WordPress 4.8: What’s New and Notable in the Latest Release

Back in May we gave readers a sneak peek, thanks to WP Beginner editorial staff, of what was coming down the line with WordPress 4.8. The first major release of the year definitely promised some tantalizing changes and additions, features and enhancements, but the company was, of course, remaining tight-lipped about everything the update had in store for users.

Close up of WordPress website under a magnifying glass.

Well now version 4.8 is alive and kicking in the virtual world, and as such it’s time to dig in a little deeper and discover everything new and notable. And keep in mind that, unless you enjoy the ease and peace of mind of being on a managed hosting service, you’ll have to manually initiate the update (after creating a complete backup of your site first).

Frequent users of WordPress will at once recognize a new element that they’ve been asking for: Media Widgets. First there’s the Image Widget, which allows users to add a picture to a sidebar without having to use a plugin or write custom HTML. Utilizing a drag-and-drop interface, one can now simply click on the “add image” button and up comes the media loader. There’s also the Video Widget which works much the same way as its image counterpart by allowing users to upload videos from YouTube, Vimeo and other providers via the “add video” button which, again, brings up the media loader popup. And finally there’s the Audio Widget which (you guessed it) allows you to upload audio files such as MP3s and WAVs into the HTML5 audio player.

In the previous article we mentioned the addition of a Visual Editor widget for text. Previously it was necessary to write HTML to make even the most basic formatting changes such as italicizing or bolding text, but now a simple button click is all you need, which makes writing and editing posts much more “word processing” friendly. And version 4.8 also makes it easier to move the cursor away from the link a user is embedding, an annoying issue that is finally remedied.

Also mentioned in the previous article was the improved and tuned-up News and Events Dashboard widget. Appearing on the dashboard screen of the admin area, it displays what’s happening in the world of WordPress and gives a heads-up to WP-related events happening nearby. The widget automatically locates a user’s location via their IP address and time zone and sends customized alerts and notices, making it much more seamless to immerse oneself in the WordPress community.

Lastly there are changes to the WordPress core that should be mentioned, although the average user probably won’t notice them at all as they’re more targeted at developers. There are changes to the editor API, specifically a new api for TinyMCE that can be dynamically instantiated via JavaScript; a variable customizer width for those who use live theme customizer on large screens and find that the sidebar appears too narrow; a new display feature that makes the user’s name appear much more prominently in the heading on the edit user screen; and finally the replacement of the title tag within the tag cloud widget, which now has a more accessible aria-label attribute.

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