Textpattern 4.8.5 is nearly ready for you. Since the release of Textpattern 4.8.4 in November 2020, the Textpattern development team have further improved our content management system for users around the world. The headline changes include enhanced support and bug fixes around the recently-released PHP 8.0, tweaks to tag attributes, and handling of PHP within articles & forms for users with lower permissions levels.

We are intending for Textpattern 4.8.5 to be the final release in the 4.8 series. Work is already underway on Textpattern 4.9, a ‘big’ release in our terms, and we will give it our full development attention when we know Textpattern 4.8 has flown the nest.

The collaborative nature of Textpattern development means code can be downloaded from our GitHub project repository at any time during the active development process. As we approach a new release, development is frozen on that version and our focus switches to testing. This is a userbase call-to-action that widens our reach for systems we can deploy to. It’s vitally important that Textpattern works well on a wide range of supported environments, and our scope for this testing is much broader when we can engage with enthusiastic testers with access to various types of hosting usually outside our reach. Time and attention spent on testing the pre-release code will reap benefits for everyone involved: you’ll be a part of the team of people making Textpattern 4.8.5 as good as it can be.

If you’re experienced with Textpattern, whether you’re an administrator, power user or part of our street team, and you have access to a web server on which our software can be installed, we’d really appreciate you testing the latest snapshot of the pre-release Textpattern 4.8.5. If you find anything out of place, or unexpected behaviour, we want to hear from you as soon as possible.

Download and extract this filegithub.com/textpattern/textpattern/archive/4.8.5.zip

Please note that the above link will not work after Textpattern 4.8.5 is released as a production version, as the 4.8.5 branch of our development tree is pruned. Code is poetry and topiary, evidently.

You’ll find an up-to-date HISTORY.txt file in the archive, which outlines what’s changed as of that snapshot. Before you do anything else with the code, please read and understand the following:

It’s currently pre-release software

…and accordingly is not recommended for deployment to production systems. We’re testing it as we build, and it’s built upon production-grade code from Textpattern’s 15-plus-year history – but we need to test it further before we can make it into a full release and give it our stamp of approval.

We want to make sure it works as expected on as wide a variety of supported systems as is viable, but please be mindful where you deploy it. Clearly there’s nothing to stop you pushing this to production, especially if your workflow is bulletproof. We often find some wild and complex Textpattern sites using tags and features in ways we’d never imagine, and these are great environments for us to battle-test Textpattern. In short: tread carefully.

Crib notes in `README.txt`; release notes in `HISTORY.txt`

Check the README.txt file for any changes to the installation and/or upgrade method(s), especially if you’re upgrading older Textpattern sites. We strive to make Textpattern installations and upgrades as straightforward as possible, but take a few minutes to make sure you know what’s going on before you start. Undertake file + database backups and check they are valid before you upgrade any of your Textpattern sites. Know how to restore your site backups if something does go awry. It’s much better to have backups and not need them than deal with the panic that happens when a site misbehaves after an upgrade.

Things to test

We are particularly interested in your feedback in these areas:

Tags

  • check trim / replace tag attributes work as expected
  • check break & wraptag tag attributes work as expected: break is now a global attribute although it’s only of use in tags that iterate over lists or can split their output into chunks
  • ensure tags-in-attributes work as expected
  • ensure incorrect attributes (i.e. those not designed for a particular tag, or mis-spelled attributes) continue to throw warnings
  • try injecting <txp:php /> tag in any way you can imagine under low-privilege user types accounts (Staff Writer and below) to ensure it’s not possible
  • conversely, check <txp:php /> tags work as expected under Publisher through Copy Editor accounts
  • check <txp:php /> tags are executed inside Forms, even if your current user does not have permission to add/alter PHP code. We’ve changed the way the tag works. See the Form behaviour thread in the Textpattern user forum.
  • test the ‘tag order’ square bracket syntax. The processing order of tags can now be altered instead of being ‘top down’ (linear). See this example over on our forum.
  • expose the Advanced prefs and alter the “Number of extra parser sweeps” parameter to 0. Then run through your site and thoroughly check all your tags and plugin tags are parsed and there are no <txp:…> tags left unprocessed in the source code. This will helps us to phase out this secondpass and further improve Textpattern’s security.

PHP interaction

  • ensure the installer works without issue on PHP 8.0 on a variety of MySQL flavours, be they original or off-brand forks, derivates or remixes

Admin-side interface

  • check Diagnostics for any errors relating to being unable to contact our server to check for an update

Timing

Textpattern 4.8.5 code is in ‘fixes only’ mode from now until we release it. Release schedules depend on reported issues being assessed and addressed where needed, and we’re currently hoping to release Textpattern 4.8.5 during February 2021. Please note this is provisional, especially if complex bugs are discovered and need to be fixed. In short: it’s coming soon, but it’s ready when it’s ready.

Issues

We track issues on GitHub and assign a target release for their resolution. You can refer to the Textpattern 4.8.5 issues milestone at any time. If you see an issue that you can help with, we’d gratefully accept your help, contributions and advice. Collaboration is the lifeblood of our project.

You can raise a new Textpattern issue via GitHub, whether it’s something you’ve discovered with Textpattern 4.8.5 or a previous release. Please note that if you’re running an older version of Textpattern, your issue may have been addressed already. We also have a Textpattern 4.8.5 testing forum thread if you’d like to get involved away from GitHub.

The full list of Textpattern issues is open for anyone to view and investigate. If you are considering becoming a contributor to an open source software project, this may be a good opportunity for you to test the waters. If you see an issue you can assist with, in whatever form that presents as, please get involved.

The big day!

We’re really looking forward to releasing Textpattern 4.8.5 soon, and we’re grateful for your assistance as we evolve our testing procedures. We’ll announce the release in the usual channels, and we’ll raise a glass to you at the socially-distanced wrap party!