Just like every stable release of WP, version 3.4 too brings many big and small changes to the table. With something as popular as WordPress, missing out on a feature or two is obviously natural. Plus, with the plethora of awesome features that WP 3.4 comes with you may need a guide like this to help you discover them all.
If you are also overwhelmed by the features of WP 3.4, have no fear! We’ve got you covered!
In this article, we take a close look at some of the major additions of WordPress 3.4. We shall be following a step-by-step approach — we will take a look at a given feature, delve deeper into it, and then move on to the next new feature. Of course, certain changes in WP 3.4 can’t really be ‘explored’ in an article of this nature, such as the new internationalization elements.
Customization Beyond Imagination!
To begin with, this new version of WordPress has added many innovative tweaks and features to the way you customize the look and feel of your website. Among other things, infinite scrolling is now added to the themes’ page – you can now easily search for your favorite theme.
The Theme Customizer
C’mon, admit it: you like playing with new themes, don’t you? I know many WordPress users who count the awesome theme repository and the ease with which one can change themes as the primary reasons why they will not consider any other blogging platform.
WordPress 3.4 has, to a great extent, revolutionized the way we operate with themes in the front-end.
You now have the liberty to customize themes on the go using the Live Theme Customizer. Let’s see how it works.
Once you enter the Live Preview (click ‘Customize’ under the activated theme’s preview), this is what you are greeted with:
You can edit the site title and tagline, change the colors, layout, header image, background and even static front page. Of course, over time, newer themes will add new options to the Live Preview itself, so you’re in for a treat. Let’s see how our preview looks after we make few changes:
There you go, changed the header and color scheme. Don’t like the changes? Just don’t hit ‘Save and Publish’. :-) Still need more? Check out this awesome video about the Theme Customizer.
You can now install child themes using the theme installer. If you install a child theme but do not have its parent theme installed, WordPress theme installer will itself install the parent theme along with the child theme.
Clearly, this functionality will result in an increase in the popularity of child themes and we may soon be seeing many awesome child themes in the repository.
Header Images are now Flexible
Remember how we used to resize and edit the header images, so that they ‘fit’ properly? Well, none of that is needed anymore. Now, header images are flexible and need not be of a fixed width or height.
If you are a theme author, you can simply ‘recommend’ the ideal size to your users – but overall, there is no need to resize and edit an image in order to make it apt for usage as a header picture.
Enhanced Functionality, Easier Management
Apart from appearance-related features, WordPress 3.4 also comes loaded with many other major and minor facelifts that will surely make working in WP a better experience. Let’s take a look at some of these functionality tweaks.
HTML in Captions
If you’ve been craving the ability to include HTML (links, etc.) in captions for images, you can celebrate – WP 3.4 comes with support for HTML in captions. For instance, you can now link author credits in the image caption itself. Let’s try using bold and italics in the caption, shall we?
You can now use oEmbed to embed tweets within your posts. How does this work? Simply copy-paste the URL to a tweet, and WordPress will take care of the rest. In fact, WordPress has had support for oEmbed ever since version 2.9 So far, we can use it to embed stuff from Youtube, Flickr and Scribd, among many others. With version 3.4 this functionality has been added for tweets as well.
Let’s check this out right away, say, by copying and pasting a tweet from 1WD’s Twitter page itself.
(Screenshot posted here as the above testing was done on a demo site, and not on 1WD main site.)
Awesome! No plugins needed, no short code necessary!
‘Recent Comments’ Dashboard Widget
The widget has received certain performance related touch-ups. This feature, though minor, is especially useful for websites with numerous comments. Learn more about it here.
Comment while Editing Posts
Thus far, you could only respond to existing comments to a given post from the Edit Post page. With WP 3.4 however, you can also post new comments while editing the post.
Changes Behind the Scenes
XML-RPC gets a Revamp (sort-of)
If you don’t already know it, XML-RPC is the API that decides how WordPress interacts with other applications, and vice-versa. For example, if you use a mobile app to manage your blog from your Android smartphone, the interaction between the mobile app and your blog’s WP installation is handled by XML-RPC.
The new XML-RPC in WordPress 3.4 has support for taxonomies, custom post types, and many other similar features. To know more about XML-RPC vis-a-vis WordPress 3.4, check this out.
Custom Post Types and Distraction-Free Writing
Until now, custom post types couldn’t utilize the Distraction-free Writing Editor (also called DFW). With the latest release of WP, custom post types can also make use of DFW.
While internationalization for WP 3.4 has had its good share of improvements, on a broader note, there is support for comma as well as single/double quote translation, along with the ability to override default timezone, if need be. Don’t know what these changes mean? Well, many languages do not use the comma as a full-fledged separator (certain dialects of Arabic and Chinese, for instance). Similarly, languages such as Hebrew have distinct meaning for single and double quotes, and so on.
Among other things, spell checker, Dashboard widgets and default WP links are also translatable now.
It is being claimed that WordPress 3.4 comes with faster queries. The point worth noting is that WordPress 3.4 has changed the way SQL and object caching is used, thereby resulting in faster and more efficient queries.
Page templates can now be stored within sub-directories, inside the theme’s folder. This can help you organize your themes better, especially if you are working with a more complex theme. So if your theme uses many custom page templates, you can group them under /pages sub-directory (and pat yourself on the back for being so organized and neat).
Such flexible theme management, coupled with better XML-RPC API, will surely pave the road for flexible theme management in near future, as is already evident.
WP Multi-Site has received two noteworthy improvements with the launch of version 3.4, namely:
Autocomplete for Add New User
If you are adding a new user to your website, and just in case that particular user happens to be registered at another of your network websites, his/her username will now autocomplete. Thus, you simply need to enter a part of the username and/or email, and the rest will be taken care of by WordPress.
Increased Upload Limits
The 10MB default upload limit (on an individual site) has been raised to 100MB.
Among other things, we have:
The Admin Bar
Notice the empty space on the admin bar? Now, if you click on that empty space (on any given page), it’ll scroll to the top of page. Clever use of the admin bar, isn’t it?
Better Touch Support
WordPress 3.4 comes with better touch support, thereby enabling you to use it on your mobile and portable devices with ease. If you are a front-end developer, you can rejoice because WP 3.4 comes bundled with the jQuery UI Touch Punch library to allow you to make better mobile-friendly websites.
I saved this one for the last. Just in case you have a Retina Macbook Pro, it’s another reason to celebrate – WordPress 3.4 officially loves you! WordPress 3.4 Dashboard is now ready for Retina display.
Still want more? WordPress 3.4 has fixed over 400 bugs and added over 115 feature enhancements. You can grab the complete list here. Further more, you can grab an in-depth video review of WordPress 3.4 below:
What do you think of WP 3.4? Feel free to share with us in the comments below!
Sufyan bin Uzayr writes for various magazine and blogs, and is the author of "Sufism: A Brief History". He blogs about technology, Linux and open source, mobile, web design and development, typography, and Content Management Systems at Code Carbon. You can learn more about him, follow him on Twitter or friend him on Facebook and Google+.