Monthly Archives: April 2019

BuddyPress 5.0 to Display Debug Info in the New Site Health Info Screen

The upcoming BuddyPress 5.0 release will add plugin-specific debug info to the new Site Health Info screen that is coming in WordPress 5.2.

Mathieu Viet, who contributed the patch, said the information could be very useful to help solve issues on the BuddyPress forums. The panel is displayed at the bottom of the screen. It includes the BuddyPress version, active components, active template pack, and a list of other component-specific settings information.

This is a good example of how plugins can hook into this screen to add specific debug information. Users who need support can copy the information from the screen and paste it into the support forums for faster assistance with their issues.

BuddyPress 5.0 is expected at the end of May and will ship with this new site health enhancement.

Source: WP Tavern

npm’s 2019 JavaScript Ecosystem Survey Shows 63% of Respondents are Using React

npm, Inc. has released a preview of the results of its Enterprise JavaScript in 2019 survey, which was conducted from 12/1/18 – 1/8/19. The company received 33,478 responses from developers across 23 industries and 194 countries and territories. Twenty-two languages were represented and less than half of respondents spoke English (47.13%), although the survey was in English.

The preview highlights essential trends in the JavaScript ecosystem. React’s growing popularity is the least surprising among these trends. The results showed that 63% of respondents are using React.

npm Inc. estimates that there are approximately 5 million React developers worldwide and concludes that “There has never been a JavaScript framework this popular before, and it is more than twice as popular as the next-biggest framework, Angular.”

Results for other frameworks are not yet available to the public but npm Inc. plans to share more details in future articles.

Nearly half (49%) of respondents have more than 5 years of experience using JavaScript, a 9% increase from the previous year’s survey, shifting an estimated 1 million participants into this category. This indicates that the JavaScript user base is becoming more sophisticated overall.

Another trend is the rising popularity of GraphQL. While its adoption is still relatively low, with only 7% of respondents indicating that they use it frequently, 23% of developers use it for some of their projects. The results showed that 72% of npm users are using or considering using GraphQL in 2019.

In a post that goes further in depth on the methodology used for the survey, nmp Inc. said the company did not collect demographics on race or gender identity, so the data may not be representative of the broader population of JavaScript users on these metrics. English speakers are also over-represented and the survey may contain some bias towards the opinions of users “who have more affinity to npm as an organization.” However, results from independent surveys like the 2018 State of JS Survey, show similar trends in the JavaScript ecosystem.

npm Inc. will be sending out follow-up surveys to specific groups of respondents who volunteered to answer additional questions. The company plans to publish more data from the questions about tooling choices, technical preferences, and attitudes towards various professional practices.

Source: WP Tavern

WordPress 5.2 Pushed Back to May 7, RC 1 Now Available for Testing

WordPress 5.2 was originally scheduled to be released on April 30, but has now been pushed back to May 7, due to the number of open tickets last week (43). There is now only one ticket remaining on the 5.2 milestone for completion of the About page and WordPress 5.2 RC 1 is ready for testing.

The upcoming release will bring major improvements to the block editor (everything released in the Gutenberg plugin prior to version 5.4). This includes the new block management capabilities and several new blocks that were ported from core widgets.

WordPress 5.2 will introduce a new admin interface for Site Health under the Tools menu. It runs tests that deliver results categorized as critical, recommended, or good, along with action items for users to improve their settings. The Information tab was added for basic debugging and provides information about the website and server setup.

A new feature called “fatal error recovery mode” is also included in this release. It pauses themes or plugins that are causing a fatal error and puts the site into recovery mode so the user can still access the admin to troubleshoot the issue. Users should experience fewer “white screen of death” situations with this new feature in place.

WordPress 5.2 brings a host of accessibility improvements to various admin screens for users who rely on assistive technologies. It also makes it easier to customize and design WordPress’ included Privacy Policy page.

Check out the 5.2 field guide for a detailed breakdown of everything that’s coming in the upcoming release. If you want to get a sneak peak and help test the release candidate, the easiest way is to install the Beta Tester plugin and select the “bleeding edge nightlies” option.

Source: WP Tavern

Apache NetBeans is Now a Top-Level Project of the Apache Software Foundation

The Apache Software Foundation (ASF), a non-profit corporation of decentralized volunteers from the open source developer community, has officially approved the NetBeans IDE as a Top-Level project. NetBeans joins more than 350 other open source projects and initiatives managed by the foundation after spending two years in the Apache Incubator.

The IDE supports Java, JavaScript, PHP, HTML5, and other popular programming languages, and is also used as a tooling platform and application framework. Although PhpStorm and Sublime Text capture a larger share of the IDE market for PHP developers, there is a small but passionate segment of WordPress developers who favor NetBeans as their IDE of choice.

NetBeans started as a student project in 1996 in what was formerly known as Czechoslovakia. It was the first Java IDE written in Java but it soon became more than just an IDE platform, as the community began using it to create applications that weren’t development tools. In 2000, Sun Microsystems acquired NetBeans and open sourced it, making it Sun’s first sponsored open source project. It became part of Oracle when it acquired Sun Microsystems in 2010 and the company continues to sponsor the project. NetBeans is now used by more than 1.5 million users each month.

Now that Apache NetBeans is governed by the ASF, it will be more likely to receive contributions than when it belonged to a commercial entity. However, contributors from Oracle and other organizations will continue to be part of shaping its future. Coming under the ASF umbrella is also bringing some welcome developments for the project’s governance, according to Apache NetBeans Vice President Geertjan Wielenga:

Being part of the ASF means that NetBeans is now not only free and Open Source software: it is also, uniquely, and for the first time, part of a foundation specifically focused on enabling open governance. Every contributor to the project now has equal say over the roadmap and direction of NetBeans. That is a new and historic step and the community has been ready for this for a very long time. Thanks to the strong stewardship of NetBeans in Sun Microsystems and Oracle, Apache NetBeans is now ready for the next phase in its development and we welcome everyone to participate as equals as we move forward.

Oracle’s decision to submit NetBeans to the ASF Incubator came as a surprise to many in 2016. At that time, OSI President Simon Phipps shared his thoughts about the benefits he saw for the project moving to open governance under the ASF:

By moving to independent governance and losing the Oracle CLA, others can join in with confidence their contribution won’t be used against them. More importantly, contributors also no longer need fear the transient decisions of cost-cutting Oracle VPs impacting the long-term viability of the project. Oracle’s Java team still needs NetBeans in order to make tools releases supporting new capabilities in Java 9 and later, so are likely to engage. Rather than withdrawal, this looks more like leveraging the ecosystem around NetBeans to sustain development while keeping Oracle’s costs in line with the direct benefit NetBeans delivers to them.

According to the proposal submitted to the ASF for NetBeans’ acceptance into the Incubator, the majority of code contributions have come from Oracle since it acquired Sun Microsystems. In addressing some of the known risks Oracle faces in contributing NetBeans to the ASF, the proposal states that “the size and diversity of the community is a guarantee against the project being orphaned.”

NetBean’s proposal said the purpose of moving NetBeans to Apache is to “expand the diversity of contributors and to increase the level of meritocracy.” The project already has a good foundation to build on, as its application framework is used by large companies and organizations, including Boeing, Airbus Defense and Space, NASA, and NATO, that depend on NetBeans for building mission critical scientific software. This new era of open governance should give the community a stronger sense of ownership and stimulate greater levels of contribution across the project.

Source: WP Tavern

Clean Blocks: A Free Multipurpose WordPress Theme Compatible with Gutenberg

Clean Blocks is a new free theme from Catch Themes that was released last week on WordPress.org. The design is suitable for businesses, agencies, freelancers, and other service professionals who require featured content, a portfolio, testimonials, a blog, and a services section.

Clean Blocks includes basic Gutenberg compatibility in that it supports all core blocks and is has a few enhanced block styles.

It may seem unnecessary to specify that it is Gutenberg-compatible, since the editor has been part of WordPress core since early December 2018. However, more than half of all WordPress users (~55%) are not running version 5.0+. Nearly 30% are hanging back at 4.9 and 25% are on even older versions.

Theme authors who create products that have Gutenberg-only features are not yet building for the majority of WordPress users. These authors are carving a path for the future of theme development. The Clean Blocks theme doesn’t really fall into this category, as its essentially enables users on WordPress 5.0+ to continue using the new editor without any styling issues. It is also compatible with earlier versions of WordPress (4.8+).

Clean Blocks recommends a collection of Catch Themes’ functionality plugins upon theme activation. These plugins handle things like galleries, infinite scroll, Instagram feeds, widgets, and additional content types. The theme includes dozens of options in the Customizer for controlling nearly every aspect of how content is displayed – from excerpt length to categories displayed on the home page to header text color. This sort of overloaded Customizer options panel is common for multipurpose style themes, and many users have come to expect it.

Check out a demo of the free version to see all the features in action.

The name “Clean Blocks” implies that the theme goes beyond the basics to customize the Gutenberg experience, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. The vast majority of the features seen in the demo are controlled by the Customizer. For example, features like Testimonials and Services are not available as blocks. While some theme authors opt to integrate features like this by pairing their themes with block collection plugins, Catch Themes has put everything into the Customizer.

Even with Gutenberg compatibility, many themes still have a disconnect between the back and frontend where certain features can only be configured in the Customizer. This fractured customization experience is one of the necessary evils for this transition time before the block editor is fully capable of handling more complex aspects of site customization.

Clean Blocks is an example of a multipurpose theme that is essentially keeping it old school in terms of content customization, while providing basic Gutenberg compatibility for users who are running WordPress 5.0+. The theme is available on WordPress.org and has already been downloaded several hundred times during its first week in the directory.

Source: WP Tavern

Laraberg, a Gutenberg Implementation for Laravel, is Now in Beta

The family of Gutenberg derivatives is expanding with the beta release of Laraberg, an implementation for Laravel. Maurice Wijnia, a developer at Van Ons, an agency based in Amsterdam, created Laraberg as an easy way for developers building applications with Laravel to integrate the Gutenberg editor. It includes a simple API and support for the Laravel File Manager for uploading files.

“The goal for Laraberg is to give developers the ability to add the Gutenberg editor to any page they like in a way that is as easy as possible, but at the same time it has to prove enough options to tailor the editor so it can fit into any Laravel project out there,” Wijnia said.

Van Ons has a preference for using Laravel in their projects, due to its increasing popularity and active community. Laraberg makes it possible for the agency to tap into the convenience of the Gutenberg editor without giving up the performance and features they enjoy in the Laravel framework. The beta release is now available on GitHub and Pacagist. Van Ons plans to actively implement Laraberg in their own projects and will also be collecting feedback from beta testers.

Wijnia said he was inspired by the Drupal Gutenberg project, whose creators also authored Gutenberg.js, a package that makes it easier to bring Gutenberg into other applications. Providing a foundation for using Gutenberg on any CMS or framework is part of Frontkom’s long term vision for improving the open web and enabling communities to collaborate on mutually beneficial extensions.

As the editor continues to expand to more platforms and frameworks, a CMS-agnostic block library would offer a central place for Gutenberg’s increasingly diverse user base to discover new blocks. WordPress.org has the opportunity to provide that in its own block library, with the support of the Gutenberg Cloud team that pioneered the idea in 2018.

“If Gutenberg Cloud can serve as a proof of concept that WP.org can later adopt as their own, we are happy,” Frontkom CTO Per Andre Rønsen said. He also further commented on the WordPress.org Block Library proposal, advocating for the team to grow their vision beyond the WordPress community only. No official decision has been announced yet. If WordPress decides to forgo the opportunity of providing a block library inclusive of other frameworks and platforms, then the Gutenberg Cloud will continue to be the place for discovering blocks that can be used across multiple platforms.

Source: WP Tavern

Henry Zhu Launches New Maintainers Anonymous Podcast

Maintainers Anonymous is a new podcast created by Henry Zhu, who has been the primary maintainer of Babel for the past two years. Babel is a JavaScript compiler used by Facebook, Netflix, Spotify, and millions of others. It is downloaded over 18 million times per month and used by more than 1.8 million repositories on GitHub. Zhu recently left his job at Adobe to work on Babel and open source full-time.

In his new podcast, Zhu is talking with other maintainers to unearth their valuable perspectives and share similar struggles. By presenting them as regular people, rather than faceless code projects, Zhu is aiming to encourage empathy for maintainers.

Maintainers Anonymous is centered around the “how” of maintenance and Zhu is open to having guests from a variety of fields and disciplines, such as a librarian, gardener, or moderator. In an episode titled “Speedrunning with Omnigamer,” Zhu and his first guest, Eric Koziel, discuss the intricacies of “speedrunning,” playing a video game with the goal of beating it as fast as possible. Koziel describes it as a medium for doing an optimization challenge. Since the games are just software, he and Zhu explored how speedrunning intersects with coding and talked about some of the parallels with maintaining open source software.

The next two episodes are a series with guest Stephanie Hurlburt, a graphics engineer and owner of the company that makes Basis, an image/texture compression product. They delve deeper into how business development is relevant to open source, setting healthy boundaries, inherent vs. perceived value, marketing, and more.

If you’re looking for a new podcast to add to your subscriptions, Zhu’s Maintainers Anonymous offers a wide variety of topics and perspectives that touch on open source, maintainership, and other aspects of life and business in the world of technology. New episodes are available on the podcast’s website, and listeners can also subscribe via RSS, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or Spotify. Follow @MaintainersAnono on Twitter for all the latest.

Source: WP Tavern

Celebrate Earth Day by Learning about Environmentally Friendly Web Development on WordPress.tv

Today is Earth Day, a worldwide annual event first celebrated in 1970 that focuses on addressing environmental concerns. Earth Day Network coordinates 192 countries with more than a billion people participating in today’s event. The organization uses WordPress to build the world’s largest environmental movement through education, public policy, and consumer campaigns.

Over the past few years, environmentally-friendly web development has become an increasingly popular topic at WordCamps. Several presentations are available on WordPress.tv that highlight how web developers have the ability to make a positive impact on reducing the internet’s carbon footprint.

Jenn Schlick, a project manager at the MIT Energy Initiative, was one of the first WordCamp speakers to bring greater awareness to this topic with her presentation on Low-Carbon Web Design at WordCamp Finland in 2016. She explained a few ways that developers can minimize a website’s carbon footprint by choosing online services that are powered by renewable energy and optimizing for performance.

In 2017, Tom Greenwood gave a presentation titled Zero Carbon WordPress that challenged the community to help tackle climate change. With WordPress powering such a large percentage of the web, the community has the opportunity to lead the way in developing sites that use less energy, powered by hosts that run on renewable energy sources.

More recently, Jack Lenox spoke at WordCamp Bordeaux 2019 on “How better performing websites can help save the planet.” His presentation had a stronger emphasis on performance with practical steps for simplifying the interface, reducing code, using the right image file types, caching, accessibility, and more.

Lenox has also created a tiny WordPress theme called Susty that he said is “an experiment in minimalism.” It loads WordPress with just 6KB of data transfer.

At WordCamp Nordic 2019, Jaakko Alajoki gave a presentation titled Environmentally friendly WordPress development, with experiments that used a Raspberry Pi web server and power meter to demonstrate power consumption. The session should be available on WordPress.tv soon.

Source: WP Tavern

AMP Plugin for WordPress 1.1 Adds Experimental PWA Plugin Integration, Pre-release of AMP Stories Editor Available in 1.2-alpha

Version 1.1 of the AMP Plugin for WordPress was released this week after four months in development and 125 merged pull requests from contributors. It includes CSS tree shaking improvements that restore AMP compatibility for WordPress’ default Twenty Nineteen theme, reducing the size of its stylesheet by 53%.

In an effort to get more users opting for the Native mode option, the plugin’s development team has rebranded the template modes:

In this release the Paired mode has been rebranded as Transitional mode. One reason for this is that the classic mode was also a paired mode (where there are separate parallel URLs for the AMP version). But more importantly, the goal for this mode is to help facilitate a transition a site to being AMP-first, where there is no separate AMP-specific URLs. So the goal of the Transitional mode is to be a path to Native mode.

The team has also decided to rebrand Classic mode to “Reader” mode, instead of deprecating it. It provides a basic AMP template for getting started that doesn’t necessarily match the site’s theme. Users can can add an “Exit Reader Mode” to the header of their sites with a setting in the Customizer.

Version 1.1 introduces compatibility with the PWA feature plugin, bringing support for the service worker to AMP pages. It extends the service worker to cache AMP CDN assets, images, and Google Fonts. Since the PWA feature plugin is still under active development, the service worker integration is still considered experimental.

Support for creating AMP Stories in WordPress is the next major feature coming to the plugin. A pre-release of the AMP Stories editor is available in 1.2 alpha 1, which also requires the latest version of the Gutenberg plugin. It uses the Gutenberg editor to allow users to build AMP stories with rich media capabilities.

Amp stories

A preview of the AMP Stories editor was unveiled at AMP Conf 2019 in Tokyo, Japan. Check out the video below to see Alberto Medina give a quick demonstration of how it will work in the upcoming version 1.2 of the AMP for WordPress plugin.

Source: WP Tavern

WordPress 5.2 Will Add 13 New Icons to the Dashicon Library

Dashicons, the WordPress admin icon font, will be getting its first update in three years when WordPress 5.2 ships. The library will be updated to use WOFF2 (Web Open Font Format 2), replacing the previous WOFF 1.0 format for improved compression. WOFF 1.0 will still be included in core to maintain backwards compatibility.

In addition to the new font file format, Dashicons is adding 13 new icons to the library and CSS declarations for 18 icons that were previously unavailable. The additions span a range of categories, including Buddicons, Core Teams, sites, menus, social, and miscellaneous.

Nate Allen, a Senior Web Engineer at 10up, is a new contributor to the Dashicons library, even though he is not a designer.

“WordPress has had a ‘businessman’ dashicon for as long as I can remember, but didn’t have a female or gender neutral version – until now!” Allen said.

“Previously I worked for Firefly Partners, an agency that builds WordPress sites for nonprofits. I was working on a project for a woman’s rights organization that needed a ‘staff’ post type. It was a little awkward explaining to them that there was a ‘businessman’ icon we could use for free, or they could pay extra to have a custom ‘businesswoman’ icon designed. Not a great look for WordPress.”

Allen submitted a GitHub issue, to see if someone would be willing to create a “businesswoman” and “businessperson” icon, but nobody had the time. Dashicons is maintained by a volunteer team and it can take a long time to get new icons designed.

“About 5-6 months later I learned how to use Illustrator to create vector icons and submitted the icons myself,” Allen said. He submitted the PR and the new icons he created will be included in the next release of WordPress.

These business people icons are useful for projects that include creating things like custom post types for bios, testimonials, team members, and job postings. WordPress 5.2’s updates to Dashicons make the library more inclusive and useful for more diverse projects.

Source: WP Tavern

WooCommerce 3.6 Released with New Product Blocks and Major Performance Improvements

WooCommerce 3.6 was released this week after six months in development. Store owners with sites running on WordPress 5.0+ will now have access to eight new product blocks, including hand picked products, featured products, products by category/attribute, sale products, new products, top rated, products, and best selling products.

These blocks were previously available as a feature plugin but have now been rolled into WooCommerce core. The plugin now requires WooCommerce 3.6 and will continue to be used for iterating and exploring future WooCommerce block editor features.

Performance improvements were one of the major focuses for this version, which introduces product data lookup tables. WooCommerce core developers’ long term plan is to move post meta to custom tables and a feature plugin is currently in development towards this goal. In the meantime, lookup tables provide a structured index for product data that speeds up querying. This version also brings improvements to transient invalidation, changes to REST API initialization, caching improvements, and more.

WooCommerce developer Timmy Crawford highlighted a few frontend performance improvements in the 3.6 release post:

  • A 62% improvement in the load time when ordering and filtering products
  • Reduced overall load time by bypassing inactive webhooks
  • Reduced the load time for pages with category or product attribute lists
  • Reduced load time of product pages with attributes

This release also includes the controversial new marketplace suggestions that advertise official extensions inside the WooCommerce admin. The setting for turning them off can be found under the “Accounts & Privacy” section of the admin.

For the full list of additional enhancements in 3.6, check out the release post or view the plugin’s changelog. The release should be backwards compatible with sites running WooCommerce 3.0+, but testing how the update affects themes and extensions is highly recommended before updating. Version 3.6.1 was released today to fix some issues 3.6.0 had with certain hosting environments.

Source: WP Tavern

Gutenberg 5.5 Adds New Group Block for Nesting Child Blocks

Gutenberg 5.5 was released with the long-awaited Group block, previously known as the Section block. It was renamed to avoid confusion with the HTML5 section element and prevent potential overlap with future site/theme type sections, such as headers, sidebars, and footers. The first iteration of the Group block supports the ability to nest other blocks inside it and the ability to align the block and any of its child blocks that include alignment settings.

group block

“It’s a minimal version at the moment and improvements about the flows to add inner blocks, group/ungroup blocks are expected in follow-up releases,” Gutenberg phase 2 technical lead Riad Benguella said. In testing the feature I found that it is indeed a rocky start and far from intuitive to use but a more refined grouping experience will be developed after further testing and feedback.

The Group block lays the foundation for a future where WordPress themes may evolve to become block templates. In response to a comment about how the Group block could essentially replace the widget management interface, Benguella offered a glimpse of how Gutenberg will eventually transform the theme industry:

In a world where themes are made of block templates instead of php templates, there’s no need for widget areas.

That said, Gutenberg is a huge change for WordPress and its community. With the new blocks concept, Phase 2 is about helping the WordPress community adopt this new concept without completely changing what a theme means in WordPress. We shouldn’t just abandon existing themes and switch into full-site editing without an iterative plan.

We’ll eventually get there where everything is made of block templates and blocks but we need to make smaller steps first and the first one is the ability to use blocks instead of widgets in existing themes.

Gutenberg 5.5 also adds the image fill option and vertical alignment support to the Media and Text blocks.

This release also includes a few minor but useful improvements, such as automatically populating the link field when the selected text is an email.

The Gutenberg team is also making progress on the new widgets screen with a barebones testing version in place that will allow them to start investigating and tackling technical issues related to this screen. It’s not functional yet but provides a place to further explore the block editor in this context.

The bug fixes included in Gutenberg 5.5 will be in the upcoming WordPress 5.2 release, which was previously targeted for April 30. There is currently a proposal open for pushing it back to May 7, due to the number of open tickets.

Source: WP Tavern