5 lesser-known improvements in WordPress 4.6

WordPress 4.6, “Pepper” was released earlier this week to what has been by all accounts a pretty great reception. Notable features and improvements in 4.6 include Shiny Updates v2™, native fonts in the admin, editor improvements, and a whole host of developer goodies.

And as with any major release of WordPress, there are always features and improvements made that get overlooked. Here’s five little-known features, fixes, and improvements you may not know about in WordPress 4.6.

1. A modernized Import screen

Before and after (WordPress 4.6) screenshots of the Import screen

What began as an effort to remove title attributes for accessibility reasons eventually turned into a significant usability refresh of the Import screen.

Easily the biggest change was making this screen feel more like a place to manage and launch importers as separate actions. Each importer now has row actions to install and run, as well as a “Details” link that opens the plugin information popup just like with regular plugins.

As a bonus, importers can also now be installed in-line similarly to how shiny updates allows for in-line updates of plugins and themes. Click “Install” and it happens in place. Smart!

Finally, 4.6 also introduces help text to this screen. Overall, big – yet incremental – usability changes to a not oft-used screen. And of course, it’s now more accessible!

2. Network Admin and the Sites menu got a better icon

Before and after (WordPress 4.6) screenshots of the Sites menu icon in the Network Admin

In a relatively minor change, a new dashicon was introduced for the Network Admin toolbar item, as well as the Network Admin > Sites menu. Big improvement over the old ambiguous key icon.

3. Embed previews when inserting from a URL were fixed

Screenshot of the Insert From URL workflow in the media modal in WordPress 4.6

With the advent of embeddable WordPress content starting in 4.4, came the ability to embed that content via the Insert from URL workflow in the media modal. At some point, the preview mechanism was broken; this has been fixed in 4.6. Love this feature.

4. Upload and install plugins from the same screen

Add plugins drop-down panel in Add Plugins in WordPress 4.6

A core tenet of the Shiny Updates v2™ feature in WordPress 4.6 was to increase the efficiency of installing and updating plugins and themes.

One lesser-known way this was achieved was by integrating the plugin upload form into the main Add Plugins screen. The old way redirected users to a completely separate page.

If you’re wondering why that sounds familiar, it already worked this way in Add Themes. Regardless, nice to see incremental usability improvements like this.

5. Actions and filters can now be properly deprecated

One code change that really didn’t get a lot of play in feature announcements was that deprecating hooks is now possible in core. Add-on developers may now collectively rejoice!

No core hooks were deprecated in 4.6, but that shouldn’t stop plugin and theme developers from using it right away,

Two new global functions were added, do_action_deprecated() and apply_filters_deprecated(), along with the private helper they both use: _deprecated_hook(). All in all, deprecating hooks is pretty straightforward:

Old action call:

/**
 * Fires when writing Codex articles.
 *
 * @since 0.71
 *
 * @param bool $codex  Whether to write Codex articles. Default false.
 * @param bool $devhub Whether to write DevHub articles. Default true.
do_action( 'write_codex_articles', $codex, $devhub );

Deprecated action call:

/**
 * Fires when writing Codex articles.
 *
 * @since 0.71
 * @deprecated 3.7.0
 * @see 'write_devhub_articles'
 */
do_action_deprecated( 'write_codex_articles', array( $codex, $devhub ), '3.7.0', 'write_devhub_articles', 'woohoo!' );

Boom.


Hope you’ve enjoyed this post. Are there any other lesser-known improvements in WordPress 4.6 that tickled your fancy? Share them in the comments!

I’ve adopted the WP Hide Dashboard plugin

I adopted a plugin this week. WP Hide Dashboard.

Normally when somebody adopts a plugin it’s because the original maintainer doesn’t have the time, or just doesn’t feel like pursing it anymore.

Unfortunately for everyone, the reason I’ve adopted this plugin is because the author — a dear friend of mine — Kim Parsell passed away a couple of weeks ago.

I wanted to make sure that the plugin she took so much pride in having written didn’t fall by the wayside in her absence. So, the good news is, I’m not planning drastically change the plugin — outside of changes she’d previously expressed to me but didn’t have the time to implement.

I made the changes and tested against the latest stable version of WordPress. I think it’s going to be pretty light-touch going forward.

Keep your plugin(s) up to date

If you’ve ever submitted a plugin to the WordPress.org repository, you know that with the ever-growing speed at which the WordPress core team releases new versions, it’s inevitable that plugins will fall behind and out of date.

It’s a fact of life, if only because we don’t necessarily have the time to stay on top of it. We’ve all done it.

But here’s the thing: once a plugin is more than two years out of date, it’s dropped from search results on WordPress.org. To be more specific, it’s dropped from search results on WordPress.org and within the WordPress dashboard.

This last point is key.

I doubt it comes as a great surprise to most plugin developers though, especially since it was announced in Matt Mullenweg’s State of the Word speech three years ago at WCSF 2011.

I just wanted to share with you this morning, a visual representation of what it looks like when one of your plugins hits the 2-years out-of-date mark.

out_of_date_stats

This is a screenshot of the download stats for a plugin I maintain. You’ll notice that average daily downloads is cut almost in half around the December 10th mark. Up until this morning, the last-updated date was December 8, 2012. It’s pretty interesting to see what a difference it makes to have your plugin available in search results.

Do yourself a favor and keep your plugin(s) updated.

Plugin repo bookmarklet

Sometimes when I’m checking out plugins in the WordPress.org repository, I like to view the source before I download. So partly out of boredom and partly out of laziness, I decided to create a bookmarklet that jumps you from a WordPress.org-hosted plugin page to its subversion repository.

The bookmarklet: Plugin Repo

To use the bookmarklet:

  1. Drag the above ‘Plugin Repo’ link to your bookmarks bar
  2. Visit any plugin page (or plugin’s sub-page) in the WordPress.org plugin repository
  3. Click the bookmarklet and you will be sent to that plugin’s SVN repo trunk url
  4. Boom.

Enable Image Scaling on Upload 1.0

This morning I released version 1.0 of my Enable Image Scaling on Upload plugin. It’s completely rewritten but sports the ability to set custom dimensions in 3.5+.

It also now allows for globally enabling or disabling the feature. It’s still backward compatible, though custom dimensions are not supported in 3.3 and 3.4.

Download it in the WordPress.org repo.