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.
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.
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.
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.