Roughly seven months after the last major update, WordPress 4.8 became available Thursday morning.
The release was met with mild fanfare, especially given that there were other events going on at the time. But that doesn’t diminish the importance of it. Sure, the release doesn’t break much new ground or introduce anything amazing like the WP REST API in 4.7, but it’s another solid, quality release from the volunteers working in core. And it sets up later releases which are sure to change the game for WordPress.
Here’s what’s in the new release and how it makes it a solid update.
New, cool widgets
The first, and arguable best, item in the changelog is a massive help for developers and users alike. But not because it breaks any massive ground or changes the direction of the web.
Instead this item answers the question users have and ask devs all the time: how do I put an image or video into the sidebar?
New for WordPress 4.8, the core dev team added image and video widgets that can be added to any sidebar. Users can now easily select an image or a video for sidebars with a great user experience and without having to go to Google. Before this, adding an image required uploading the image via the media section and then copying the image url and inserting it as an image tag in the text widget. Doing that with videos was essentially the same.
Now that process is streamlined. Users can now do that in a matter of seconds with no headaches. And that means no more of those questions for devs. It’s a win-win for all.
WordPress meet ups in dashboard
This one goes down as a big thing for developers, but could be big for WordPress users as well.
With WordPress 4.8, the core team added a dashboard widget that shows upcoming WordPress events near users. The events include various WordCamps and WordPress meet ups. For example, I go to the Ft. Worth WordPress Users meet up, and our next meeting is listed in the widget. I also see an event for the Austin WordCamp in October.
This seems like just a cool little nugget for developers in the know, but I think it’ll have a big impact for normal users. This opens them up to the larger WordPress community. They don’t have to hunt around to see other WordPress users in their area. It makes it easy to get involved and ask the many questions they have in person. Hopefully this increases participation in local WordCamps and meet ups.
Also, the widget shows news from WordPress and WP Tavern, a news site covering WordPress-related news, so that’s pretty cool as well.
Setting up for better future
But the biggest feature for WordPress 4.8 is what it sets up for the future — WordPress 4.9 and a new era for WordPress.
WordPress 4.8 doesn’t break any new ground or introduce anything cool, but it does lay the ground work for the next major update for WordPress. A lot of what’s added 4.8 is under the hood and not seen by users. For example, the core team added TinyMCE updates to get ready for the new post editor.
And that new editor is going to be awesome. A part of the core team is working on Gutenberg, a new block-style editor for WordPress. You can see what it’s going to look like here, and the GitHub repo for those wanting to try it out here. From what I’ve seen so far, it’s going to be a great change for WordPress and make adding/editing posts and page much simpler.
But WordPress 4.8 lays the ground work for that. So while it probably will not be remembered much, 4.8 still plays an important part in the CMS.
And that’s the best way to describe this whole update. It’s not exactly remarkable, but it’s great, solid work from the volunteers working many hours to make this update what it is. And they’ve done a good job. Bravo.