What To Expect from WordPress 4.7

Scheduled for release on December 6, 2016, WordPress 4.7 promises some exciting new features for WP users and developers. In this post, we’ll look at some the highlights, both for basic users and some of the more advanced features available to developers. We used the WordPress Beta Tester plugin to give the new version a try on a test site.

(Note: It is not recommended to install the beta version of WordPress 4.7 on a live site prior to the official release).

Twenty Seventeen

For new WordPress users or those in the early phases of building a new site, deciding on a theme is an important step. There are hundreds of free and premium WordPress themes available, but the new Twenty Seventeen theme is by far the most customizable default WordPress theme yet.

Rather than scouring theme marketplaces for the perfect look, even users with minimal WordPress experience may find that they can easily achieve a distinctive design with Twenty Seventeen without touching a line of code. Those users who are comfortable with CSS will be able to take this theme even further without having to directly edit any core files.

• The new Twenty Seventeen theme offers some exciting new capabilities as a default WordPress theme.
• Twenty Seventeen is modern, highly responsive, and notably caters to businesses or those looking to create a portfolio site.
• Emphasis on a highly responsive static front page that showcases content in stylized, easily editable, full-width panels.
• Dark and light skins are available, with the option for custom site-wide color schemes.
• Bold use of featured images and subtle animations give Twenty Seventeen a clean, mobile-friendly aesthetic.
• For developers, this theme provides an excellent, easily extensible framework to build upon for the creation of child themes or custom themes.

Header Images and Videos

Incorporating video elements into websites has become an increasingly popular design trend over the past few years. WordPress 4.7 allows users to add full-width header videos to sites simply by uploading or adding a link, rather than dealing with iframes or embed codes.

• In WordPress 4.7, the Theme Customizer enables users to add full-width images or video headers to pages very easily.
• From within the “Header Visuals” tab, you can choose to upload your own video or simply provide a link to a YouTube or Vimeo URL.
• Twenty Seventeen’s demo content includes royalty-free stock images that you can use to populate site sections for rapid prototyping.
• Parallax background image functionality in site sections.

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Add Custom CSS Directly From the Theme Customizer

• One of the coolest features of WP 4.7 is the ability for users to add custom CSS directly into the Theme Customizer and preview the changes in real-time.
• CSS styles added using the Customizer will remain intact throughout future site updates, unlike in previous versions where changes made via the Editor would be overwritten following an update.
• In some cases, this feature may eliminate the need for child themes.
• While this is a fantastic feature, users without a robust knowledge of WordPress CSS classes may find themselves relying on the !important property to overwrite certain styles. This may not be an ideal solution in every instance.

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Drag and Drop Site Builder

For new users, and for developers working with clients who want control over their sites, the new drag and drop interface build into the Theme Customizer is a powerful update to the WordPress platform. Users have the ability to rearrange components and experiment with page layouts in a visual way without adjusting template files.

• With WordPress 4.7 much of the functionality that previously depended on navigating through the Dashboard is now accessible directly through the Theme Customizer.
• The Theme Customizer lets users create new pages, edit elements directly from within the live preview area, and use a drag-and-drop builder to arrange content panels on pages.
• Site components in the live preview area feature clickable icons that allow users to edit directly from within the customizer.
• Demo content is included with Twenty Seventeen, which makes quick prototyping extremely viable.

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Navigation and Social Media Menus

• Users can easily create, edit, and configure navigation menus from within the Theme Customizer, rather than needing to visit Appearance -> Menus.
• To create your primary menu in WordPress 4.7, you can simply select the “Menus” tab from within the customizer, create a menu, and populate it using the intuitive “Add Items” button.

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• The Theme Customizer’s “Social Links Menu” tab allows users to quickly integrate social media links without the use of a plugin or custom code.
• By default, social media links display as stylized icons in the footer area of the Twenty Seventeen theme.
• Appropriate icons will automatically populate the social media menu for most popular social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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Visual Editor Built Into the Theme Customizer

Even if you’ve never used WordPress before, version 4.7 makes it really simple to create basic websites in minutes. One major perk in 4.7 is the addition of a streamlined visual editor within the Theme Customizer. Rather than navigating to different areas through the Admin Dashboard, users can now edit elements directly from within the Theme Customizer. Users can easily customize widgets, titles, layout and more in real-time.

• The visual editor makes editing sections within the customizer extremely intuitive.
• For example, to edit the “Recent Posts” widget on the sidebar, rather than navigating to the Appearance-> Widgets area, you can now simply click the pencil icon next to that widget and the corresponding module will appear in the customizer.

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• Let’s say you’d like to change the title of this Widget from “Recent Comments” to
“Latest Comments.”

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• As you make the change directly in the customizer, you will see it displaying in the live preview. This makes editing widgets and other site elements really simple.

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Updates to the Visual Editor on Posts and Pages

• The visual editor area on posts and pages has been rearranged for a more streamlined experience.
• The “Paragraph” dropdown is now on the top row, eliminating the need to expand the toolbar to format text.
• Tooltips display keyboard shortcuts for different elements.

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Easily Preview Alternative Themes

• Twenty Seventeen is a great starting point for new WP users, and it is definitely more versatile than previous default themes.
• If you’re looking for something different, however, WordPress 4.7 also makes it quick and easy to preview different themes from within the theme customizer.
• Use the “Change” button next to your Active Theme to browse themes and try them on for size.
• Note: If you’ve purchased a premium theme from a marketplace like themeforest, you may need to upload that theme before you will be able to preview it.

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New Functions & Hooks

Theme developers can look forward to some exciting new functions, hooks, and behaviors in WordPress 4.7.

• One highlight is the new get_theme_file_uri()function.
• This new function works in a similar way to the get_template_part()function that was introduced in WordPress 3.0.
• get_template_part() looks for a particular file within a child theme and falls back on the parent theme if the file is not found.
• get_theme_file_uri() applies the same child theme functionality to theme URLs.
• An example use scenario would be when enqueuing a JavaScript file, such as:

wp_enqueue_script( ‘myScript’, get_theme_file_uri( ‘js/myScript.js’ );

• Here, the new function would enqueue the URL js/myScript.js from your child theme. If it didn’t find the file in the child theme, it would then default to this same URL within your parent theme’s directory.
• The new {$type}_template_part_hierarchy filter lets a theme or plugin filter the complete template hierarchy of a request.

Post Type Templates

• Post types templates will bring the functionality of page templates to post types, allowing developers to implement different styles and layouts for specific post types.
• This will allow theme developers to incorporate a variety of different post styling options within a theme.

Customized Bulk Actions

• In WordPress 4.7, developers can register custom bulk actions on list tables.
• In previous versions of WordPress, bulk actions were limited to “Edit” and “Move to Trash,” but now developers can really explore the power of Bulk Actions.

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Other New Features

Language Options for Administrators

• For diverse teams working on a site, each Admin now has the ability to manage the site in the language they are most comfortable with.
• Once you install multiple languages, each Admin can simply select which one they want to use from their user profile.

PDF Thumbnail Images

• Any PDF files uploaded to WordPress will now display with thumbnail images making it easier to distinguish between different files.

A New Taxonomy Class

• $wp_taxonomies has become an array of WP_Taxonomy objects
• The get_taxonomy() function has been updated to return a WP_Taxonomy object
• The function get_taxonomy_labels() will now accept a WP_Taxonomy object

Conclusion

WordPress 4.7 is a major update to the platform, and it comes with some exciting developments. The shift towards being able to build and control more of a site directly through the Theme Customizer without bouncing around the Admin Dashboard makes the setup process much more streamlined. The ability to add custom CSS directly from within the Theme Customizer and watch the styles change in the live preview without having to refresh your site is a huge asset. For users without a deep knowledge of the WP CSS classes it may be necessary to employ the !important property to target certain elements.

For developers, the updates to the REST API will open the door to a powerful new level of interactivity between WordPress and emerging apps and plugins, particularly in mobile environments. The Twenty Seventeen theme, with its emphasis on a business-oriented static front page, reflects a broader shift in the WordPress infrastructure as it continues to extend well beyond its early iterations as a blogging platform. Of course, WordPress 4.7 is still great for blogs, too.

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