With everyone getting excited (on a positive or negative note, depending on who you’re taking to) over Gutenberg launching in WordPress 5.0, it’s easy to forget that WordPress had another major version update that went live in the past week.
WordPress 4.9 officially launched in November, 2017 after a slight delay from the original anticipated launch. Announced on the official WordPress website, developers are calling the update “Tipton” in honor of jazz musician William (“Bill”) Tipton—this jazz-inspired naming mechanism is a long-held tradition when it comes to major WordPress updates.
WordPress 4.9 will be the second major WordPress release of the year, following WordPress version 4.8 “Evans”. Evans promised to be user-centered, and WordPress adds on to this promise thanks to brand new features in Tipton.
Focused on customization, code enhancements, and widget improvements, here’s what you need to know about WordPress 4.9 Tipton:
Enhanced Customization Options
In the name of customization workflow improvements, WordPress 4.9 includes the ability to draft and schedule site design optimizations.
Draft, Schedule, and Share Design Customizations
In previous versions of WordPress, the only built-in way to check on website changes was to publish them to the live version of your site. While not a huge deal when dealing with little tweaks, it certainly wasn’t ideal for making major changes that weren’t ready to be shared just yet.
This new feature in WordPress 4.9 Tipton is just like post revisions, but for theme changes. You can apply changes and store them, then schedule them to go live at a predetermined time and date.
This feature also allows you to share a preview of your changes with anyone—without the need to login. Just copy the preview link and share it with any registered user.
New Theme Browsing Experience
The WordPress 4.9 update also gives users an easier way to preview and change themes directly from the WordPress customizer.
Under ‘Themes’, there are two options:
- Installed Themes
- WordPress.org Themes
If you click on the former, you will be given a preview of your installed themes. If you click on the latter, you will be able to browse and search for WordPress.org themes and directly install them from the customizer.
Protect Your Work
Designers that collaborate on a project know how crappy it can feel when a co-designer changes their work without consulting them first. The new WordPress 4.9 update is similar to the Post Locking feature. The design lock feature secures your draft so that no one can change or erase your hard work without going through you first.
Furthermore, if something takes you away from your desk and you forgot to save your design changes, this new version update includes an added security feature where you’ll be asked if you want to save those unsaved changes.
Tipton also introduces new widget improvements, including the new Gallery widget. For reference, WordPress 4.8 introduced new media widgets that included rich text, audio, image, and video.
This new widget adds new functionality to that previous update. This new widget can be added to the sidebar, footer, or anywhere you put widgets on your site. To use the new Gallery widget, drag it where you want it to show up and use the ‘Add Images’ button to select images from your media library. Note that this gallery, as with other WordPress widgets, has limited functionality compared with custom coding.
Another widget improvement is the ability to add media to the text widget. The text widget in WordPress 4.8 came with plain text and HTML tabs, but if you wanted to add an image, you still had to use HTML code. WordPress fixed this in the latest version update. This new function also allows you to create a gallery within the text widget.
WordPress 4.9 Tipton now also allows shortcode in text widgets.
New Code Editing
The third major aspect of changes in WordPress 4.9 regards code editing. WordPress code editors used to look and function like plain text boxes but have now been given an upgrade.
Code Syntax Error Highlighter
What’s worse than writing a long code that doesn’t run when you try it out? Not being able to find what’s wrong in that code! It’s frustrating to think that the only reason why your site won’t run correctly is because you missed a semicolon somewhere.
CodeMirror, a syntax checking editor that is focused on editing code, was added to WordPress 4.9. Its features include:
- Syntax highlighting
- Live error checking
CodeMirror will be used to edit:
- Custom CSS in the WordPress Customizer
- Editing theme or plugin code from the dashboard editor
- The custom HTML widget
With the new code highlighter feature, users will be able to pinpoint errors quickly. However, early reviews are showing that some users don’t like this feature. The good news if you find yourself among this group? You can simply disable the feature if you don’t like it.
Another interesting aspect of the 4.9 Tipton update is that WordPress now warns users that try to edit their theme or plugins directly. WordPress will also warn users that try to edit their themes or plugins for errors before saving (to avoid white screen of death).
What’s New in WordPress 4.9 Tipton
The last of WordPress’ major updates for 2017, these new changes highlight WordPress’ promise to continually provide a user-centered experience.
Don’t forget that unless you’re on a managed WordPress hosting service, you will have to manually initiate the update.
If you’re ready to test WordPress 4.9 Tipton, don’t forget to backup your files before updating.