WordPress 4.9 “Tipton” was released on November 15, 2017, and we’ve gathered a complete guide to all the new features & changes.
Here you’ll find everything you need to know about WordPress 4.9’s new features, including detailed write-ups about all the changes, and tutorials on how to use the new features.
WordPress 4.9 Release Video
WordPress 4.9’s new features can be grouped into a few categories & sub-categories:
- The Customizer
- Sidebar Widgets
- Code Editing
Let’s start with the changes that will impact everyday WordPress users, bloggers and content producers.
WordPress 4.9 Customizer Changes
This release brings about several improvements to the WordPress Customizer. You access the Customizer via the Appearance > Customize menu. It provides a simple way for you to make design changes to your site without editing any code.
In prior versions of WordPress, you either had to publish your changes right away, or discard them. As of WordPress 4.9, you can now schedule changes to go live in the future.
Choose a date & time in the future, click Schedule, and you’re all set.
Learn more about scheduling Customizer changes »
Not only can you schedule changes, but you can now provide a link for someone else to preview your changes. You don’t have to create a WordPress account for them. They don’t have to login anywhere. You simply share a link and they can preview all the changes you’ve made, before they go live on your site.
Your preview link will have a unique ID following the URL parameter
customize_changeset_uuid. An example is below.
Menu Creation Improved
The process for creating new menus & adding menu items has been improved. Instead of trying to explain it in words, check out the animation below.
You can still access Menus via the Customizer, as well as Appearance > Menus. But the Customizer will give you the most flexibility.
Theme Browsing Improved
In previous versions, clicking the Change button to switch themes in the Customizer just displayed your currently installed themes in the left sidebar.
In WordPress 4.9, you will now see:
- your currently installed themes, and
- the entire list of themes hosted on wordpress.org
…and you can browse and search them on the right side of the Customizer.
WordPress 4.9 Widget Changes
WordPress 4.8 brought about several new widgets to use in your sidebars. WordPress 4.9 adds one new widget, and improves several existing ones.
Gallery Widget New
You can now add photo galleries to your sidebar in the same way you’ve been able to add them to posts.
- Simply add the new Gallery widget to your sidebar
- Give it a title (optional)
- Select your photos
- Click Insert Gallery
Just like when you add galleries to your WordPress posts, you can:
- link images to the media file, attachment page, or neither
- choose the size of your images
- choose whether or not to include captions
- select how many columns your gallery should have
- randomize your images, or organize them however you’d like
Learn all about the new WordPress photo gallery widget.
Text Widgets Improved
A simple, but welcomed, improvement to the Text widget is the ability to add media. You can now easily insert images, right alongside some text, to create more complex & engaging widgets in your sidebars.
Prior to WordPress 4.9, shortcodes were not parsed in widgets by default. You could enable shortcodes in widgets by adding the following line of code to a custom plugin:
add_filter( 'widget_text', 'do_shortcode' );
Now they are enabled by default, and you no longer need this code.
Video Widget Improved
Previously, the video widget supported YouTube & Vimeo as the only third-party video providers. Now, you can use any third-party video service that is supported via oEmbed.
Read the official WordPress post on widget changes.
WordPress 4.9 Code Editing Experience
- syntax highlighting
- line numbering
- improved spacing & tabbing
- error handling
Read all about how WordPress uses CodeMirror »
Additional CSS & HTML Widgets Improved
CodeMirror will now be used in the Customizer when making edits to your theme’s Additional CSS.
If you are using a Custom HTML Widget in one of your sidebars, CodeMirror will improve your editing experience there, as well.
Error Handling New
With the addition of CodeMirror, WordPress 4.9 is also helping to prevent fatal errors from occurring on your site.
If you use the theme or plugin editors in the WordPress admin area, and you make a coding mistake that would normally produce a fatal error, WordPress will not let you save your changes.
This will help prevent your site from crashing, showing a blank white screen, and other negative effects caused by simple coding mistakes.
Other Updates in WordPress 4.9
Here are a few less significant updates that aren’t making headlines, but could have an impact on your site.
WordPress will make it’s best guess as to where your existing navigation menus & widgets should be placed in your new theme. This should make switching themes a much better experience for many users.
Account Email Address Changes
When a user tries to update their email address, or anyone attempts to change the site admin email address, the following will now occur.
- A confirmation email gets sent to the new email address, and must be clicked in order to confirm the change
- [admin email changes] The old site admin will receive an email, notifying them of the change
- The old email address will receive an email confirming the change, and it will include the new email address within the email
This will help tighten up account security, and prevent hackers from gaining control of your WordPress site.
“Press This” Removed from Available Tools
The “Press This” feature used to be located under Tools > Available Tools. As described by WordPress…
Press This is a little tool that lets you grab bits of the web and create new posts with ease.
Use Press This to clip text, images and videos from any web page. Then edit and add more straight from Press This before you save or publish it in a post on your site.
In WordPress 4.9, Press This has been completely removed from the WordPress core code. However, if you need it back, the functionality has been ported over to the Press This plugin.
Read all about the changes to Press This on wordpress.org.
WordPress has decided to encourage people to try the new Gutenberg editor by activating the plugin. Gutenberg has not officially been released yet, but this provides a way to get more user feedback. You’ll notice a new widget at the top of your WordPress Dashboard.
There were also some improvements to Roles & Capabilities in 4.9.
Now we’ll take a look at the new features in WordPress 4.9 for developers.
WordPress 4.9 Developer Updates
These are updates to the WordPress core code that won’t affect most users, but give developers more flexibility when working on custom WordPress themes & plugins.
CodeMirror not only improves the Additional CSS and HTML Widgets, but it has also been added to the theme & plugin editors. Most developers should be making updates via SFTP, Git, etc., but in the rare case you might need to use the theme or plugin editor in the admin, it’s much easier to use.
You can also add your own CodeMirror components to the Customizer using the new
WP_Customize_Code_Editor_Control control. #41897
Other Developer Updates
- #42022 – A date/time control added to the Customizer
- #41752 – SWFUpload has been removed
- Full compatibility with PHP 7.2
- Customizer notifications: Global, Panel & Section, Overlay
- #38583 – REST API updates
- #38652 – Roles & Capabilities updates; new capabilities added for activating/deactivating plugins and installing/updating language files
Multisite Updates in WordPress 4.9
There were also a few updates to WordPress Multisite.
- #40180 – Introduced
- #40228 – Improve
- #38645 & #36961 – Improve roles when switching sites
Learn more about the Multisite updates on the WordPress blog.
What do you think of the WordPress 4.9 release? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.