WordPress is about to release version 3.5 in a few days. It’s scheduled for December 5 according to their timeline. This is in keeping with their recent release tempo of a new major release about once every six months.
As always, there are changes and improvements with a new release, so here are some things you should know about.
WordPress 3.5 will ship with a new default theme, Twenty Twelve, with a clean minimalist look. Odds are good that you aren’t going to be running the default theme on your sites. Even so, WordPress uses their default themes to highlight features so it’s worth taking a look at.
The default theme also a good resource for those who want to start learning about coding themes. If you want to start tinkering with your site’s code, looking at how Twenty Twelve works is a good place to begin.
Home Page Template – One of the most obvious changes Twenty Twelve highlights is the widgetized home page template. This has been a staple of premium themes for years now, allowing home page content to be easily customized via the Appearance –> Widgets menu. It’s especially common as WordPress is being used more as a full content management system (CMS).
Mobile Responsive – Another feature Twenty Twelve highlights is a mobile responsive layout. In case you hadn’t noticed, the Internet is going mobile. In order to give your users the best experience a mobile responsive theme is a must. You will be able to look at the Twenty Twelve style sheet to see how it’s done with media queries.
Post Formats – The new default theme makes use of post formats. Post formats are ways to display various kinds of posts – such as images, asides and status updates – differently to reflect different needs of each of them. Here are the post formats that Twenty Twelve uses:
- Standard – The traditional full blog post
- Aside – Brief posts similar to a Facebook wall post with no title
- Image – For displaying single images
- Link – For sharing text links
- Quote – For sharing quotations
- Status – For your status updates
Right-to-Left Language Support – I confess this is something I’ve never had need of as English is the only language I speak. However I did find it very interesting to see how the theme supports right-to-left languages.
There are many other juicy tidbits in the new Twenty Twelve default theme as well. If you are interested in learning a little about coding it’s worth taking a look at the theme files.
WordPress 3.5 completely overhauls the Media Uploader.
The changes start on the post/page edit screens. Gone is the old “Add/Upload” text followed by a series of icons. Instead we find a unified “Add Media” button (which means that plugins that add icons there will need to adjust.)
When it comes to uploading images, the interface is much more intuitive than before. Things flow a bit more like adding images to Google+ than the current somewhat clunky media uploader.
The gallery function has been overhauled as well. With version 3.5 it’s a breeze to select images from the media library, and drag and drop them to change the order they will be displayed in. They’ve also added the ability to easily link the gallery thumbnails to the full sized images instead of forcing the attachment pages. Up to now the attachment pages have been mostly useless in my opinion. (More on that in a moment.)
The improvements don’t stop with the uploader. The entire Media Library interface has been overhauled. With version 3.5 when you edit an image in the media library you are presented with a full post-like edit screen.
From this new screen you can edit the caption, alternate text, etc. just like before. The image edit suite has been overhauled to make it more functional and easier to use. The underlying image manipulation software has been changed with one of the results being better image resizing with less quality loss.
There is also a new “Attachment Page Content” box. This finally makes the attachment page potentially useful for the first time. For example, a photographer could put the technical details of the photo here to make it easier to share that info with their audience.
And because the media library edit screens are now powered by the same code as other post types, it makes it much easier for developers to add custom meta boxes to the attachment pages.
There are some settings changes that some developers will want to know about ahead of time.
Media Uploads Folder – The setting for moving the media uploads folder has been removed from the Settings –> Media page. This means that developers will have to add a line to the config.php file to tell WordPress to use location other than the default for media storage.
With WordPress, oEmbeds make it easy to insert content from sites like YouTube, Vimeo, Flickr, and Twitter by just pasting in the the media site’s URL for the content. WordPress automatically grabs the content and presents the YouTube player, for example, without you having to mess with embed codes and all that.
WordPress has added three new oEmbed services in 3.5 which are enabled in the core and can now be used without a plugin required: SoundCloud, SlideShare and Instagram.
There are a couple things about oEmbeds that you’ll want to be aware of. Now in version 3.5 oEmbeds will be enabled by default. If you need them turned off for some reason you will need to add a line of php to your functions.php file to remove the autoembed filter.
Also there is no longer a setting for maximum embed size on the media settings page. The max size will be inherited from the theme directly.
The Links Manager will be disabled by default for all new WordPress installs starting with version 3.5. Installs that are upgraded from previous versions of WordPress will keep the Links menu and the Links Manager in place.
For new installs there is a plugin which duplicates all the functionality of the current Link Manager.
I see this as a good move. I can see specialty situations where the link manager is an incredibly valuable feature. But I have been working with WordPress since 2005 and have never had a site of my own or a client site that really used the Link Manager.
What little I actually did use the Link Manager for was made redundant when the custom menus feature was added in version 3.0.
Edit Screen Look
The edit screen has been simplified and WordPress continues to improve the user interface. With version 3.5 the edit screen will now look great on new retina displays.
There is a new color picker that will make choosing colors easier. And TinyMCE which powers the visual editor buttons gets an update. It will now support HTML5 tags.
Under the Hood
There are a few things changing under the hood that you will probably want to know about too.
Search Engine Privacy – The Settings –> Privacy settings link has been removed in version 3.5. Instead this setting is relocated to the Settings –> Reading page. Eliminating a dashboard menu link for a single setting makes sense. As does changing the setting from radio buttons to a single check box.
Remote Publishing – For a long time the XML-RPC protocol was disabled by default for security reasons. Today that protocol has come a long way and it is no longer a security risk to have it enabled. As a result, in version 3.5 it will be enabled by default.
Having it enabled will make things easier for folks who use one of the WordPress mobile apps, or third party publishing tools to add content to their sites.
For those who still want XML-RPC disabled a single line php filter can be added to the wp-config.php file to disable it.
Also of note the Atom publishing protocol is being removed in version 3.5. To keep using it will require a plugin moving forward.
UTF-8 Encoding – when it comes to character encoding, UTF-8 is the most common encoding used. As a result this will be the one selected by default for new WordPress installs. For upgrade installs that are set to use UTF-8 character encoding, the setting will also be hidden after upgrading to 3.5.
Plugin Favorites – There is a new link on the Plugins Installation page where you can show a list of the plugins you have favorited at the WordPress.org plugin repository. For developers who do a fair amount of new installs, this will speed up the process of finding the plugins they use most.
So now you’ve got an overview of what’s new with this latest release. Which new feature do you think is the best WordPress improvement?