Magento CE 1.8 – What to Expect

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The 3rd annual Magento Imagine eConference took place in early April where over 1500 Magento merchants, developers and industry partners met.  One of the major announcements from the event was the release of both Magento Enterprise Edition 1.13 and Magento Community Edition 1.8.

In this article I’m going to highlight some of the main things we can expect when Magento CE 1.8 makes its way onto our web servers and what the future may hold for Magento.

Overview

The current version of Magento (1.7.0.2) was released a little under a year ago, given Magento’s previous almost monthly release cycle you would have been forgiven for thinking they’ve given up on the 1.x releases in favour of pushing ahead on the road to 2.0.

Fortunately, the announcement at Imagine 2013 shows us that they haven’t given up on the 1.x branch just yet; and sure enough in late April they released 1.8.0.0-alpha1 to the world. According to their official twitter account the final version of CE 1.8 is only just around the corner too.

Security

Magento as an eCommerce platform has always been relatively secure and with 1.8 comes several security improvements. The major changes are:

  • The admin panel will no longer store usernames or passwords.
  • The cryptographic method that is used to store passwords has been improved for greater security.
  • Improvements in security to counter Cross Site Request Forgery; which means an impostor can no longer hijack a newly created customer’s session and perform actions on their behalf.

Performance

One of the major gripes with Magento has always been its inability to handle large product catalogues. Version 1.8 has taken several steps to rectify this; including a new way of limiting how Magento performs large database lookups and protection against database deadlocks.

There are also changes in how Magento handles sites with a large amount of tax codes – now you can have over 35,000 individual tax codes without adversely affecting the performance of the website – perfect for stores that have a global presence.

The checkout is another area that’s had improvements to its speed, now only information relating to the current step is loaded and several unnecessary calls have been eliminated – which should ensure customers get through the checkout a lot faster.

Tax

Tax is the area in 1.8 that’s had the biggest treatment with a huge number of changes and fixes. It’s now a lot more intelligent and if the administrator sets tax up in such a way that it may introduce rounding errors then Magento will warn them and provide recommendations on how to fix the issue.

Bundled product types have previously been susceptible to rounding issues, especially when coupled with tiered pricing – this has now been resolved in the new version. As well as that, tax that is calculated on multi-quantity line items should now function as expected.

There’s also a lot more tweaks under the hood that should ensure tax is more accurate in certain conditions.

API

Several bug fixes have been made to the Magento API which should please all the 3rd Party developers that have integration software that utilises this feature. Changing order statuses via the API should now work properly and requesting a product with a numeric SKU should also now work.

Payments

PayPal has been the subject of a large amount of bug fixes. Previously, in certain circumstances, customers paying via PayPal Express would not benefit from any Shopping Cart Price Rules that had been setup in the admin area – this has now been resolved.

Several issues where incorrect rounding meant that the transaction was unable to be completed via PayPal have been resolved.

Finally, a customer who already has an account can now checkout without getting a “Customer already exists” error.

Admin Area Changes

There are many key improvements in the admin area and even a few new features.

One of the best new features is that now orders can be cancelled via the admin panel – which I’m sure, will have developers rejoicing everywhere – perfect for cancelling test orders. Magento’s built-in Table Rates Free Shipping option now works correctly; you can now also view the contents of a customer’s shopping cart – perfect for when customers ring up and need their hand-holding through their orders. Bundled products haven’t just had a tax-overhaul, shopping-cart price rules will now function as expected with this product type.

Lastly, another great feature – especially for those who have customers that phone orders in and place them online – is that orders created via the admin panel will now appear in the relevant customers user account (if one is available).

Other Changes

There are approximately 350 general bug-fixes and changes elsewhere, in areas such as the web store, shopping cart, payment methods and import/export.

From the list of fixes, some of the key improvements are:

  • A customers’ account created date will now report the correct date.
  • Products that are already in a customer’s wish list will no longer disappear after that specific product is edited by an administrator.
  • For people who like standards – Magento is now World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) compliant.

What about modules?

As with any new version of Magento, support for modules predating 1.8 may be limited in the short-term whilst developers upgrade their modules to support the new version.

Any modules that use the observer system will more than likely ‘just work’, but when the module favours overloading methods then the developer may have to make changes. Scenarios like these are precisely why Magento release an alpha version: to ensure maximum compatibility when the final version is released.

When the final version is released I expect the majority of modules to already be 1.8 compatible – certainly the most popular ones.

The Future – 1.9 and Beyond?

So what do we here at iWeb envisage the future of Magento looking like? A lot of the performance improvements that have been included in 1.8 were previously slated for version 2.0 of the popular eCommerce platform; however, the acquisition by eBay last year and the departure of some key developers from the core team have hindered the development speed and release of Magento 2.0 and those features have now been back-ported into the 1.x branch. I’m expecting to see a few minor revisions of version 1.8 over the next few months to clean up any new issues that have been introduced.

Magento 2.0 is now expected to approach beta by the end of this year and Magento have been keen to reiterate to customers and partners that they will continue to invest in Magento Enterprise 1.x by providing support for it for at least 3 years. Given Magento CE and Magento EE are very close relatives; I’d almost say that it’s a given that we will get a 1.9 release with some more bug fixes – and hopefully some features back-ported from 2.0

You can view a full list of changes on the Magento 1.8 release notes page. If you are interested in testing out the alpha version check out the Magento downloads page for more information. It should go without saying; but please only use the alpha version for development and testing purposes.

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