By any measure, WordPress is the most popular content management system on the planet. So any upgrade to the open source platform is important news for publishers and webmasters who use this popular CMS.

Version 4.5 is inching closer to a final release, as it recently leapt to Beta 2 from the first iteration. Beta 3 is expected to be released tomorrow, followed by Beta 4 on March 17, release candidate on March 24 and the final version on April 12. 

That final release date coincides with Facebook's rollout of its Instant Articles program to publishers “of any size, anywhere in the world." 

Just yesterday, Facebook announced that it is releasing an Instant Article WordPress plugin to make it easy for WordPress blogs to offer their content in Instant Articles. But before we get to that, let's look at what's new in the upcoming WordPress release.

You can try out the WordPress beta now and explore the new features, which address the needs of responsive sites and add improvements to composing articles. They’re part of a large batch of fixes and other improvements for the CMS software, which powers about more than 25 per cent of the world’s websites or nearly 50 percent of the top million sites, according to Sydney, Australia-based BuiltWith

Improved Creation Tools

The most noticeable changes come to the visual editor. For example, using the keyboard shortcut of Command K or Ctrl K will now show an inline, insert-link menu. This replaces the current pop-up, which can break up the workflow by forcing you to go an extra step.

There are also additional formatting markup shortcuts, such as the ability to type in ‘code’ to insert code or **bold** to embolden some text.

Another improvement that might speed up the workflow is theme logo support. With this, you’ll be able to tweak and customize your logo directly from a WordPress customization tool, instead of hopping over to another program.

Getting Responsive

If your web site has embraced responsive design (and it’s probably behind the times if it hasn’t) then a couple of other changes will certainly be welcome.

You’ll now see previews of how responsive the site actually is in the customizer, which lets you tweak the colors and other aspects of the particular theme you’ve deployed on your site. This will give you an instant overview of how the site will look on a phone, tablet or PC.

The other aspect of this is further image optimization, which will reduce the image by 50 percent without decreasing the quality for smaller screens. This pledge is probably one to keep an eye on as you’re testing it across different platforms. 

Other Site Management Aides

Managing comments can sometimes feel like trying to squash all the cockroaches in an old apartment building. At least from the looks of it, a new comment management system might make this a more pleasant experience.

According to WordPress documentation, moderating comments gets an “enhanced experience,” which is to include a preview mode and rendered formatting.

Also, there are over 100 bug fixes from the first to second version of the beta. While the overall interface isn’t a major revamp, these several changes should add up to to give website managers a number of new tools.

If you want to try your hands at any of these features yourself, you can grab the WordPress Beta Tester as a plugin for your site. As is typical with any beta software, WordPress cautions that you probably shouldn’t deploy it on a site unless you’re willing to experience some bugs. If you’re truly adventurous, there is an option to flip on a more experimental mode that will put you right on the bleeding edge of development. 

Facebook Connection

In other significant WordPress related news, Facebook announced yesterday that it’s partnering with WordPress.com’s parent Automattic to release an Instant Article WordPress plugin. The news comes just weeks before Facebook's April 12 rollout its Instant Articles program to publishers “of any size, anywhere in the world.”  In a blog post yesterday, the WordPress team noted that its free plugin will enable publishers to prepare "self-hosted or VIP WordPress for the demands of this new channel."

Facebook noted that the plugin offers "a seamless way to adapt web content for the Instant Articles format, with a built-in suite of interactive tools that help stories come to life on mobile."

facebook instant articles

"For example, the plugin recognizes the image found in this Foreign Policy article and specifies the correct markup so the photo renders properly in the Instant Article. The photo expands to fill the screen when tapped and allows exploration by simply tilting the phone," the Facebook blog post explained.

The plugin is open-source and customizable. Its documentation is available on Github.

Last month, WordPress released a plugin adds support for Google's Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Project, an open source initiative that aims to provide mobile optimized content that can load instantly everywhere.