New WordPress ‘Text Widget’: some glitches

If you maintain your own WordPress website and use the Widgets feature to add bits of text or images or other content to the sidebar or footer of your site, it’s a good time to double check how that content is showing up properly.

WordPress is normally pretty good about making sure upgrades to the core software don’t break stuff on sites that were set up on older versions (this is called backwards compatibility).

However, we’ve noticed some glitches (as have others) related Text Widgets during the two most recent updates to WordPress (4.8 and 4.8.1, the latter of which was just released). The first made changes to how the “Text Widget” works. The latter added a new widget called “Custom HTML.”

The regular Text Widget now looks more like the content editor in posts and pages. There is a little toolbar that allows to bold or italicize text, or format something as a list, or add a link just as you do in a regular post or page.

It used to be you had to use raw HTML to do those things in the Text Widget. So this is nice from the perspective of ease of editing, and not needing to know HTML.

However, we’ve noticed some occasional missing text related to these updates. So, it’s a good time to check this out.

Here’s what to do

If we maintain your site

If we handle updates for your and/or host your site, we’ll make sure everything is OK. Stop reading now if you like and go about your business. In fact, you probably could have stopped reading a while ago (sorry about that).

Check your version

When you are logged in, look at your WordPress “Dashboard” page. It should tell you what version you are running. Or go to the “Dashboard >> Updates” page, and see if there are updates pending.

If your site is not yet upgraded to 4.8

  1. Go to the Widgets area and check if you have any Text Widgets. If so, open them up and take a look. Are there a lot of HTML tags, stuff that looks like: <a href=“blahblahblah”> …
  2. If so, copy what’s there and past it into a text file, just to be safe. If there is no HTML in your Text Widget, that is, there is just regular old text you should be fine.
  3. Go to the updates page and update WordPress.
  4. Go back to the Widgets page and look at those same Text Widgets.
  5. You might get a notice that you should use the “Custom HTML Widget.” So let’s do that. The new “Custom HTML” widget is basically what the Text Widget was before the upgrades. You can paste in raw HTML.
  6. Go ahead and move one of those Custom HTML widgets from the left side of the screen into the same area as your old Text Widget. Paste in the HTML content that was in the old widget. Save the new Custom HTML widget. Delete the old Text Widget.
  7. Check how it looks on the front end. Everything should look good.

If your site is at 4.8, but not yet at 4.8.1

  • Do Step 1 above. This is where we’ve noticed some weird things happening. The widget might look empty. Click on the “text” tab next to the “visual” tab. Still look empty? Click the “Save” button for that widget. Did you see the text appear? Copy it and save it in another document somewhere.
  • Follow Steps 3 through 7 above.

If your site is already updated to 4.8.1

  • Go through Steps 3 through 7 in the first set of instructions above.

If you have problems or questions, give us a call.

Bob Passaro

Bob specializes in web design and development and copywriting. Before joining Figoli Quinn, he was a freelance web developer, a copywriter at the Eugene marketing agency Cawood, and back in the distant past he was a newspaper editor and reporter. In another life, Bob might have been a bicycle courier – but he settles for occasionally hopping on his bike to deliver boxes of brochures or other items from the printer to a client. He serves on the board of Better Eugene Springfield Transportation (aka BEST) and the Events Committee of GreenLane Sustainable Business Network.

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