What to Expect in WordPress 4.2: Theme Switching and Emoji Everywhere

What to Expect in WordPress 4.2: Theme Switching and Emoji Everywhere

WordPress 4.1 was released on December 18 bringing distraction free writing, language support enhancements and a number of other tweaks.

With the dust only now just starting to settle on that release, the core team is preparing to release WordPress 4.2 – and we’re up to beta 4 already!

Work on the upcoming release kicked off on January 21 with the first developer chat session. Drew Jaynes was chosen as the project lead and Scott Taylor as the feature lead for all things media/image-related.

Let’s take a look at some of the progress that has been made since then and what we can expect from the final 4.2 release.

Theme Switching in the Customizer

A great update to the theme customizer is the ability to switch themes and make customizations without affecting the live site. This is a huge leap forward, allowing users to not just preview but modify the design of an inactive theme without resorting to plugins. If you’re interested, the chatter about this feature was added to ticket #31303.

The new theme switcher in the WP theme customizer
The new theme customizer option


Revamped Press This

Press This is available in the Tools section in the backend of WordPress. It is a bookmarklet that allows you to add content easily to your posts. It has been completely re-worked for 4.2, giving users more functionality and more user friendliness. The issue with the current version is summed up in ticket #29820 pretty aptly by core developer Mark Jaquith:

The “UI” for plugin installs and updates and the “UI” for theme updates (and combined updates) is about as friendly as the Linux boot sequence.

Press this new user interface
The new user interface for Press This


As you can see the new UI is much better. In addition, the tools screen does a much better job of explaining what the bookmarklet is.

Emoji Everywhere

To be honest, the Emoji craze has completely gone over my head but lots of people use them and it now seems to be a ubiquitous way of communicating, which means that it should be implemented in WordPress as well.

Ticket #31242 to the rescue: in 4.2 there will be full Emoji support everywhere, from post content to post URLs.

In-Place Plugin Updates

There is a sad story behind this one in ticket #29820. This is a part of an awesome effort by the team which, due to complications, was not completed by beta 1 so it will probably be pushed to 4.3. The idea is that this feature will allow users to install and update plugins in-place.

It seems that updating will still be included in 4.2 and can be tested easily. In fact, it’s pretty awesome. If all other features discussed work as smoothly as this feature, we’ll have a much better user experience dealing with plugins.

Updating In Place
Updating In Place

For Developers

Query Improvements

Named clauses now allow you to use orderby with specific meta_queries in WP_Query, WP_Comment_Query, and WP_User_Query. What does this mean? Right now you can’t order by multiple meta queries even though you can filter using multiple meta values.

Here’s an example from ticket #31045, which is a great read to learn how to use this new improvement.

$args = array(
	'post_type'  => 'product',
	'meta_query' => array(
		'post_color' => array(
			'key'     => 'color',
			'value'   => 'blue',
			'compare' => 'NOT LIKE',
        'orderby' => 'post_color'  

$query = new WP_Query( $args );

Taxonomy Roadmap

The taxonomy roadmap was laid out by Andrew Nacin and since his original post on the Make WordPress blog, slow but steady progress has been made.

WordPress 4.2 introduces term splitting, which is a big step in resolving some key issues but developers do need to know what this is all about. In the words of Boone Gorges from the WordPress News Blog:

In WordPress 4.2, shared taxonomy terms – those items in the wp_terms table that are shared between multiple taxonomies – will be split into separate terms when one of the shared terms is updated. This change fixes one of WordPress’s most irksome bugs, and is a critical step in our ongoing taxonomy roadmap.

For more information be sure to read the linked post in full and the related Trac ticket #5809.

Dismissable Admin Notices

Developers can now add non-sticky admin notices, ones which users can dismiss. All you need to do is add .notice and .is-dismissable as classes to your notice containers and they should automagically become dismissable.


WordPress is continuing the trend of improving upon its existing systems. As I’ve mentioned in the past, this is a welcome direction and I think the only one which will lead to the longevity of the project as a whole.

WordPress is already plenty powerful but lacks a lot of the spit and polish recent competitors like Ghost, Medium, Svbtle and others offer. These newer solutions are more focused, which is why they have such a polished UI, but this is no excuse to be left behind by them.

As always, join in all the fun by downloading the WordPress Beta Tester plugin, try out all the cool new stuff and report any issues you come across.

The WordPress team is doing a fantastic job bringing us these new updates and they don’t seem to be slowing down at all.

What features are you looking forward to in WordPress 4.2? Let us know in the comments below.