WordPress 4.9: What You Can Expect in the Next Release

Posted on November 13, 2017 by in Resources | 32 comments

WordPress 4.9: What You Can Expect in the Next Release

Wondering what’s coming in WordPress 4.9? With all the talk of the Gutenberg Editor, it’s easy to forget that we have one more major release scheduled before Gutenberg is slated to become part of the WordPress core.

WordPress 4.9 doesn’t introduce anything nearly as big as Gutenberg, but it will bring some major improvements to how the WordPress Customizer functions, further improvements to the widget system, as well as some significant improvements to the code editing experience inside your WordPress dashboard.

And, as is the norm, there are also a bunch of smaller, more behind-the-scenes changes.

In this post, I’ll dive into the latest WordPress 4.9 Beta 4 release and give you a hands-on look at all the new goodies.

When Is The WordPress 4.9 Release Date?

Currently, WordPress 4.9 is scheduled for release on November 14th. Of course, that can always change if something unexpected pops up. But given that they’ll have been testing for over a month at that point, I think it’s safe to say that we can expect it on November 14th–that’s tomorrow!

Improvements To Customizer Version Control And Usability

There are two big changes to the WordPress Customizer, as well as one smaller usability tweak.

Save, Schedule, And Share Customizer Changes

In current versions, the only way to save the changes that you make in the WordPress Customizer is to publish them to the live version of your site. That’s fine if you want the changes to go live right away, but it’s not very user-friendly if you’re actively working on some tweaks that you don’t want to share with your visitors just quite yet.

WordPress 4.9 changes things with some awesome new functionality.

First, when you want to save Customizer changes, you can now choose from three different options:

  • Publishpublishes changes right away just like how the Customizer currently functions.
  • Save Draft – saves the current changes as a draft. They won’t go live, but they will stay there until the next time you open the Customizer.
  • Schedule – schedule your changes to go live at a specific time and date.

In that screenshot above, you can also see the second new addition – the Share Preview Link.

This new feature generates a link that you can share with others to preview the changes that you’ve made in the Customizer. The cool thing is that those people don’t need to be Admins at your site. Nor do they even need to have an account!

You can safely share a preview of the changes that you’ve made with absolutely anyone.

These two changes are a massive improvement and make the WordPress Customizer much more viable as a serious website customization tool.

Install WordPress.org Themes Directly From The WordPress Customizer

Another new addition to the WordPress Customizer is the ability to install WordPress.org themes directly from the Customizer.

Now, if you click the Change button next to your active theme in the Customizer:

You’ll get a new option for WordPress.org themes. If you choose that radio select box, you’ll be able to search through WordPress.org themes and install them right from the Customizer:

This one isn’t technically adding new functionality in the grand scheme of things. But it does streamline the process of going from activating a theme to customizing a theme.

Create Menus With A More User-Friendly Interface

Finally, WordPress 4.9 brings a rework of how you create menus from the WordPress Customizer. You’re not really getting any new features – but the team has rearranged the process to be more streamlined and user-friendly.

In case you don’t remember, here’s how the current process starts off:

And here’s what the beginning of the new process looks like in WordPress 4.9:

It’s not a major change, but it’s definitely a bit more user-friendly and eliminates some unnecessary button clicks.

New Gallery Widget + Add Media Button In Text Widget

Beyond the WordPress Customizer, the widget area also got some continued love since the addition of media widgets and visual editing in WordPress 4.8.

Brand New Gallery Widget

Say goodbye to Jetpack, because everyone will have a gallery widget in WordPress 4.9!

Given that WordPress 4.8 introduced an image widget, it only makes sense that WordPress 4.9 enhances that with a new dedicated gallery widget.

It functions pretty much as you’d expect – you drag it over and use the Add Images button to select images from your WordPress media library:

Just as with the core WordPress Gallery functionality, you can choose ordering, sizing, and columns:

And then you’ll have your gallery on the frontend of your site:

Add Media Button + Shortcodes In Text Widget

Another continuation of the changes from WordPress 4.8 is the addition of the Add Media button to the text widget. This only made sense given how WordPress 4.8 added visual editing:

One neat thing is that you can actually use the text widget to create a gallery now thanks to the Add Media button. So the gallery widget is really just a more user-friendly version of this functionality:

Additionally, shortcodes will now render in text widgets by default – no more need to add a filter.

CodeMirror For Syntax Highlighting and Error Checking

The third big visible change in WordPress 4.9 is the introduction of the CodeMirror editor.

If you’re not familiar, CodeMirror is a text editor focused on editing code. It offers a number of features to make the editing experience better, notably:

  • Syntax highlighting
  • Live error checking
  • Autocomplete

Starting in WordPress 4.9, CodeMirror will be the editor for:

  • Custom CSS in the WordPress Customizer
  • Editing theme or plugin code from the dashboard editor
  • The custom HTML widget

But before I show you the new editing experience, here’s another minor addition that I stumbled on…

If you try to directly edit your theme’s template files, WordPress now gives you a warning message:

And once you confirm that, you can enjoy the new CodeMirror editing experience:

Additionally, WordPress 4.9 introduces a new API so that developers can easily integrate the CodeMirror editing experience into their own projects.

And if you’re not a fan of the syntax highlighting, you can always turn it off by going to your user profile:

Other Smaller Features Coming In WordPress 4.9

As you’d expect, WordPress 4.9 also brings a number of smaller tweaks and improvements. Some notable changes are:

You can view a list of most of the tweaks here.

What Are You Most Excited For?

And that wraps up our list of what to expect in WordPress 4.9! Beyond the bevy of smaller tweaks, WordPress 4.9 will improve:

  • The WordPress Customizer
  • WordPress widgets
  • The WordPress code editing experience

Now we want to hear from you – which WordPress 4.9 change are you most excited for?

Article thumbnail image by pixome / shutterstock.com

32 Comments

  1. The Divi visual builder could use some sort of preview sharing, too. This would be fantastic for client work.

  2. In all honesty, all of these updates are very exciting. It provides a much safer environment for developers, and gives an extended opportunity for designers to further enhance their websites’ experiences.

  3. WordPress 4.9 brings us that one so called step closer to Gutenberg weather you are ready for it or not.

  4. Looks like nice stuffs on the way😀. It will definitely be nice not to need additional plugin to show gallery in sidebar.

    • Same here. No images are showing, nor did they show in Nathan Weller’s Facebook link.

      • It looks like ET’s CDN is issuing a 502 timeout error! I’ve noticed this all weekend 🙁

    • Recheck/refresh/change the browser.

      Can’t see any problem from my end.

  5. Codemirror!

  6. 4.9 does bring some nice new features. In reading this post, I see the major update coming in WordPress 5; the Gutenberg editor.

    I read the previous post on this https://www.elegantthemes.com/blog/resources/an-introduction-to-the-gutenberg-editor and installed the plugin on a test site that I am using DIVI. Not compatible at the moment with the back end editor. This would make me not want to upgrade to WP 5 unless DIVI would work on the back end editor. It doesn’t seem to impact the front end editor. No doubt, this is something elegant themes will be working on for WP 5.

    Since I learned DIVI using the back end editor, I tend to do more editing and building using the back end.

    I do like Gutenberg for what it brings to writing posts which I use the standard editor, or copy and paste from WORD.

    • Right now if you want to use DIVI and Gutenberg at the same time you click on posts and THEN you can select what post you want to create. It is a click hassle to say classic editor, but it works.

  7. Not having the ‘Try Gutenberg’ dashboard widget be in the release, none of the Customizer based changes are that interesting.

  8. Seems to be updates that should have been done versions ago. It’s nothing jaw dropping, but just keeps from having to add plugins that only accomplish one thing. I don’t think WP will ever do anything thats going to make me say WOW! As I was reading this, I was just thinking…it’s about time! The Gutenberg editor seems to be more Publisher style even thought the learning curve will take time. I mean people have been using the TinyMCE editor for years. I just hope they implement some features that don’t require having to install third-party plugins just to make it decent. I guess we’ll see. And of course I hope this doesn’t break stuff that already works, especially with Divi.

  9. Thanks for a quick review of the updates / features.

  10. I’m quite excited about the new customizer changes although in 4.9-RC2-42158 it doesn’t seem to work with Divi at the moment; the drafts don’t seem to save the changes. Hopefully there’s a forthcoming fix for that.

  11. Something that WP has been missing since day 1 and STILL has yet to be addressed is image and page management.

    I have a plugin installed for images which lets me organize them in folders so I can keep my site media separate from post images and other images. But it’s a plugin, it’s not native which means it can sometimes cause bugs and slows things down.

    Page management would be nice too as it would let me archive a page in the admin that currently isn’t live but that I don’t want to delete. As it stands, all the pages are living next to each other and it can become very annoying when working on a large site with a lot of pages.

    I know it would mean another plugin but I’d like to see what ET would do with content management. Might play nicer with Divi and other ET themes.

    • Have you taken the WordPress 2017 Survey yet? at wordpress.org? You should also write these suggestions there in survery by wordpress.org if not then do it right now.

    • Hi Adrian,

      Which images in folders plugin are you referring to?

      Please share.

      Thanks 😊

  12. At last! CodeMirror will be integrated! I’ve been waiting for this feature for ages 🙂

  13. It looks very clean. The media button is also an excellent addition. I always find myself using draft pages to get images just as I want them and then copying the code into the sidebar. It will save a lot of time.

  14. Scheduling Customizer Changes. Will make it nice to be able to change things for a season, then back to the standard settings.

  15. Nice resources!
    Expecting a lot more even from WordPress Next TIME!

  16. I am looking forward to the new Gallery widget. I am currently using NextGen as a gallery for my Modest Theme. NextGen is slow to load sometimes so I hope the new Gallery Widget will work for me. I keep meaning to try Divi…. maybe soon!

  17. WP 4.9 Customizer update breaks Divi alpha-color picker control, hope you guys are aware of that.

    • yes same here

    • I am facing the same problem. Do you know the solution?

  18. When will we get a proper code editor in the TinyMCE text pane? Codepen et al are able to do this.

  19. I do like the new WordPress 4.9 updates and new functionality’s
    Can be updated trough the dashboard now.
    Did see already some major and miner bugs.
    Better wait for bugfixed release 4.9.x

  20. Thanks for your review. I like the new features.

  21. This is an interesting release, especial the CodeMirror feature for code highlight.

  22. With latest WordPress and Divi builder color pickers in builder settings started to look very ugly and with some settings not works properly.

  23. 4.9 breaks the divi colour picker. Everywhere there is a colour option the hex box has gone. Also, in divi settings the colour options only show black.

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