Feature Breakdown of WordPress 3.4 “Green”

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Today saw the release of WordPress 3.4 “Green”, the most recent version of everyone’s favorite open source publishing platform. And no matter how closely you might follow WordPress development, there seems to always be one feature or another that sneaks by and you miss it. In this feature breakdown of WordPress 3.4, hopefully I can help remedy that by pointing out all of the noteworthy features I could find.

If there’s something in particular that you find useful, let me know in the comments so we can make sure it’s included in the roundup.

Let’s dig right in.

Customize themes

Without a doubt the feature highlight of the release, the theme customizer will allow a front-end editing experience for WordPress theme options. Along with customizing things like background colors, site titles and tag lines, and header images, themes can be previewed and customized before they are activated.

From the average user’s perspective, this could end up removing some of the undue excitement that comes with finding out just what a new theme will make your site look like.

As far as taking advantage of the customizer from a developer’s perspective, I couldn’t do a better job than Otto did in his post on the topic.

Child themes in dot org and via theme installer

Child themes are now supported via the theme installer. For instance, if you’re trying to install a theme that requires a parent theme, yet you don’t have that parent theme activated, WordPress will install that theme as well so your child theme will work. No doubt this change will result in far more child themes in the official WordPress theme directory.

As an added bonus, infinite scrolling has been added to the theme page. Searching for, and browsing through available themes, is a wee bit faster now.

If you’d like to read the brainstorming on this topic, view the related ticket on Trac: #13774.

Embed tweets via oEmbed

Embedding tweets via oEmbed is now possible. Pasting the URL to a tweet onto its own line will automagically embed that tweet into your post. For many of us, I’m sure this will remove the need to use a plugin or use a shortcode or something to achieve the same result.

Speaking of which, let’s use this feature right now:

Neat.

Improved touch support

Touch support was much improved this release, which should make using the WordPress dashboard on mobile devices quite a bit easier. There’s a great post on the WordPress davelopment blog that talks about a good number of the touch improvements.

For developers, though, know that WordPress is now bundling the jQuery UI Touch Punch plugin that you can take advantage of within your plugins.

On a related note: the next year of WordPress will involve rethinking the experience for mobile.

/login, /dashboard, and /admin now redirect

Even though it’s a small addition, I think this might be my favorite new bit in the 3.4 release. Instead of appending /wp-admin or /wp-login.php to URLs to login you can now use these shorthands. /login will take you to the login screen and both /admin and /dashboard to the WordPress dashboard.

Nifty, right?

Also important to note: if you have a page, post, or otherwise that uses one of the names above then the redirects won’t work for you. In other words, WordPress defaults to respecting your content and your URLs.

HTML is allowed in captions

HTML support within image captions could be one of the longest-requested features to make it into a final WordPress release in a while. If you’ve ever wanted to include an author credit or other relevant link in an image’s caption, previously you would have been pretty limited. Limited in the sense that no HTML was allowed in the caption input field.

That all changes today, though. Include HTML (links or otherwise) to your heart’s content!

Admin bar scrolls to top

I linked to Eric Mann’s explanation of getting this feature added to WordPress around a week ago. After seeing the feature implemented on Google+ he worked with a few other core developers to get a similar feature into WordPress. So now, clicking the empty space in the admin bar will scroll you to the top of the page.

Clever use of empty space, don’t you think? You can view the related ticket on Trac: #18758.

Query improvements

Query improvements were introduced in 3.4 that some contributors said delivered a performance improvement of 2-3 times. Technical information aside, I think we can all agree that faster queries are excellent.

I would do a disservice to this update by attempting to explain it any further. I would recommend looking at Aaron Brazell’s breakdown on his blog or the discussion on the original trace ticket.

Updates to XML-RPC

XML-RPC is the API that allows for other applications to interact with WordPress. In short, this is the thing that allows for the WordPress apps for mobile devices to work and modify content on your site.

WordPress 3.4 introduces a brand new XML-RPC API to support things like taxonomies, custom post types, and whole bunch of other fun goodies. It should allow the clients that rely on this API to get a bit more advanced.

This is another one of those areas where I feel I’ll do it a disservice if I try and talk about it too much. I would recommend the XML-RPC Codex page or Max Cutler’s blog post on XML-RPC changes in 3.4.

Flexible header images

Before 3.4 a theme’s header image had to be a specific size (height and width). Now theme header images are more flexible, and a theme author can simply recommend the size that will work best for their theme.

For anyone who ran away from Twenty Eleven for no reason other than the header image is massive, this update should be a welcome one.

The Make UI blog has a nice rundown of taking advantage of the updated custom header and background APIs in 3.4.

Custom post types can use DFW

I actually hadn’t noticed that custom post types can’t use the distraction free writing editor. Apparently that was the case before, though it’s not now. So in WordPress 3.4, if you use custom post types you can now enjoy the distraction free writing (or DFW) editor when composing your content.

Internationalization improvements

More internationalization = more better, right? There’s a full rundown of the changes on the WordPress translator’s blog.

In brief: comma translation is now supported, single-double quote translation, and default timezones can now be overridden by translations.

Slightly more complex theme template hierarchy

Theme page templates can now be stored inside of subdirectories of theme folders. So if you are a bit of a neat freak, or you are putting together a complex theme, you can organize things a bit more than you could pre-3.4.

Performance improvements for the Recent Comments Dashboard widget

I use the Recent Comments dashboard widget constantly. It’s the first thing I look to when I pull open my WordPress dashboard, and probably the place I spend the most time clicking on a daily basis. So of course I’m happy to see that 3.4 includes performance improvements for this particular widget, especially for sites with large numbers of comments.

If you’re interested in this change you can dig into the nitty gritty via this ticket on Trac: #14222.

Publish new comments from the Edit Post screen

In earlier versions of WordPress you could respond to comments on the edit post screen (what you look at when you’re editing a post) but you couldn’t post new top level comments. One simple change in 3.4 now allows this.

Yet another simple change so you can spend more time on the WordPress dashboard. I like that.

View the related ticket on Trac: #15527

Add user autocomplete for Multisite

While this release isn’t heavy on the Multisite features, there are a couple of goodies in there for everyone using WordPress to run networks of sites. For one thing, existing user’s usernames will now autocomplete when you’re adding them from the Add New User screen.

So if you’re adding a new user to your site, and that user is already registered on another one of your network sites, adding them is a bit easier than it was before. If you can recall a part of their username or email they’ve registered with, you’re likely good to go.

Upload limit increased from 10MB to 100MB for Multisite sites

As pointed out by Andrea Rennick in Trac ticket #18831, a 10MB default limit on individual site upload totals is a bit small. This was bumped up to 100MB in core, so that if it’s something you commonly change in your Multisite setups you won’t have to do that next time.

It may seem like a small thing, but I’m always fascinated to see defaults like this change/increase over time.

The 3.4 dashboard is retina-ready

I can’t claim to have a Retina Macbook Pro at the moment (sigh) but I hear from those that do that the WordPress dashboard looks pretty good on the new display. The core team prepared for that, of course, by including assets specifically for retina displays.

To give you an idea, here’s a cropped screenshot at the full resolution on the retina display.

It’s kind of big. (There’s a slightly off gray on the right there, but I’m sure it will be cleaned up before long. Retina displays will start making those small errors a bit more obvious, I think.)

Developer Matthias Kretschmann has a post about the new retina assets, as well as information on adding retina support to your own plugins and themes (at least when it comes to dashboard menu icons).

Noteworthy articles

These are the most important new features, as far as I know. Speak your mind and tell us your favorite features in our community poll.

But hey, don’t just take my word for it. There are a number of other articles covering new features in WordPress 3.4, and how to properly take advantage of them. If you just can’t get enough:

10 thoughts on “Feature Breakdown of WordPress 3.4 “Green”

  1. For those reluctant to upgrade, check out the CodeGuard plugin and use it to backup before going to 3.4. Problems have been arising with a few database plugins and have been altering the functionality of sites. If a problem comes up you can easily restore back to 3.3.2 and wait for 3.4.1 to come out (always a good idea anyway).

  2. re: upload limits in multisite. It was a huge pain when people with existing sites and a bunch of uploads went and enabled uploads and then suddenly “ran out” of space. ;)

  3. Great roundup Ryan!

    Embedding tweets via oEmbed is now possible. Pasting the URL to a tweet onto its own line will automagically embed that tweet into your post. … Speaking of which, let’s use this feature right now: …

    Actually that seems like your Blackbird Pie working, oembeds look a little different.

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  5. Pingback: WordPress 3.4 Green is Good to Go « Lorelle on WordPress

  6. Thanks for the roundup Ryan! We’re really excited about the query improvements. Here’s a snippet from Aaron’s post:

    This approach means the amount of data in memory and floating around WordPress is concise and compact. PHP doesn’t have to work harder to traverse arrays or objects… it is simply a smaller list of data.

    I hope more theme and plugin authors take notice within their own code as well.

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