This week, Nick Halsey officially proposed the Customizer Theme Switcher feature plugin for merge into WordPress 4.2. Halsey summarizes the goal of bringing theme switching into the customizer: “By integrating themes directly into the Customizer, live-previewing workflows are greatly simplified, and the relationship between themes and theme/site options is clarified for the user,” he said.
Halsey explained that the new UI is part of a long-term plan to move all the “Appearance” functionality into the customizer. “The future roadmap includes Menus, Theme-Install, and iterations on widgets that would allow the customizer to entirely replace those admin screens for most users,” he said.
His proposal includes a video that demonstrates how a user might scroll through the customizer to browse and preview available themes.
It’s important to note that if this feature plugin is cleared for merge, users will not have to search for and install themes from the narrow customizer pane. The Customizer Theme Switcher is intended for previewing and activating themes that have already been installed. Contributors on the project are proposing that WordPress 4.2 redirect the “Themes” link that appears in the frontend admin bar to the customizer, instead of the backend.
In the future, Halsey plans to integrate theme installation into the customizer, but this is a larger effort that will be added to the project in a later release. Coming up with a UI that doesn’t make this a cramped and inconvenient experience is going to be a challenge.
For more technical details on the proposed core changes and merge implementation, check out Halsey’s post on the Make/Core blog. If you want to test out the new UI for theme switching, you can download the Customizer Theme Switcher plugin from WordPress.org.
The feature plugin merge window will be closing the week of February 25th, and the official release is targeted for the week of April 22nd. Updates on whether or not the Customizer Theme Switcher is approved for merge will be available within the next few weeks.