The upcoming release of WordPress 4.6 includes a few visible improvements, but many more dev level changes that end users may never see, but need to be aware of. See what’s under the hood that will affect your site.
What You Can See
In 2013, WordPress 3.8 added support for the Open Sans font on the admin side of things. It’s a Google Font that has to be downloaded from Google every time you log in.
In 4.6, the WP devs will be changing that to the Font Natively set, which is a system font and has been supported by most browsers for some time.
The look is clean and it should speed up things a bit on the backside while you’re working in your site because there is no download. Plus, it will eliminate reliance on a 3rd party source, like Google Fonts.
The Updates admin page is getting an overhaul. The new look actually started as a plugin called Shiney Updates. Now it has been merged into the core, at least partially.
The plugin devs made a rather dramatic case for the change. A little too dramatic in my opinion. I really don’t think many end users give a flip. In fact, I think more will complain about any change compared to being happy about the new layout.
Have you embedded something from another WP site and it didn’t display the preview in the text editor properly? Well, that’s been fixed now.
Changes have been made to TinyMCE, which is the native text editor, to make the embed previews click and drag too.
FYI, Andrew Ozz is the lead dev when it comes to TinyMCE changes in the WordPress core. He is also the dev of the TinyMCE Advanced plugin. And why the heck he doesn’t see to it that the core includes one of the prime features of his plugin is just beyond me. It’s the feature that stops breaking the p and br tags and makes the editor write well-formatted code for a browser to interpret.
WordPress makes multiple version sizes of every image you upload. Sometimes those intermediate sizes get cropped in goofy ways.
The devs have changed the script that searches for a suitable alternate size before simply relying on the smallest available.
This will be especially helpful when the smallest available is way smaller than the defined size it would like to display.
I image most of us rarely visit the actual Category and Tag admin pages and simply work with them on the fly while we are creating posts.
But they will look slightly different in 4.6 with the layout on the right matching the tab order of the modules on the left. It’s merely a usability thing. All the functions will remain the same.
What You Can’t See
This change may affect those of you running scripts in your header and footer, like for ads. It will bring more agreement between the footer.php file and the header.php files too, and requires registering less code for scripts to run in those two places.
Caching really speeds up your site. But comments couldn’t be cached reliably until now.
I’m really happy about this because I see it in performance tests where a page with a ton of comments loads slower than one that has fewer comments, even when the content is similar.
If you’re using any type of comment enhancement plugin, look for an update for it that supports the new changes. In fact, you may want to be proactive about this and check with the plugin dev to ensure they are on top of it.
Many of you may not know that there is a setting in WordPress under Discussion to blacklist comments with certain words in them.
If you have tried that but found it didn’t work well, one of the reasons may have been that the offending word had HTML formatting code around it, like a paragraph tag or bold or such.
In 4.6, the HTML code will be stripped out before it does a blacklist word check. That should improve most all comment spam blocker plugins too.
For those of you with membership sites or other plugins that send mail from within WP, the devs have fixed a bug in the email header and streamlined the code used to generate that header with regard to the Reply To email address.
Hopefully this will help the emails validate better and not end up in the receiver’s spam folder.
WordPress has several User roles, like admin, contributor, and subscriber. And all of those have rules about what can be accessed by that logged in User.
But, there are no rules checked for non-logged in Users. And while that may seem silly, consider that most of us have plugins that we’ve given an open door to do anything they need to do on our sites. I’m hoping this additional authentication check helps prevent new ways of hacking sites.
Thank goodness they are changing the wording in the auto email generated by WP anytime a new User is added.
The current email does not include the password and/or makes it sound like the new User needs to generate a new password.
This is especially problematic with membership sites. Most membership plugins assign a strong password, and then that security feature is overridden by folks immediately resetting it. And I guarantee that most use weak passwords.
The new language still states that new Users can change the password after login, but does not make it seem like that step is required.
As more plugins and themes make use of custom post types and taxonomies, a need has arisen to make a more generic post type to handle them. I expect that a few plugins will likely start making use of this feature in the near future. But I don’t expect any custom post types you have now to be immediately affected.
The point of adding this new feature is to improve page performance.
The caveat is that if plugin devs add too many resource hints, it could negatively impact performance.
I’m quite concerned about this feature because of what I see in site audits with so many plugins fighting to get their scripts and resources loaded ahead of the content as it is. So, I’ll be keeping a close eye on it.
New widget types can be added dynamically in version 4.6. This will open up some options with plugins that need to display different types of content, such as recent posts from different post types.
I don’t expect that we’ll see an immediate change to our favorite display plugins, but it may open the door for new plugins to offer a bigger array of options.
When anyone requests your site, WordPress goes through what’s called a bootstrap load that ensures all of its core functions and rules are in place before the page is rendered.
Version 4.6 will bring changes to the order and location of certain elements, such as the plugin loader, caching elements, the SSL info, and to the ABSPATH statements, which could include where to find some elements in certain directories.
I don’t know exactly how this will be used by plugins and themes, but I will be keeping my eye on it as it may affect both performance and security.
4.6 Release Date
The first Release Candidate for WordPress 4.6 will be August 10, 2016, when all additions are frozen.
The final release is currently slated to release on August 16, 2016.