7 New WordPress Version 3.5 Features You Must Know About

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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.

Wordpress logo.

As always, there are changes and improvements with a new release, so here are some things you should know about.

Twenty Twelve

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.

Media Uploader

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.)

Media Library

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.

Links Manager

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?

Chris Cree
Chris Cree started tinkering with WordPress in 2005 to relieve the stress of his maritime industry job. His hobby grew into a business in 2007... Read Full Bio
Chris Cree

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  • Excellent features. I loved the media library update the most. No doubt the theme makers will have to now do some more innovations to make it special.

  • Thanks for this write up of what to expect in the new version of WordPress. Hands down, I really like the fact that I can install plugins via my favorites page on WP. That definitely makes it a lot easier, not to mention that I won’t forget to install those that for some reason or another, I often forget. Can’t wait and hopefully, it won’t present any issues with my current setup..

  • WordPress have no real competition today… A lot of useful features….

  • WordPress never stops innovating. The pluggings are among the best I,ve seen.

  • I’m glad to hear that the version 3.5 of WordPress will bring many useful features.
    The things I am happy for: improvements in media library, plugins favorites section, and adding a default layout for those mobile visitors.

  • WordPress is proof that the best things in life really are free! Now I’m going to go download the new Twenty Twelve theme and check it out, thanks for the info.

  • Eagerly waiting for WordPress 3.5. I’m already using Twenty Twelve WordPress theme and its really awesome. Fell in love with its minimalistic design.

  • Thanks Chris! Glad you pointed out where the Privacy settings will be moved – I would have been hunting for that. 🙂 Looking forward to the plugin favorites feature!

    • Heya Carrie!

      Yeah. When important settings are moved it can be a bit unnerving if you don’t have a heads up. I think it was a good choice to move the privacy setting though.

  • Very happy to see some improvements being made to the Media Uploader and oEmbeds. I always thought that the Uploader wasn’t nearly as streamlined as it should have been. The ability to just paste video links directly into the post is also a very convenient feature that had been showcased in sites like facebook for quite some time now.

    Also, thanks for the heads up on where the privacy settings are being moved to!

  • Great to see that WordPress has gone mobile and is now supporting right-to-left languages. Global mobile internet usage is increasing and it’s becoming increasingly important for companies to optimize their sites for mobile devices. This greatly extends the global reach for the site.

  • Excited to see the new Media Library. Matt Mullenweg gave a talk in DC last year and that was one of the things that he mentioned needed improvement. I wrote about it at the time, because I was impressed by his statement that “the software is wrong, not the people,” That pretty much sums up the WordPress way.

  • Whoop whoop thank goodness they are making the media up-loader easier.

    I am one happy camper and cant wait to upgrade.

  • AND a new colour picker: http://make.wordpress.org/core/2012/11/30/new-color-picker-in-wp-3-5/
    from Matt Wiebe on the team. I’m a colour geek, so this is a great little addition for me!

    ­Rod Salm
    Death At Your Door, a weekly webcomic about Death trying to live a life.

  • Dan Ortiz

    Thanks for heads up and the mini-review on the new version. I’ll be upgrading ASAP..

  • This is one of the more exciting end-user oriented updates for WordPress we’ve seen for a while and certainly something beginners will benefit from instantly.

    I love that WordPress is becoming more mainstream in its usability. Great report and we’re very excited to try this new version out!

  • Personally for me is the approach take by WordPress to quickly adapt to Responsive Design stands out.
    I will be looking at how to modify the base theme to my needs. Eagerly waiting for 3.5

  • Does anyone know what snippet of code must be entered into config.php to change the default location of media uploads?

    The option to change the default upload directory is no longer available in WP 3.5.

  • I really like WordPress’ improved looks and new functionality but after upgrading to the latest version, there were considerable issues of what looks like a problem with some older plugins or theme that may not have been corrected.

  • Is there a general rule of thumb on how long to wait to upgrade to a new WP release? I want to make sure my theme and plug-ins are compatible prior to upgrading to 3.5. Thanks for your advice!

  • Glad I found this article, just moved a site from development set to block search engines and couldn’t get “privacy” settings to stick through Yoast’s SEO plugin. Now I found out thanks to you where they moved privacy!

  • Rafael

    Very informative and I like your post. WordPress is one of the best platforms for blogging purposes and for creating a website.It has plenty of features that attract people towards it.
    I love to build web pages using wordpress, it is very easy to use, modify, adding content, images, videos and much more. I learnt to create a website from an online tutorial. Check out Open Website Tutorials, it is a step by step guide for beginners and experts also.

  • Hi, Chris,
    I just started using WP creating a new website and blog. I also love the media manager (even though I don’t have experience with the older versions). However, the thumbnail producer seems to pick it’s own spot of the picture to display. Do you have any insight on how to make that choice when we want to instead of using the automatic version? E.g.: for some of my body (human figure) pictures, the automatic thumbnail on the top of my blog pics the crotch area! and I really don’t want that!