Over 29% of all websites worldwide run on WordPress. Since there are almost 2 billion websites [this number keeps changing every second], when WordPress publishes an update, it affects 580,000 websites: some changes are visible, some are not.

The latest update,  WordPress 4.9, published in November affects system files—relevant to developers—plus updates relevant to the majority of us. Let’s discuss two:

  • Editor
  • Widgets

Editor

WP’s well-known editor received several improvements in the latest version.

  1. Syntax highlighting
  2. Protection from human error and incorrect actions
  3. Access to scripts
  4. Tips in the margin

1 Syntax highlighting, i.e., highlighting markup and functions in PHP files with assorted colors. Traditionally, such highlighting is used in professional code-editing programs, e.g., PHPStorm and Sublime Text. Previously, it was available as a plugin; now it is ready for use as a part of WordPress functionality. It is easier to navigate and works faster in such environments. Of course, WordPress’s built-in editor does not replace a professional one—you cannot set your own color templates—but it’s still a step in the right direction.

To maintain a high-security level limiting access to editing your website, you would be well-advised to close access to this feature to everyone, including admin.

WordPress update

Regarding highlighting: You have the option to turn off the highlighting feature, if you wish.

2 Protection from human error and incorrect actions is a crucial improvement. Before that, if you changed or added something to the template code and made an error while editing (e.g., accidentally deleted part of the code or forgot to put in a quotation, etc.), you watched the “white screen of death” after saving your changes. Any errors in the code interrupted website work and prevented entering the admin area. The damaged site could be returned to status quo only through a connection to the server via FTP or a file manager in the hosting panel. Just hearing about the consequences of carelessness filled many WP users with dread.

The updated editor has shut this door to disaster: it will no longer let you save corrupted code and refresh the page. Instead, it returns to the file’s previously stable version.

3 Access to scripts: this is an innovation. In older WordPress versions, the editor could not edit script templates with a .js extension—only styles and PHP. All the files were lined up in an extensive list. After this update, files in the editor are put in order with internal folders in mind, with a link to the style file at the top—not the bottom. Also, administrators have access to changing the scripts. This is cool because when supporting a website, you often come across questions on how to disable sticky menus or sidebars, how to reduce/increase the speed of scrolling sliders or carousels, etc. Previously, users had to enter scripts through the same FTP or hosting panel. Now everything can be changed directly from the editor.

4 Another new feature included in the editor update: tips on the margin. The intent seems to be that these tips could be useful information or warnings about the properties of the CSS selectors used.

This option is still in its infancy in this WP 4.9 version of the editor; it will evolve and improve. Possible areas of improvement: a) tips ought to be localized, b) some clues might be confusing, since they are based on numbers without taking into account the code character, (e.g., a warning about combining the width of an element and its indents [width and padding]). Although a step in the right direction, do not say goodbye to the traditional validator—W3C—to verify code correctness. It is not yet time to transition from the known to the unknown.

5 A significant change in version 4.9: now you can save changes in the customizer as a draft, schedule publishing and share the link with other users.

Widgets

1 WP’s previous versions had already offered users several new widgets: modified “Text”, “Html-code”, “Video”, and “Audio”. WP4.9 adds “Gallery” that website administrators can create and install directly in the widget.

WordPress 4.9 widget

2 The text widget now has a button for downloading media files.

widget

3 The widget “Custom Menu” has had a name change. It is now “Navigation Menu”.

Custom Menu WordPress

4 Another new feature has solved the problem of resetting widgets when changing topics. Previously, when working on a website and you needed to include another template then return to the original theme, all widgets would have failed. More precisely, the widgets would leave their areas in the sidebar and gather in the “Inactive Widgets” field from where they could then be repositioned in the right places in the right order. Now widgets remain in a bundle. When you switch themes, widgets can just move around. Improvements in WordPress 4.9 offer a more permanent menu and placement of widgets when you decide to change the theme. You can preview the installed themes before deployment.

To sum up, the new release improves WordPress features making the CMS more user-friendly. With the new features in the editor, WordPress offers more protection from human error preventing from saving corrupted files. Also it provides more usability out of the box through access to scripts and tips on margins.

This is a nice example of how WordPress developers have non-linear thinking and provide creative possibilities for users to choose and use what they think would be most effective for them.