WordPress 3.9 New Features

Are you ready for WordPress 3.9? With the new release scheduled for the week of April 14th, there are a few WordPress 3.9 new features you should be aware of. Most of these features will make your life easier, but some may cause some compatibility issues with plugins your site is running. Hopefully those are few and far between though.

Widget Previews

WordPress users should be familiar with the live Theme Customization feature, which was added in WordPress 3.4. This allows site admins to change a theme’s settings and see a real-time preview of those changes before setting them to go live on their site.

A new feature coming in WordPress 3.9 allows you to preview changes to widgets that you might add to your site’s sidebar, footer, or wherever your theme allows them.

WordPress 3.9 New Feature Widget Preview

A simple example of the widget previews is shown in the screenshot above, where I changed the title from “Search” to “Search my site”. It’s not a complicated example, but you can see how it would benefit a user who is about to save a widget with some more complex settings.

Add and Crop Header Images

From the theme customize menu (Appearance > Customize), another new option is the Header Image. Here you can add a new image to your site’s header and crop it to whatever dimensions you want. The editor does give you the recommended dimensions from your theme so it makes it a little easier to crop an image that is the right size. You also can preview the new header before saving any of your changes.

WordPress 3.9 New Feature Crop Header

Adding Themes

The Add Themes page in WordPress 3.9 has been given a bit of a face lift, and is more visual than in previous versions.

Previously, the add new theme page gave you the first screen with options to search for themes by keyword, or filter by specific features (color, layout, etc.). A new feature in WordPress 3.9 gives you a preview of Featured, Popular, Latest, Photography, and Responsive categories right off as well as the ability to search for themes.

I’m currently viewing the WordPress 3.9 beta 1 release, which also gives a “More” option that doesn’t seem to do anything. I’m assuming that this will give you a list of features to filter your results with, but I haven’t been able to find that out yet.

WordPress 3.9 Add Themes

Create Audio or Video Playlist

WordPress 3.9 PlaylistsThe image gallery feature has been around since WordPress 2.5, allowing WordPress users to easily create photo galleries in their pages or posts. This gave a lot of flexibility to quickly create nice, clean looking photo galleries without the use of a plugin, or any technical styling knowledge.

Now videographers and musicians can create similar playlists.

The edit playlist screens have a similar look to the edit gallery screen, allowing you to edit captions, drag and drop to reorder the playback, as well as several other display options.

The playlists will add familiar playback controls to your page or post with play/pause and volume controls. If you choose to do so, you can also show the track list, artist name, images (if available), and choose from a light or dark themed playback area.

Updated Visual Editor

The visual editor screen will also get upgraded in WordPress 3.9. A few new features include:

WordPress 3.9 Visual Editor

  • Removed the “Paste from Word” button. Previously, copying from Microsoft Word and pasting directly into a post caused all sorts of formatting issues. Now it seems to be able to accept your copy/paste from Word directly in the post.
  • Added a horizontal line button, which previously could only be inserted by editing a post in the text editor and inserting <hr>.
  • Added a shortcut CTRL+K to open the link editing dialog. This is a standard way of inserting links in many other programs, and I have always found myself using it in WordPress knowing full well that nothing would happen. I like this!! It’s the little things – I know.
  • Drag and drop images directly to the post editor where you want them to be. You don’t have to click the Add Media button to upload an image anymore, although that is still an option. Dragging and dropping an image to the editor screen opens the media uploader screen so you can add a caption, change the alignment, size, Alt text, etc.
  • Image galleries no longer show the generic grayed out placeholder box in the post editor. They now show a preview of the gallery inside the editor.
  • Resize images from inside the visual editor by clicking and dragging a corner.

With the changes to the visual editor, you should be aware that any plugins that add buttons to the visual editor menu bar may not work as the did previously. The tags they previously produced should still work fine in your older posts, but the actual buttons may stop working with this update. If that’s the case, open a new question in the WordPress support forum¬†for the plugin that stopped working as expected. The plugin’s developer should (hopefully) already be aware of the issue, but it’s possible that they didn’t notice.

Just a few WordPress 3.9 New Features

These are only a few of the WordPress 3.9 new features that will be available in the coming weeks.

What features are you most excited about?

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