes to your client for preview before you make the changes.
Locking Customizer Changes
You can now lock all the customizer changes so that someone else looking at your draft design cannot make any changes or delete your work. If your collaborator allows, you can take over customizing and make your changes first in real time.
Theme Browser Improvements
Another big customizer update now lets you browse, filter, and preview themes directly within the Customizer. This makes it easy to preview themes before applying any changes without leaving your customization workflow.
You can also filter your search to find themes based on different subjects, features, and layouts.
Autosaving Customizer Changes
Similar to your posts and pages editing experience, WordPress 4.9 now saves all your customizer changes automatically and lets you restore the autosaved versions of your design.
If you move away without making changes, customizer will also ask you if you want to revert back to unsaved changes on your next visit.
Enhanced Code Syntax Highlighter
The code editing feature within WordPress has always been controversial as it a very advanced feature that can easily break website for new users that aren’t comfortable with code.
However, for those that find this feature useful, it has been further enhanced with more features. With the addition of CodeMirror, WordPress 4.9 adds the possibility of syntax highlighting and error checking for any code changes you make in the editor.
You will also see a warning if you proceed to save your code edits with an error. This can easily prevent the white screen that many beginners come across when an attempt to modify the code with simple errors.
The best part of the enhanced code editor is the warning you will see mentioning that it is a dangerous practice to edit your code in this way. See the heads up warning for attempting to edit themes below.
Hopefully, this warning will discourage most users that aren’t comfortable with coding to use the editor.
New Widget Changes
WordPress 4.9 brings in few widget changes along with a completely new gallery widget.
New Gallery Widget
Many WordPress users end up using complex plugins even to display simple galleries around their sidebars. The new gallery widget makes it really easy to insert simple galleries.
And if you know how to insert galleries in your posts and pages, you already know how to use this widget.
Add Media Button in Text Widget
Introducing another media change, WordPress 4.9 makes it easy to add media elements directly from the text widget.
The previous update of WordPress version 4.8 introduced rich text widgets with additional formatting options available within the widget.
The addition of Add Media button now makes this even more useful to embed images, video, and audio directly into the widget along with other text.
Shortcodes Support in Text Widget
This might easily be the most requested update that has been finally supported in WordPress by default.
Most plugins and themes supported this featured adding
add_filter( 'widget_text', 'do_shortcode' ).
Other WordPress 4.9 Improvements
Let’s look into some of the other notable changes and improvements in WordPress 4.9.
Better Menu Creation Process
The user experience around creating menus and assigning them to locations within the website has been really confusing until now.
WordPress 4.9 brings a better flow in the menu creation process built within the Customizer.
Reliable Theme Switching
Switching themes often meant you widgets will disappear or relocate and be all over the place.
WordPress 4.9 introduces improved widget mapping that offers persistent widget placement when you change your theme.
oEmbeds Support Outside Post Content
oEmbeds allows you to embed content from several popular social media websites. Although very useful feature, this only worked on post content until now.
WordPress 4.9 now extends its support outside post content, in places including text widgets. This can definitely make things like embedding Facebook videos in your sidebar really easy.
WordPress 4.9 Developer Updates
WordPress 4.9 also brings in several under the hood updates, particularly interesting to developers. Some of the major developer updates include;
CodeMirror for Enhanced Syntax Highlighter
As mentioned earlier, the enhanced code syntax highlighter is made possible because of CodeMirror editor added to theme/plugin editor.
The editor enhancements are also available for custom CSS section in Customizer, and custom HTML widgets (#12423)
Upgraded Version of MediaElement.js
WordPress 4.9 has updated version of MediaElement.js – version 4.2.6 which removes dependencies on jQuery, improves accessibility, modernizes the UI, and fixes many bugs.
You can visit the latest version field guide to see a list of all the enhancements and features added in WordPress 4.9.
Final Thoughts on WordPress 4.9
WordPress 4.9 is the second major update for the project this year and in overall, the update introduces few new features and impressive changes.
Some of the updates also strengthen the path WordPress is taking towards a block-based WordPress editor – Gutenberg , slated to release in WordPress 5.0.
The Gutenberg team is requesting your help with the project and you can get involved or help by being an early tester or contributing to the project on GitHub.
What do you think about this latest WordPress update? Do you like any latest updates or new features? Let us know in the comments below.