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WordPress 4.9: This one's for you, developers!

'New editing experience' called Gutenberg coming too, but it might hate your plugins

WordPress 4.9 has debuted, and this time the world's most popular content management system has given developers plenty to like.

Some of the changes are arguably overdue: syntax highlighting and error checking for CSS editing and cutting custom HTML are neither scarce nor innovative. They'll be welcomed arrival will likely be welcomed anyway, as will newly-granular roles and permissions for developers. The new release has also added version 4.2.6 of MediaElement.js, an upgrade that's release notes stated has removed dependency on jQuery, improves accessibility, modernizes the UI, and fixes many bugs.”

Also uncontroversial is an autosave feature to capture code or designs that users forget to preserve while working.

Sandboxes have also been added and make it harder to save bad code, as does a new feature than warns that direct edits to plugins or themes could have nasty results. There's also more scheduling features that can now see either content or new designs appear at designated times.

WordPress has also revealed progress on “Gutenberg”, a new editing tool coming to a future release. Gutenberg is billed as a major upgrade as it introduces the notion of “blocks” that will replace shortcodes, custom HTML, or hidden features that allow the embedding of different content.

WordPress' developers have said that while the tool already effectively treats many content types as blocks, it doesn't make them easy to find. “By embracing the blocky nature of rich post content, we will surface the blocks that already exist, as well as provide more advanced layout options for each of them.”

But developers have also warned that Gutenberg may not be kind to existing WordPress plug-ins. An FAQ posted to the project's GitHub page asked “Should I be concerned that Gutenberg will make my plugin obsolete?”

The reply did not answer the question directly, as follows:

The goal of Gutenberg is not to put anyone out of business. It's to evolve WordPress so there's more business to be had in the future, for everyone.

Aside from enabling a rich post and page building experience, a meta goal is to move WordPress forward as a platform. Not only by modernizing the UI, but by modernizing the foundation.

We realize it's a big change. We also think there will be many new opportunities for plugins. WordPress is likely to ship with a range of basic blocks, but there will be plenty of room for highly tailored premium plugins to augment existing blocks or add new blocks to the mix.

Gutenberg is scheduled to debut with WordPress 5.0 in 2018. ®

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