I generally steer clear of writing reviews specifically for plugins, especially WordPress plugins. However, I felt compelled to write a review for Advanced Custom Fields v5 Pro because I have been using this plugin before there was even a pro version and you had to purchase addons separately (I had all of the addons). I couldn’t imagine my WordPress development workflow not using this plugin.
Elliot (the developer behind ACF) was kind enough to offer all existing customers who bought addons a free copy of Advanced Custom Fields v5 Pro, a developer licence which would have otherwise set me back $100 (way too cheap in my opinion).
I would have willingly paid for money for the newer version, similar to how Jon (the man behind Sublime Text Editor) is going to make people purchase new licences for version 3 when it is released.
So, what’s new?
Advanced Custom Fields version 5 is arguably the most powerful version of ACF yet. One of the biggest changes is the fact that ACF no longer uses the wppostmeta table to store field info, instead ACF fields are now custom post types which get stored in the wpposts table alongside your pages, media, posts and other custom content. What this means is editing field values is a lot easier for us developers, as well as supporting relationships between fields and more.
Another welcome change is the fact all addons have been integrated into the pro version itself. Previously in version 4 and below you had to purchase separate plugins, then install and maintain them. While this wasn’t a bad thing, version 5 integrates these into the one plugin meaning you only have to update the plugin itself and not 4+ plugins plus ACF core itself. This is a welcome change.
The interface has also been given a visual refresh. The UI is now much more usable, cleaner and easier to use. The drag and drop in v4 was always a little buggy when dragging Flexible Content Field blocks or a repeater row in cases where you had potentially 20+ repeater rows. In v5 the drag and drop feels really nice and I didn’t appear to run into the same issues I did in v4.
While most people might not have run into performance issues with version 4, the plugin did have its limits. In version 5 all performance issues I encountered in version 4 have been fixed in part because of the move to use custom post types and because of tbe new JSON file feature which implements caching into your themes and limits queries to the database which I will touch upon below.
The biggest change of them all performance wise is the new local JSON field/data caching feature.
To put it in simple terms, you create a folder in your theme and whenever new fields are added or data is changed, a JSON file is created or updated so when future values are to be retrieved it will check if there is a JSON file first.
Considering most hosts these days (Amazon, Linode, Digitalocean) all offer some form of solid state drives either by default or choice, reading and writing from and to disk is always going to be faster than hitting the database. This is a very welcome change. Enabled it as soon as you install ACF v5.
Even though I wasn’t really expecting any new fields because existing fields and third party fields mean 99.9% of all required use cases are covered, Elliot has added in a new field type called, oEmbed this field type allows you to essentially make it easier for users to embed media (Youtube embeds, Soundcloud embeds and more). It uses WordPress’ native oEmbed functionality to make it happen. Perfect if your site allows users to embed Youtube videos or a plethora of any other kind of media.
Download the free version of Advanced Custom Fields v5 and see if it is for you. If you were already using v4, v5 will exceed your expectations and you should have no excuse not to buy this plugin. You can buy a developer licence for ACF v5 here.