This article is outdated, check out what’s new in WordPress 4.6 here.
WordPress is the world’s most popular Content Management System. (Some will argue it’s not a CMS. To them, I say: WordPress is a System for Managing Content — stop being persnickety!) Reasons for its colossal success include:
- WordPress is free.
- It’s easy to install, use and extend. Novice developers and content editors have a shallower learning curve than similar products.
- There are plugins and themes to suit every requirement.
- An active community means support and development resources are easier to find than most software.
WordPress adoption has reached critical mass. Other systems may be prettier or have a more elegant code base, but it’s difficult to recommend an alternative when WordPress is so ubiquitous.
WordPress 3.9 was released on April 16, 2014. It’s a major release so your existing installations won’t auto-update; you’ll need to log in and follow the update instructions. Plugin and theme incompatibility is rare, but you should back-up and investigate further before starting. You have backed up, haven’t you?
What can users and developers expect from version 3.9?…
Closing the Gap Between Editing and Publishing
Content editing is more advanced than previous editions:
- Images can be dragged to the editor, cropped, rotated, and resized.
- Gallery previews appear in the editing window.
- The “distraction-free” writing mode is responsive and scales to any screen size.
- Live widget and header image previews are available in the Customizer.
- TinyMCE has been updated to version 4.0.
Content editors have more sophisticated controls and the inevitable cutting-and-pasting from Microsoft Word will lead to fewer issues. In theory. In my experience, users trash a lovingly-created site within three seconds of gaining access. It doesn’t matter what safeguards you put in place — they’ll find a way to insert a 5Mb image or fill the page with impenetrable HTML. I often wish WordPress would switch to markdown syntax like Ghost — but few content editors will agree.
WordPress 3.9 features a new theme browser which allows you to preview and install new layouts in a couple of clicks:
A powerful filter and search form allows you to define a theme to match your mood:
Audio and Video Playlists
You’re no longer limited to image-only galleries: users can create their own audio and video playlists within WordPress 3.9. Media files added to the library can be organized and inserted into the page using a shortcode in the same way as any other gallery. WordPress will even fetch song cover thumbnails for MP3 files containing appropriate ID3 tags.
Several new features have been added for theme and plugin developers. At the time of writing, documentation is fairly minimal — if not non-existent — but the most interesting new functions are:
wp_video_playlist_shortcode()functions permit control over playlists. In addition, WordPress now uses HTML5 for gallery and playlist controls.
add_image_size()function and allow fine control over image resizing.
doing_action()functions identify hooks in progress.
- Multi-site WordPress installations can now use
- New action hooks have been added for
Time to Upgrade?
Those of a more nervous disposition may prefer to wait a few weeks until issues have been fixed and plugin code is updated. A search for “WordPress 3.9 upgrade problems” already returns a long list of pages. That said, I upgraded several standalone and multi-site installations without issues — although few had a significant number of third-party themes and add-ons.
My advice: Problems are rare and, if you have a file and database back-up, you have nothing to lose. WordPress 3.9 is excellent — you’ll be glad you upgraded. WordPress 4.0 should be very special…
Craig is a freelance UK web consultant who built his first page for IE2.0 in 1995. Since that time he's been advocating standards, accessibility, and best-practice HTML5 techniques. He's created enterprise specifications, websites and online applications for companies and organisations including the UK Parliament, the European Parliament, the Department of Energy & Climate Change, Microsoft, and more. He's written more than 1,000 articles for SitePoint and you can find him @craigbuckler.