Everything we know about the newly released WordPress 3.2


WordPress 3.2, or “Gershwin”, is now available on WordPress.org. Odds are you’ve already run over to update your install or to download it fresh to check it out. If you haven’t done that yet, well, why not? Get to it.

Once you have 3.2 in hand you might be wondering just what the new version brings to the table. We’ve reviewed all of the new bits and bobs and have summarized them all below. If you aren’t sure of everything in WordPress 3.2, or aren’t completely up to date, this post is for you.

We’ll walk you through literally everything we know about WordPress 3.2. If you’re already using and enjoying 3.2, be sure to jump down to the comments and describe you experience so far.

Speed improvements

Many of the lead developers for the WordPress project have described their desire for WordPress itself to fade into the background. The goal is to achieve the ideal writing and publishing environment, without even needing to know it’s WordPress that’s powering it.

In pursuit of that goal, the theme for this release was “faster and lighter”. This release included a multitude of under the hood improvements to remove unneeded code, rewrite queries for speed, and in general make WordPress much lighter on its feet.

Did it work? Try it out and see for yourself.

User interface design update

WordPress saw its last major interface design update in version 2.7, which was released in December of 2008. That version saw the big changeover from the blue Dashboard first introduced in version 2.5 to the one we’re much more familiar with today.

Do you remember that transition?

WordPress 2.5 is on the left and 2.7 is on the right. Original screens via Mashable.

The update this time around isn’t nearly that drastic, though it does shift elements around a bit and streamline the overall aesthetic. To compare 3.1 and 3.2:

That’s 3.1 on the left and 3.2 on the right (click to enlarge). As you can see, the changes are slight but meaningful. Examining each and every change is a bit outside the scope of this post, so watch for our full WordPress 3.2 redesign walkthrough for a more thorough treatment of the redesign.

The user interface update wasn’t officially planned for the 3.2 release cycle, but a couple threads in the Make WordPress UI blog really started the process and made it possible for inclusion.

Distraction Free Writing

Without a doubt one of the most anticipated features in this release of WordPress is Distraction Free Writing (or DFW). This feature replaces the previous Full Screen mode, with a new mode than fades the Dashboard completely into the background like many popular writing applications do.

The best way to understand the new writing screen is to look at this:

That’s what it looks like to write using the new Distraction Free Writing mode. For realz. You can also see an early build of DFW in a preview we made for it a few weeks ago.

Twenty Eleven is the new default theme

Twenty Ten brought a new WordPress tradition: once each year a new default theme will be released to replace the old one. Last year Twenty Ten replaced Kubrick, which had held the default theme title belt for a long time. This year Twenty Eleven will take over for Twenty Ten.

Here’s a copy running, for example:

Eleven was developed in large part by the group of “Recent Rockstars” credited on the new Credits screen in 3.2 (and mentioned below, with a screenshot). It draws a good deal of inspiration from Twenty Ten, but stands on its own as well. Twenty Eleven also drew inspiration from the Duster theme, created by the Automattic Theme Team.

The team at Theme.fm (newly launched) already has a solid review of Twenty Eleven as well, if you’d like to know more about it in depth.

Enhancements to the upgrade process

The automatic upgrade process has been improved as well. Previously when WordPress updated itself it would download the entire WordPress install and replace every old file. With 3.2 the upgrade process will be able to only replace modified files since the last release.

This will mean faster upgrades for everyone, which is awesome.

Of course, this new upgrade process will work the next time WordPress is automatically upgraded, not this time around.

Now requires PHP 5.2.4 and MySQL 5

This one has been coming for quite some time. With WordPress 3.2 the minimum requirements have been bumped to require PHP 5.2.4 and MySQL 5. What does that mean, exactly? Well, it doesn’t mean that any features have been added that require PHP 5—that was made clear in the initial plans for 3.2. No, this is just the version where support for previous versions of PHP and MySQL are dropped.

If you’re not sure whether your server supports those, then you should probably check. Like, now. There’s a handy plugin called WordPress Requirements Check that will let you know if you’re ready for WordPress 3.2 or not.

The move away from PHP 4 dependency is also a message to hosts that it’s time to update. Well, the time for hosts to update was probably 2004 when PHP 5 was released. But hey, progress is progress.

End of support for IE6, launch of Browse Happy initiative

Along with upping the PHP and MySQL requirements, 3.2 also drops support for everyone’s favorite browser, Internet Explorer 6. This means that the WordPress Dashboard will most definitely look real bad if you’re using IE6. But, more importantly, this means that less code needs to be written to make exceptions for IE6, and other cool stuff can be done since IE6 doesn’t need to be supported.

In short, if you still use Internet Explorer 6: stop doing that.

In addition to dropping IE6 support, Browse Happy has also been integrated into WordPress. Browse Happy is a site dedicated to driving awareness for up to date browsers. Specifically WordPress will drop in a box to remind users to upgrade their browser if the version is old, no matter what browser is in use.

Funny enough, we’re not the only ones excited to see the end of Internet Explorer 6 for WordPress. Microsoft itself thanked the WordPress team when the news broke.

Contributors receive credit on a new screen

If you contributed to this new version of WordPress, you’ll especially like this addition. The new Credits screen (linked to from the footer of your 3.2 Dashboard) credits each person who contributed to the latest release of WordPress, along with a link to their WordPress.org profile.

First up are project leaders, then the extended core team, then a specially selected group of “Recent Rockstars” who have contributed a significant amount that release, and are hand chosen as rockstars.

Below the rockstars group is the list of all remaining core contributors for that version release, which for 3.2 is a great number of people!

This new screen also credits the external libraries that WordPress ships with.

Freedoms proclaimed on new screen

There are two new screens linked to from the footer, actually. The first is the Credits screen described above, but the second is the Freedoms screen.

On the Freedoms screen you will find a description of the rights that you are granted when using WordPress, as seen below.

As a side note, we mentioned these two new screens when they first popped up back in May.

Improved Dashboard comment reply behavior

This one could be minor, or awesome, depending on how often you respond to comment within your Dashboard. I’ll admit, this is one of my favorite enhancements to WordPress this version. When approving and replying to comments from the Dashboard, the act can now be combined into one step: Approve and Reply.

If you reply to many comments via the Dashboard, this enhancement will likely be welcome. I’m looking forward to using it often.

Admin Bar enhancements

One of the first changes you might notice to the Admin Bar is the link to the Dashboard has been moved from under a drop down to a top level link.

In addition, the Favorites menu (on the upper right on 3.1) has been removed and its functionality relegated to the Admin Bar.

In general the Admin Bar has stayed a priority, and influenced the user interface of the Dashboard as well.

jQuery 1.6.1 is now included

In another upgrade, jQuery 1.6.1 is now packaged along with WordPress. Previously 1.4.4 was included. This one is most important to developers, who will want to make sure their scripts are up to date with this version of jQuery.

WordPress Lead Developer Andrew Ozz posted about the news on the WordPress development blog, if you’d like to learn more.

What’s your experience like so far?

WordPress 3.2 has arrived after two betas and three release candidates, which means it’s definitely ready for you. Assuming you’re updated by now (and you should be) what’s your experience with it so far? Do you have a favorite feature, or is there one that we missed here?

27 thoughts on “Everything we know about the newly released WordPress 3.2

  1. Pingback: WordPress 3.2 Upgrade Complete - PressHarbor

  2. I think it’s great there is a new theme with new features and that various elements have been tidied up. On the Make UI page there is now talk about cleaning up the CSS for the next version. I think it’s great that these elements are being taken care of. The little things make a difference and keep WP progressing in all areas.

  3. Hey, thanks for the writeup. It gave me a quick snack size of what to expect. I can’t wait to use the DFW function!

  4. I don’t know if I’m quite ready to upgrade yet. Someone who has told me there’s no longer the ability to schedule posts? If that’s so it’s going to be a big problem….. any ideas on that?

  5. All seems to be working fine on sandbox installs I upgraded today. I’m a little nervous about updating sites that make use of plugins, though, because of the latest jQuery update.

    Anyone running into issues with specific plugins and jQuery 1.6.1?

  6. Updated the files, went to my admin, clicked to update the database, and got stuck in a loop. I now cant log in to my site, the database seem to be up to date, and I see no errors in my logs or with WP_DEBUG constant.

  7. I used the requirement check plugin and it says everything is okay. However, my server is running 5.2.17, not 5.2.4.

    As I am not experienced enough to know the versions, is this a significant discrepancy?

    Any help is appreciated.

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  10. Good news, thanks. But i’ve been using WP too long not to expect troubles…. There’s always trouble, sometimes minor, at times immense… If you install it now, consider yourself 100% a betatester

  11. Maybe I’m missing something, but I just upgraded one of my sites to 3.2 and my dashboard is totally screwed up.
    I can’t find anything. My left-hand column has disappeared completely.
    If this is how it’s supposed to look, then I hate it.
    Please, if it ain’t broke – don’t fix it.
    A disgruntled, previously happy, WordPress user.

    • @Dave – That’s definatly not right. The changes are subtle, nothing major. Maybe check to make sure your hosting provides the latest PHP and MySQL since they did up the min. requirements there.

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  13. re: DFW
    “Bleak” is not distraction free. It is not inspirational either.
    Perhaps those developers too inhibited to compose within the confines of a recognizable interface should discover notepad. Nothing there to distract those who cannot stay on task within a visible interface. Not all WP users are so afflicted. This “advance” is of little, if any interest.

    The WP3.2 dashboard is an aesthetic regression. It reminds one of the struggles encountered learning to put dynamic menus in early html pages… clunky, stiffly spaced, decreased legibility, too many fonts.

    First blush impression of WP3.2 was bland enough to not up-grade the other 90+ sites overseen. (Matt suggests three other CMS frame works he likes in his most recent Memeburn Q&A session. I am looking at other CMS too.) Choosing blue over grey for the admin dashboard helps some. Paginating the plugins (an early version “improvement”) is not enjoyed/necessary, and still disliked.

    Had to do a database update on the one site moved to WP3.2 (from WP3.1.4) which means past back-ups are probably useless… Also lost some graphics, like the WP logo on the log-in page.

    Cannot recommend the switch… at this time.

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