Top New Features in WordPress 4.5 and 4.6

Someone over at WordPress really likes jazz.

All of the major releases of WordPress have code names that honor jazz musicians. The three major releases in the last 12 months have been no exception: Release 4.4, “Clifford” for trumpeter Clifford Brown; 4.5, “Coleman” for saxophonist Coleman Hawkins; and 4.6, “Pepper” for baritone saxophonist “Pepper” Adams III.

There is also a new security release, 4.6.1, and WordPress is recommending that all sites update to it. Alas, WordPress security releases don’t get jazzy code names.

As if the fixing of security vulnerabilities were not incentive enough to update, this year’s releases include some nifty new features and enhancements. If you haven’t updated your WordPress installation in a while, you’re missing out.

WordPress 4.5

The notable enhancements to WordPress 4.5 this release include:

  • Previews for different platforms: Like it or not, mobile platforms are here to stay, and failing to design sites for them risks losing visitors. So it’s only natural that WordPress would make it easy show how your site would look on different screen sizes. This should streamline the design cycle considerably.
  • Enhanced comment moderation: The updated comment moderation interface renders embedded HTML in user comments, taking the guesswork out of determining what the commenter was trying to convey. The interface has a slightly updated look, as well, and gives you the option to edit user comments before approving them.
  • Visual editor enhancements: WordPress continues to improve the user experience when using the visual editor, probably the most frequently used tool in WordPress. In WordPress 4.5, the Ctrl-K (or Command-K) shortcut key now opens a small text box for you to enter a URL, rather than opening a whole new dialog box. Auto-formatting now includes the creation of a horizontal line by typing three hyphens; you can also format text as code simply by enclosing it in backtick characters (`).
  • Support for logos in themes: This feature is more for theme developers than site owners or visitors. This enhancement fills a gap where there was no standard method for enabling users to add a logo to a theme. With this feature enabled in a theme, users can add a logo using the customizer. (Not all themes currently have this feature enabled.)

WordPress 4.6

The WordPress enhancement train keeps on rolling with the following:

  • Visual editor enhancements: The autosave feature now works even if you have revisions turned off. In addition, WordPress now automatically checks a link that you add in the editor and flags it with a red font color if the link is broken.
  • Improved content import tool: The look and feel of the content import tool has been improved, making it even easier to import content from other blogging platforms.
  • Native system fonts: WordPress’s short-lived Open Sans experiment has ended by reverting the admin area back to using native system fonts. The idea of standardizing on the Open Sans font was to provide a consistent look on different platforms, but it slowed admin area page loading. Now the admin area will rely on your computer’s installed font set when rendering—speeding up page loads at the cost of possibly having a different look on different platforms.

As is usual, these releases include a number of bug fixes, accumulated security updates, and nuts-and-bolts enhancements for developers. See the wordpress.org site for more information.

When updating your site’s WordPress installation, the usual warnings still apply: Back up your site first, and test it in a test site before rolling it out to your production site. Keeping your WordPress installation up to date is one of the easiest ways to keep your site running smoothly, so make a commitment to do it soon, and ask your web developer for help.