Everything we know about the newly released WordPress 3.3

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With a new version of WordPress out and about, one might wonder just what’s new under the hood. Wonder no longer dear friend, because in this post I’m going to walk you through everything about WordPress 3.3 “Sonny” that we’re aware of. Before you know it you’ll be the coolest kid on your block.

You know, assuming relative coolness where you live is decided  by how much you know about the latest version of WordPress. In which case you might already be the coolest kid there. So. Yeah.

The real fun starts after the jump.

Welcome screen

Upon installing a new version of WordPress you’ll now be greeted by the updated welcome screen. It includes a “What’s New” section, a credits tab, and the WordPress freedoms. Odds are you landed on a page like the one below when you upgraded your copy of WordPress to 3.3.

WordPress 3.3 Welcome Screen Gallery

For a bit more about the credits screen in 3.3, see Andrew Nacin’s post on the topic.

New installs will also see a welcome screen on their dashboards prompting various setup tasks.

Feature pointers

In addition to “What’s New” in the upgrade welcome screen above, feature pointers are in play in WordPress 3.3 to show you what’s been added to the latest release. In this case a pointer popped up for me to tell me about the new toolbar (see below).

For now the pointers are only available for use by the WordPress core. Technically you can fish out the code and pull it off on your own, but not using public functions supported by core. This is the case of a neat feature that themes and plugins should just wait to use until (likely) WordPress 3.4.

Improved contextual help

I’m a big fan of contextual help myself, and think you should be too. The Help tab saw a redesign in 3.3, going from a simple space for text to sit to a three column organized help area.

For a bit of comparison, this is what the contextual help used to look like:

If you haven’t clicked around in the help section of WordPress pages before, give it a try. There’s helpful stuff in there for you and, assuming you have them, your clients.

Media drag and drop uploader

Easily one of the biggest “wow” moments you’ll have using WordPress 3.3 will be the moment you drag and drop a bunch of files into the new uploader. Instead of selecting the files you want to upload from a file window, whether in a post or via the Media navigation, you can simply drag them from your desktop over into the browser and, well, poof them into your site:

Am I the only one with the urge to drag in lots of files now?

Don’t worry, if for some reason you need to upload the old way, that hasn’t gone anywhere. Just select the browser uploader if you’d like to upload things the old-fashioned way.

Flyout Dashboard menus

For a while now (since WordPress 2.7) WordPress has used accordion menus in its Dashboard. As of 3.3 that changes; flyouts now rule supreme.

Billed as “one click to any screen”, I’ll admit that at first I really didn’t like the idea of flyouts at all. I wasn’t convinced that hovering and waiting would get me someplace faster than clicking an accordion menu open and clicking again. However, after using it a bit, I think I’ll end up liking this new dashboard menu even more.

I’d venture to bet, though, that this and the new toolbar (see below) will be the two things that take the most time to get used to.

Admin Bar + Admin Header = Toolbar

The admin bar and the admin header have been replaced by the new toolbar, which acts as a persistent header on the front and back-end of WordPress sites. It reduces clutter in the header and cleans up the default links a bit with icons.

For some comparison, this is what 3.2’s admin bar looked like (new on the top and old on the bottom):

The new toolbar is darker and sleeker, which I like a lot. Also, you should update your WordPress Lexicon (because everyone has one, right?) to specify that this is now the Toolbar, and not the Admin Bar.

Responsive design (mostly), iPad optimized

The WordPress Dashboard isn’t yet fully responsive, though it’s on the right track. Certain screens will be optimized at various sizes, in particular on iPads and other tablets. I haven’t toyed with this one yet on the iPad yet, but will soon.

Improved co-editing

This might not apply to everyone, but those of us who have worked on multi-author blogs at all will know the feeling of this dialog (image borrowed from the outstanding 3.3 launch video):

That’s just the worst, right? Technically it’s the best, as long as it’s accurate. Previously WordPress was a bit generous with the window of time that it determined someone else was editing a post. Now that window is much tighter and once someone stops editing a post—you guessed it—that nag is immediately gone.

I’m excited for this one, and hope it results in happier co-editing situations in the future.

Tumblr importer

There’s no question about it: people use Tumblr. Even more accurately, a lot of people use Tumblr. To enable easy migration from Tumblr to WordPress, 3.3 also includes a Tumblr importer.

Not much more to say on this one. If you want to use WordPress but currently use Tumblr, you’re covered.

New wp_editor API

This one’s really only for developers, but it’s a powerful one: wp_editor will now allow more than one instance of the WYSIWYG editor on a screen at one time. There’s a growing amount of information about this in the codex, but in short: you can use the standard WordPress WYSIWYG editor anywhere within the admin that you’d like to.

jQuery version 1.7.1 and jQuery UI 1.8.16

Lovers of jQuery will no doubt also love the inclusion of updated versions of jQuery and jQuery UI in WordPress 3.3. This is another one for developers, but worth knowing either way.

Improved permalinks

Remember being instructed not to use only slugs (or post names) as your WordPress permalinks? Remember hearing that doing so could cause performance issues on your sites?

Now, as of 3.3, there is no performance hit for using the post name permalink structure. It’s so solid, in fact, that post name permalinks are now one of the recommended structures in the permalink settings screen. How cool is that?

We talked about this on the blog and the WPCandy Podcast back when it was first introduced, and it’s just as interesting now that it’s released.

Widgets are a bit smarter

Widgets get a bit brighter in 3.3. Now switching from a theme doesn’t mean your widget layout is lost forever. If you decide to switch back to that theme your widgets will return to their old position, saving you the time of reconstructing your old setup. Nifty, right?

Widgets aren’t yet perfect, but they’re getting closer.

is_main_query() introduced

This one is certainly only for the developers out there. The is_main_query() function will now let you hook into only the primary WP_Query object and modify it, leaving secondary queries alone.

For anyone who’s ever wanted to do this before, well, you know who you are. And you know this one is mighty useful.

Post formats join the party

Before 3.3 post formats couldn’t be edited using the quick edit or bulk edit options on the edit.php screen. Now those options are available, which will make editing those format posts a bit faster.

All plugins on plugins.php

This, if I had to guess, is a bit of a subliminal issue that you might not even realize you’ve run into before. Before 3.3 the plugins.php page (that lists all of your site’s plugins) would save its state and display for you, each time you loaded it, the last state you were viewing when you left it. That state might be Active Plugins or Inactive Plugins, or even Recently Active plugins. This would result (for me at least, and it seems others) in needing to click All each time I visited the plugins.php page.

As of 3.3 that page will always default to listing all plugins, with the option to change state still available of course. Don’t you love it when those tough-to-articulate pains go away?

Network Enable link after installing themes

After installing a theme in the network admin the user will now be greeted with an option to enable the theme across the network. It’s a small thing, but for those managing networks and adding themes it’s a handy new shortcut to have.

Noteworthy plugins release for WordPress 3.3

It hasn’t even been a day since 3.3 was released, but already plugins are popping up that developers designed to work specifically with new features introduced. I’ll be keeping and updating the list below so that you’ll know what should be on your radar.

So far these are the plugins I’ve heard about:

  • Andrew Nacin released the Hide Welcome Panel for Multisite to, well, hide the welcome panel for multisite users. I love when plugins tell you what they do right on the lid.
  • Matt Cohen of WooThemes crafted a plugin just for WordPress 3.3 that adds a simple theme switcher to the new toolbar. It’s called Matty Theme Quickswitch.
  • Dominik Schilling has released Admin Bar Backend Search, which lets you search various aspects of the WordPress Dashboard right from the new 3.3 toolbar.

That’s all I know about now. If you or a friend has made a 3.3-specific plugin, let me know in the comments below.

Additional WordPress 3.3 links

This week has already resulted in a good deal of WordPress 3.3 coverage, and odds are the next few days will bring even more. If you’re interested in digging in further, I recommend the following links:

That does it for today’s in-depth look at WordPress 3.3, but be sure to check back. With all of this on the table, I’m curious to know: was there one feature (or features) in particular that made you the most eager to upgrade to 3.3?

18 thoughts on “Everything we know about the newly released WordPress 3.3

  1. The only real change I actually wanted to see in WordPress is the change to HTML5. Looks and UI aside, shouldn’t making the HTML up to date be the primary concern just now?

    • You mean on the front-end? That’s entirely up to the theme. There are HTML 5 themes out there. As far as the default theme, new ones usually only come with major releases.

      Great writeup! Learned about some things here I hadn’t heard elsewhere yet.

  2. I upgraded this morning after reading your post carefully — thanks for helping me anticipate what would change.

    And I have to say: The new interface rocks! I particularly love the streamlined toolbar, the flyout sidebar menu, and the drag-and-drop media uploader. I found the old WP way of doing those things rather clunky and the 3.3 way is just simple, fast and easy.

  3. As a UI/UX designer who sometimes spent great deal of time in the admin area of WP, this patch makes me very happy. Scrolling up and down to find things wasn’t a pleasant experience with the old collapsing menus.

    Now time to go poke around to see what else changed.

  4. Pingback: WordPress 3.3 is (almost) here | Princeton University WordPress Service

  5. Still missing an important feature on iPad… how can you reorder custom menus on the iPad? Drag and drop does not work there.
    Anyone got a workaround for that?

  6. Pingback: WordPress 3.3 Features

  7. I’m loving that they fixed the use of “post name” permalinks. I had tried this a few times back when I was first using WordPress, and got the proverbial ruler to the knuckles for it every time.

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