BLUF: We are releasing Textpattern 4.8.8 to provide PHP 8.1.0 compatibility, fix some bugs, and add some new features. We expect PHP 8.1.0 to appear in late November 2021. We will test the current Textpattern development code against PHP 8.1.0, address any bugs, and release a Textpattern beta (i.e. v4.8.8-beta.1) for public testing. Based on beta feedback and further testing, we will either release another beta (i.e. v4.8.8-beta.2), or move to the Textpattern 4.8.8 production release (i.e. v4.8.8). We expect Textpattern 4.8.8 to be generally available in December 2021.

This article outlines our release plan for Textpattern 4.8.8, the next instalment in the Textpattern 4.8 series.

Textpattern milestones

Textpattern’s development is currently focussed on two upcoming milestones: releasing Textpattern 4.8.8 in Q4 2021, and the Textpattern 4.9 series of releases. Development work on Textpattern 4.9 is ongoing, while the flight plan for Textpattern 4.8.8 is much clearer.

Recent PHP versions

Since PHP 7.0, a new minor release of PHP appears in Q4. In recent years, we’ve had:

  • PHP 7.0.0 – December 2015
  • PHP 7.1.0 – December 2016
  • PHP 7.2.0 – November 2017
  • PHP 7.3.0 – December 2018
  • PHP 7.4.0 – November 2019
  • PHP 8.0.0 – November 2020

PHP releases follow a defined roadmap of alpha, beta and release candidates. After the initial minor release (e.g. PHP 7.4.0), a patch release (e.g. PHP 7.4.1) is typically made available every 4 weeks thereafter. This provides the Textpattern development team with a schedule & framework on which we can develop, iterate, optimise and test against the changes made in PHP releases. The changes often include performance enhancements and optimisations, while maintaining backward compatibility for supported versions.

Textpattern 4.8.8 release scope and schedule

Textpattern 4.8.8 is primarily aimed at adding support for PHP 8.1.0. The PHP 8.1.0 timetable lists late November 2021 for the production release. We expect to release a beta version of Textpattern 4.8.8 around the same time. Depending on the feedback of the beta testing, we will then opt to release another beta for further examination, or move straight to the production release of Textpattern 4.8.8. This release – a second beta or the production release – be made available during December 2021.

We will announce the Textpattern beta release here on our blog, along with a call for testers to put it through the wringer. The more bugs we can squash before the production release, the better everyone’s experience will be overall. Which leads nicely onto…

We endeavour to do as much of our release planning publicly, such is the nature of collaborative open source projects like Textpattern. Accordingly, we have a Textpattern 4.8.8 release flight plan over at GitHub. This is a living document which is updated regularly, especially as we approach and start the release process. The first post in the flight plan includes our up-to-date release schedule for Textpattern 4.8.8.

As much as Textpattern 4.8.8 is focussed on adding support for the next PHP release, there are additional changes to consider. You can always see what has changed in each release by referring to to the Textpattern release notes.

Please note: the changes outlined for each release relate to what changed since the previous release. If the Textpattern instance has missed one or more updates, be sure to check all the versions in between to gauge how the sites will be affected. We aim to make upgrading Textpattern as smooth and painless as possible, but it’s important to allot time to reading release notes and making a backup of your site before embarking on any changes.

Textpattern 4.8.9 or Textpattern 4.9.0?

After Textpattern 4.8.8 is released, we turn our development attention to the next release. Whether this next-but-one Textpattern release will be a patch (i.e. Textpattern 4.8.9) or a minor (i.e. Textpattern 4.9.0) is not yet decided. Every Textpattern release is a big deal for us, but the minor releases are the closest we get to ‘big’ in Textpattern terms. Minor releases typically include new functionality, overhauled features and stuff to really get your teeth into.

The good news is we have been working on Textpattern 4.9 development for some time already. If we need to make Textpattern 4.8.9 to address bugs, we will. When we’re sure that Textpattern 4.8 has grown up and flown the nest, we will switch to the Textpattern 4.9 series and we’ll make it as great as it can be. Regardless of whether we need to cut a patch release – or we aim squarely at big things for a minor release – we will communicate our plans here when we know. Thank you for your continued interest in Textpattern!