New Plugin Adds Changelog Support to WordPress Themes in the Admin

photo credit: Luis Llerena
photo credit: Luis Llerena

When a WordPress plugin has an update available, it comes with a “View Details” link where users can read the changelog before updating. Clicking the details link launches the changelog section of the readme.txt file in a modal window.

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Themes, on the other hand, do not have a link to view details, because WordPress.org doesn’t currently support the display of theme change logs.

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A new plugin called WP Theme Changelogs adds support for changelogs to WordPress.org-hosted themes by parsing the theme’s readme.txt file. After installing the plugin, theme updates will have a “View details” link similar to plugin updates.

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The plugin requires two things in order to be able to accurately display version update details: a valid readme.txt and a changelog section inside that file. Unfortunately, not many theme authors are writing changelogs along with their updates.

In February 2016, the Theme Review Team recommended that authors start keeping a changelog in recognition of the benefits for users and the likelihood that it will become a requirement in the future.

The team is slowly working towards adding changelog support, but several hurdles remain. These include two trac tickets: one for adding change logs to the WordPress.org theme listing tabs and another for exposing the change log to users in the WordPress admin (which is what the WP Theme Changelogs plugin does.)

The plugin was created by ThemeZee, a Germany-based theme shop with 32 themes hosted on WordPress.org. I tested WP Theme Changelogs and found that it works as expected. When you see it in action on a theme that details its changes, it’s clear to see how beneficial this communication would be for users in the admin. Instead of updating themes blindly, a clear list of details will help users know where to look if anything breaks or changes unexpectedly.

6 Comments


  1. Changelog is crucial in themes for maintaining child themes. It’s boring to search for changed files in parent theme…

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  2. Very nice! I still have no idea why this isn’t in core. I hate not knowing what’s happening when I update themes.

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  3. Finaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaally

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  4. I’d love to see this plugin search for a “changelog.md” or similarly-named files too. I always include this in my themes.

    Until we get WordPress.org support for it, change logs aren’t going to be in most themes. And, to be honest, the biggest issue is going to be not breaking stuff if/when .ORG adds support for a “readme.txt”. There are many themes with this file, but the formatting is wildly inconsistent because of the lack of a standard.

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    1. Yes, every theme developer uses a different approach for changelogs. I used to include a changelog.txt in all my themes.

      I personally switched to use the readme.txt for changelogs for the following reasons:

      1) There is already a valid standard for the readme.txt for WordPress plugins.

      2) Therefore there exist already classes to parse the readme.txt which I could utilize for the plugin.

      3) Otto said on the Theme Changelog proposal that readme.txt will be the way to go: https://make.wordpress.org/themes/2015/04/26/changelog-proposal/#comment-41266

      So when theme changelogs come to WordPress Core they most likely will be using readme.txt.

      As result I think it is better to get theme authors to include a valid readme.txt in their themes, rather than support all different types of files and formats.

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  5. Thanks for sharing my plugin, I highly appreciate it. Totally missed the post though :)

    Theme Changelogs were often requested by my users and ideally changes can be viewed before the update, not afterwards. I got the idea for the plugin from the great Software Licensing add-on from Easy Digital Downloads, which allows to parse the readme.txt of products.

    I really hope that changelogs are included in WordPress Core eventually, making this plugin obsolete.

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