Although WordPress 4.2 didn’t introduce anything ground-breaking, it was another solid update from the team of contributors behind core.
Having now had a little more than 24 hours to test out the new features, today I want to share my thoughts on the main 4.2 changes.
New characters and emojis
WordPress is used internationally, and recent updates have focused on making WordPress more accessible to users of different nationalities.
This trend continues with 4.2, which sees the utf-8 database upgraded to utf8mb4. Or, in layman’s terms: WordPress 4.2 introduces a number of new character sets.
The main purpose of this change was to introduce characters from Japanese, Korean, and Chinese languages to WordPress. With huge numbers of native speakers, this potentially opens WordPress’s doors to a lot of new users.
A cool by-product of this change sees WordPress now offering support for a range of other character sets—most are less practical, but far more fun. This includes hieroglyphs, mathematical symbols, musical symbols, and, best of all, emojis. If you want to infuse your content with emotions that can only be conveyed by a smiley face, you’ll love these changes 🙂
Arguably the biggest change in version 4.2 is the overhaul of the Press This bookmarking tool—you can find it by going to Tools > Available Tools from within the WordPress dashboard.
Press This is a useful tool that can be installed on any mobile device or a desktop web browser’s bookmark bar. Note: at the time of writing this, there have been some issues installing it on Firefox browsers.
With Press This installed, whenever you find interesting content, images, or videos, you share them on your website instantly—and without needing to log in to the WordPress dashboard. This has the potential to make curating content far quicker and easier.
Improved theme customizer
When I’m first building a website, I find the Theme Customizer function invaluable. It allows me to preview any aesthetic tweaks I’m considering, without playing trial and error on the live version of my site.
Well, WordPress 4.2 sees the Customizer functionality extended. You can now use the Customizer to browse and preview all of your installed WordPress themes—you can then use the Customizer as normal to customize the new theme. This allows you to test how your website will look when using a different theme before you switch to it. This can save you a lot of headaches, as switching themes is not something you want to take a shot in the dark approach to.
Now for my personal favorite: WordPress 4.2 has simplified plugin updates.
Although this was already a quick-and-easy task, WordPress 4.2 makes things even more efficient. To update your plugins, simply head to Plugins > Installed Plugins.
If a plugin is outdated, you will see a small notification just below it, telling you a new version is available and also giving you the option to update now. Click on the update now text and your plugin will automatically update—all without even leaving the Installed Plugins screen.
It might only save you a few seconds, but it’s one less nuisance to deal with.
Subtle admin color scheme changes
When you log into the WordPress admin, you might notice some slight changes to the default admin color scheme.
The changes are subtle, but I spotted it straight away. The default grey colors used pre-4.2 have been replaced by what I can only describe as a faint blue tinge.
Here’s a screenshot I’ve taken of the WordPress 4.1 admin compared to 4.2.
Although the changes are subtle, I have to say: I think I like it. It’s hardly a radical change, but any improvement to the WordPress admin’s aesthetics—no matter how small—is fine by me.
Auto-embed Tumblr posts and KickStarter campaigns
WordPress 4.0 was the first version to make significant improvements to the way we embed media—in the post-4.0 world, you can embed a YouTube video just by pasting the URL in the WordPress editor.
In subsequent updates, the development team have continued to expand this auto-embed functionality. Version 4.2 sees the addition of auto-embed Tumblr posts and KickStarter campaigns—again, it’s as easy as pasting a URL.
We’ve talked a fair bit recently about how WordPress and entrepreneurs are naturally aligned, so the KickStarter embed makes a lot of sense.
In my opinion, WordPress 4.2 is a solid update.
Sure, the updates won’t revolutionize the way we use WordPress, but the team of contributors have certainly made small improvements to WordPress’s overall user experience. Plus, if you speak Japanese, Korean, or Chinese, you’ll probably find the new character sets a very welcome change.
Most of the latest changes seem to target casual users, in my opinion at least, who perhaps want to use WordPress more like Tumblr, as a way to interact with their friends. The Press This feature makes it easy to share cool videos found online, and you can even embed Tumblr posts directly—plus the emojis make things more fun.
Of course, more serious WordPress users can still find value in Press This, as a way to curate and share content. As well as this, improvements to plugin updates and the theme customizer will make it easier for us to keep our website up to date and make tweaks to its appearance.
As always, Torque will keep you fully updated on developments for all future WordPress updates—roll on WordPress 4.3!
What are your first thoughts on WordPress 4.2? Share them in the comments section below!