WordPress 3.4 is out, named “Green” in honor of jazz guitarist and composer Grant Green. Green is a great nickname for this hot release of WordPress, bringing with it some excellent new features and improvements.
As with all WordPress upgrades, it is recommended you backup your full WordPress site, database and all files, before upgrading. Ipstenu has been keeping a Master List for Troubleshooting WordPress 3.4 upgrade issues and so far, the list is short. Most issues are with non-compatible and non-compliant WordPress Plugins and Themes, especially with those not using Child Themes to customize their WordPress Theme. Upgrade all of those before upgrading to the new version of WordPress.
The WordPress Codex features a Version 3.4 full report and list of features and improvements. Andrew Nacin has posted a WordPress 3.4 Field Guide for Developers to help developers and designers with the new features.
WordPress 3.4 is several months past due but worth the wait.
WordPress continues to get faster with every release, but this one breaks the sound barrier. The improvements in WP_Query report a 2-3x speed improvement for post data queries.
For those who like digging under the hood of WordPress, queries are now broken up into two parts, one to select the list of IDs with the given query criteria, and the second to select the posts once the IDs are determined, reducing the amount of data requiring processing within the database. The smaller the dataset, the faster the results and the less impact on the database, rewarding especially for those with database hosting issues. According to the news on WordPress Trac, Andrew Nacin reported a 90% reduction on Database CPU burn, a dramatic drop rate.
WordPress Theme Testing Improved
WordPress 3.4 improves Theme testing. The new Theme Customizer allows you to play around with various customizations and looks for your site before committing them to public display. Improvements in the Theme panel also includes term verses keyword searching and better descriptions in Theme search results helping to narrow your options when searching for a Theme.
Updates to the default WordPress Themes, Twenty-Eleven and Twenty-Ten, are also included and recommended updates before upgrading.
The new Theme Customizer works with existing WordPress Themes using current features such as changing the site title and tagline, setting a static front page, custom menus, navigation menus, etc., and adds the ability to hook into these additional customization features to expand a Theme’s custom options. The old features have been migrated into the new Theme Customizer.
The ability to add Theme support has been around since WordPress 2.9 with the introduction of post thumbnails. The
add_theme_support function now includes custom-background and custom-header features which are now accessed throught he Theme Customizer. Otto on WordPress has an extensive article on how these new features work. I also recommend a review of his WordPress Settings API Tutorial. Chip Bennett describes even more on how to update your WordPress Theme for custom backgrounds and headers.
Also check out the Page Template Handling feature that allows for custom organization of your Theme file structure. You can now put any page template into any subdirectory of a WordPress Theme, giving you more freedom in arranging the hierarchy and grouping the file structure of a WordPress Theme.
Post formats now appear on the navigation menus.
Custom Header Sizes
Included in the Theme Customization improvements is the ability to change the size of your Theme’s header. Previously, it needed to be set at a specific height and width. With WordPress 3.4, your header art can be dynamically resized to match whatever your design wishes may be. No more cropping.
Just remember that you need to start with something that will work in the first place. Stretching and distorting the header image cannot be helped by any header customizer.
Embed Those Tweets Easily
Simply paste the link to a tweet into your WordPress blog post and it will automatically embed the tweet in the content with a citation link. This is a brilliant addition for social media integration and citation references. The Twitter Embeds use oEmbed, one of many embeds that work automatically in WordPress.
WordPress Gets More Mobile Friendly
The new XML-RPC API for mobile and external apps is hot. Superceding the older XML-RPC Support for Blogger, MovableType, and metaWeblog APIs, the updated XML-RPC WordPress API works even harder for mobile versions of WordPress supporting iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone 7 (and upcoming 8), Nokia, WebOS, and others. You can learn more about the API in this post by Max Cutler.
The new mobile API also includes the jQuery UI Touch Punch library to give front-end designers and developers the ability to make their sites work better under mobile conditions. Due to limitations with Windows 7/7.5/IE9, support isn’t included.
If you have a smart phone or tablet, get mobile version of WordPress and see the magic.
The new API is not just limited to mobile. It also adds improvements for custom content types and taxonomies. Expect to see some awesome improvements to WordPress Themes and Plugins based upon the new API, especially as most of them need to be more mobile-friendly.
Internationalization and Localization Improvements
If you haven’t been paying close attention, you may have missed the fact that the internationalization and localization team of WordPress has been working overtime on making brilliant improvements to WordPress overall. In the research I’ve been doing on WordPress, approximately 40% of all WordPress sites are not in English.
The updates include faster translation handling, improvements in the WP_Theme API to increase speed and caching, comma translation, LTR fields now forced for passwords, logins, etc., spell checker language options, feed language options, single-double quote and primes translation, improvements in default time zones, and POT files now split into three different files for content, admin, and admin networks, simplifying localization files. Expect even more in future updates.
You can read more about the specific improvements on the WP Polyglots translation team site.
HTML in Captions
The ability to add HTML in captions from the caption feature in the WordPress Media Library has been long desired. You could add it manually through the HTML Editor, but now you can do it from within the native media handler. This is a better way to provide image citations and expand the content references in the captions.
Don’t stop with links. You can now add bold and italic to jazz up those captions.
Fast to the Top
Click on any empty space on the WordPress Admin Bar visible from within the WordPress Adminstration panels or on your site once you are logged in, and you will be taken to the top of the page. Mentioned on WPCandy, it references Eric Mann’s determination to get this Google+ feature aded to the WordPress core to improve navigation and site efficiency.
Luckily, Eric Mann is a member of my local Portland WordPress User Group so we can take advantage of his WordPress expertise. After presenting a program recently on how to contribute to the WordPress core, he used this new feature to describe in detail the WordPress core contribution process, a must read for every WordPress enthusiast on how you, too, can help WordPress improve.
Monitoring of comments on WordPress used to be restrained to the Comments Panel. WordPress 3.4 improves comment monitoring, interaction, and speed by #14222 (Improve dashboard recent comments widget performance by not fetching spam comments) – WordPress Trac not fetching spam comments onto the WordPress Dashboard panel, a two year project, and allowing comment replies from the Comments Panel instead of forcing the user to go to the live front-end view of their site. Little things but they make a ton of difference to highly interactive sites.
WordPress 3.4 Improvements for Coders and WordPress Experts
Without a doubt, WordPress 3.4 brings some positive news for coders, hackers, designers, and developers.
As usual, Aaron Brazel is out with his “Things You Need to Know” post listing some excellent information and details on the improvements in WordPress 3.4 everyone, especially coders and developers need to know.
A few details he mentions include the deprecation of closing PHP tags at the very end of a template file. No longer is it necessary to close the closing tag with the requisite
?> because if there is any white space at the end of a file, PHP is likely to break. This does not mean that coders are to no longer close any PHP tag, just the closing tag within a template file.
He also mentions internal functions and classes now include RTL, ie7, ie8, and others for browser targeted design and development.
jQuery, jQuery UI, TinyMCE, Plupload, PHPMailer, SimplePie, and other external libraries were updated bringing improved performance, speed, and handling.
Auto-complete has been added to add user for WordPress Multisite to make it faster for adding existing users to the network. The upload limit has also been increased from 10MB to 100MB for Multisite, a huge improvement for Multisite administrators.
A sweet little shortcut has been added that will make some lives easier and save a few fingers. To log into WordPress, you’ve had to either click the login link on your site, or type in your site’s URL plus
/wp-login to access the login screen. You can now just type in
/admin and save a few keystrokes and be redirected to the login, Dashboard panel, or general Administration Screens.
For those into the latest and greatest technology, the WordPress Administration Panels (nicknamed the Dashboard) now features retina-ready capabilities for retina displays such as the Retina Macbook Pro which highlights navigation points when you look at them. It’s very Star Trek and I’m totally ready for that. Matthias Kretschmann has more information on adding retina support for WordPress Plugins and Themes.
Want More About WordPress 3.4?
Here are some more reports and reviews on WordPress 3.4:
- WordPress 3.4 Update: Everything You Need to Know – ManageWP
- 10 Things You Need to Know About WordPress 3.4 — Technosailor.com
- WordPress 3.4 is Ready to Download
- 2 Quick Tips for Troubleshooting WordPress Upgrade Issues
- Whats New in WordPress 3.4 | Smashing WordPress
- WordPress 3.4 Is Coming Soon! Find Out What to Expect | Wptuts+
- Feature Breakdown of WordPress 3.4 “Green” | WPCandy
- WordPress 3.4 Field Guide for Developers « WordPress Development Updates
- WordPress 3.4 Updates | WordPress Hosting by WP Engine
- Important Changes for WordPress 3.4 « WP Polyglots
- WordPress 3.4 offers no hassle theme testing – Computerworld
- Better experience searching for and choosing a theme in WordPress 3.4 | InMotion Hosting
- What’s New in WordPress 3.4? | WP101 WordPress Tutorial Videos