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New features in Craft CMS 4

6.5 min read

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Craft 4 was launched on May 4th, 2022, bringing improvements across the board, particularly an (even more) improved backend authoring experience.

Those of you who know us know that one of our biggest shout-outs about Craft CMS is how blooming easy it is for site owners and editors to manage the content and assets on their websites. It's game-changing, and we can't wax lyrical enough! This improvement is, therefore, super exciting to us as an agency, especially as the update from Craft 2 to 3 was focussed on the underlying framework, so as a site editor, there wasn't much difference to see.

This time, there absolutely is! Here's our round-up of our favourite new features in Craft CMS 4...

Authoring experience

One bugbear we have had with Craft 3, is that draft and revision creation can be a bit slow, especially on pages with complex content models and multi-site installs. This is significantly improved in Craft 4, with entries saving substantially faster. A huge bonus!

Creating a site that performs for all users is of the utmost importance to us, and it's not only relevant to the frontend of the site but the backend too. Craft 4 has drastically improved authoring accessibility, which improves the experience for all, particularly those using assistive technologies like screen readers.

Category drafts
In Craft 3 only Entries have drafts functionality, allowing for rollback and reversion; a useful fail-safe for content editors. Craft 4 now includes draft support for Categories as well. Anything that can help to mitigate human error is a plus - peace of mind for the site admin and for the agency.

Element index filtering
In Craft 4 Entries can be filtered by any data source (for example, by Entry Type or Author) determined by the editor. In Craft 3, filtering was possible, but only by criteria pre-determined by the developer. Giving content editors this additional flexibility and control to make the backend work harder for them is a welcome addition.

Custom element sources
In Craft 4, editors can search for any Entry using an array of fields, making it super easy and quick to find Entries based on set criteria (for example, any entry published by a specific author). Similar to the index filtering outlined above, this makes the backend more intuitive and flexible to use, further improving the authoring experience.

Conditional fields
In Craft 3, all field layout elements and tabs were displayed in the template from the get-go. When you're working to give the editor as much flexibility and control over their content as possible, this can lead to components with A LOT of fields. In Craft 4, these can now be configured so that the Fields displayed are determined based on previous choices (for example a video URL field will only be displayed if a video is chosen over a static image in a hero). This cleans up and slims down the components hugely, making it quicker, easier, and more streamlined for the editor - we love this one.

Relation conditions
One of the key features of Craft is the ability to create links between content to ensure super smooth user journeys which encourage click-through. In Craft 4, there is the ability to limit which Entries should be relatable - a working example would be that we can limit disabled Entries from being relatable. This reduces human error and ensures your content relationships will work as hard as possible.

New element editor slideouts
In Craft 4, element editor slideouts (like a preview) now support provisional drafts and autosaving. This allows the editor to edit related data in the slider without leaving the entry they are actively working on. This makes it quick and easier to make updates on the fly (and without having to navigate to that section), which is a big win.

Element auto-refreshing
When an Entry is updated and saved in Craft 4 other open browser tabs are now notified, so they can automatically refresh any references to the same element. This means if there are multiple editors, changes made by one will auto-update for the others, removing the risk of overwriting work.

User management

User names
In previous versions of Craft, Users had their 'First Name' and 'Last Name' in separate fields. In Craft 4, Users now have a single 'Full Name' field, which makes it neater. First and last names are now parsed from their full names and are still available for sorting purposes, so no functionality is lost with this feature update - win, win.

Address management
In Craft 4, addresses are stored (and managed) against the User rather than as related customer data. This is more relevant to Craft Commerce or SaaS websites but is a good win as it allows for much easier User location and management than previously available.

Expanded formatting locale support
A site's global locale (which serves the frontend) is set in the control panel, but in Craft 4, Users can now set their own individual Formatting Locale to any known locale. This means that if you have editors in different locations across the World, they can tailor their authoring experience (date and time display formatting and language) to suit them. As we grow our international client base, this is a great sell-in for large global companies.

Asset management

Easier focal point adjustments
Updating images directly in Craft has always been a big one for our in-house and client content editors. Craft 4 now makes this even easier and quicker by giving the option to edit images’ focal points from their preview modals, in addition to within the Image Editor. Anything that makes things quicker and more intuitive is a bonus - we love this one.

Alternative text
In Craft 4, images have a dedicated 'alt text' field to fully customise alt text. This gives the editor much more freedom for creating longer, more descriptive alternative text, which will support site visitors using screen readers and the site's visibility in search. A great addition.

There is also a whole host of development-related improvements, which our dev team is geeking out about. Itching to know more? Get the lowdown directly from Craft.

Should you make the move?

If you're running a site on Craft 3, there is no immediate rush to upgrade, as Craft 3 will continue to be fully supported until 30th April 2023, with security fixes in place until 30th April 2024.

Having said that, now that the end-of-life date for Craft 3 has been announced, it’s good practice to start planning the upgrade process as soon as possible, and if you plan on working on a significant design or feature update, bundling it in with an update to Craft 4 is a no brainer.

Lastly, it's worth noting that the launch of Craft 4 marks the start of an annual release cycle for Craft CMS, where major versions will be released each year. This means new features, more regular and less breaking changes - a great move forward for the platform.

If you want to move your website onto Craft 4 or want more information, please get in touch with one of our team.

Lauren Article

Lauren Swarbrick

Lauren has decades of experience forming authentic client partnerships and has a genuine desire to create better agency-client relationships.

She has specialist knowledge in digital strategy and digital branding.

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