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The Journey to WordPress 3.5 Begins

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Hopefully by now, all your WordPress installations are successfully upgraded to version 3.4. One of the most exciting things about a version release is that work can then begin on the next version! Here's a sneaky preview of what was discussed in the latest dev chat scoping session for WordPress 3.5.


First, an Important Note

All the information discussed in the WordPress dev chat this week is still extremely tentative scoping. So even though there might be talk of a particular feature or change, it may not actually end up in WordPress 3.5, or it may end up being different than originally discussed. So, when WordPress 3.5 is released, if it doesn't look much like what I'm about to talk about... you were warned!

Quick Catch Up: For those who don't know what the WordPress dev chat is, it's the weekly meeting in the #wordpress-dev channel on IRC chat for the team who develop WordPress. You can read over the IRC logs of those chats if you're unable to make it to the actual meeting, or want to see the whole discussion that I'll be summarising here. You can also follow along with the WordPress development blog which was recently moved to the "make" network of WordPress blogs.

What's Been Discussed for WordPress 3.5

The discussion this week was run by Andrew Nacin, who was recently promoted to being a Lead Developer in recognition of his incredible contributions. Matt Mullenweg also took the floor to explain what he had in mind for the direction of this next release.

Matt's main feature scope proposals were (quoted from the dev chat):

  1. First thing mentioned: Twenty Twelve, which was originally slated for 3.4, but held back.

    "2012 is ready to go in, and while needs more work the cycle should be plenty
    we should consider promoting it standalone in addition to bundling it with 3.5
    ...
    in the theme directory after we've given it a dev once/twice-over in trunk"

    Of course it's going to be interesting to see the new Twenty Twelve theme released with 3.5, and see what changes might happen between now and then. There's a demo of Twenty Twelve in its present state here: Twenty Twelve Demo.

  2. "It'd be nice to flatten the aesthetic of the admin a bit as we retinize everything, to make it easier to scale up and down (responsive) in the future, and also recolor (right now the blue theme is a big overhead)
    inspiration there from https://github.com/blog/1106-say-hello-to-octicons, WordPress.com has also been using them successfully - http://wordpress.com/i/noticons/example.html
    so less of the cartoony / icony thing we have now"

    The second proposal is no big surprise, as this is the direction the web seems to generally be moving in, and it makes sense. As Matt mentioned, GitHub is one prominent example of the use of fonts to replace icons / symbols for scalability. It would also be good to give the blue admin theme some love (or lose it).

  3. "It's been a while since we removed something, and I'd like to nominate the link manager, which is a whole top-level menu item"

    "'But I love the link manager. I use it all the time!' ~ No one, ever."
    ~ Mark Jaquith

    The third thing was more of a surprise to me, but a very welcome one! It's definitely time to remove some of the vestigial "blog reminiscent" features from WordPress that are used less and less, and give fuel to the argument that "WordPress is just for blogs". Getting rid of the link manager will help unclutter the admin interface, but obviously some thought needs to be given to the few who do actually rely on this feature. Some of the discussion leaned towards making it a widget, or a custom menu, or even a plugin.

Some other suggestions from developers for feature scope in 3.5 were:

  • Work on the Welcome screen, Setup Wizard, and the new user experience – Ben Balter's post The Demise of the Dashboard was also referenced here – and further UI discussion for what might get into 3.5 scope happened on the Make WordPress UI blog.
  • More fine-tuning of the Theme Customizer. Specifically work on the handling of custom header and background workflow, and menus (widgets mentioned, but more likely for 3.6)
  • Reworking the Upload/Insert Media workflows. Nacin specified that it was important to keep the scope for this one narrow for the moment. Some things he mentioned that were out of scope were galleries as objects and multiple parents for attachments. Essentially, everything that's not in the current media dialog box, such as the Media Library screen, etc. won't be touched. The idea is to straighten out and separate the functionality the media dialog box provides: separation of tasks.
  • Two things Nacin mentioned for the media upload area, if there was extra time, were: background uploads, and drag 'n' drop for uploading images into the editor. Given the tight timeline, I doubt these will make it into 3.5, but it's nice to see features like that are on the radar, and Andrew Ozz seemed to feel they might not take as long as you'd first think. Nacin and Mark Jaquith even made mention of the ability to set images to upload to other servers!
  • Andrew Ozz also raised the idea of security hardening, in terms of admin notification emails for plugin/theme activations, available updates, etc. So hopefully that will get some attention for WordPress 3.5 as well.

Those are some pretty exciting suggestions for scope, and while it is all still very tentative, I'm looking forward to seeing how that all pans out. I'm also looking forward to being involved in the development process too.

Nacin mentioned three platform improvements that he'd like to see included in WordPress 3.5 as well:

  • "File copies during an upgrade should be verified with a hash. Too many support requests and emails for my liking, every release, that are because a file didn't copy over. We should verify and try again, as a v1."
  • "WordPress.org now supports plugin favorites. I hope that Otto42 will be able to spearhead an API for allowing you to in-dashboard browse your favorite plugins the same way you can look through recently updated, etc."
  • "Language packs for default themes and "core" plugins (importers et al.)"

When To Expect WordPress 3.5

A very tentative release date for WordPress 3.5 was also discussed. The team are aiming for a December 5th release date, or somewhere around that time. This actually makes for a fairly short development cycle, being less than 5 months from now. It also covers a timespan with a few big events, such as WordCamp San Francisco, a WordPress community summit, an Automattic company meetup, and the PressNomics conference.

There was also talk of feature freeze by September 12th, and then user testing and tweaks to be completed by September 26th. This would mean there's room for beta, and release candidates, etc. before the final release. As Scribu summarised in the chat, essentially two months for development followed by two months for polish.

It seems like a fairly optimistic timeline, but if managed well will just mean that it's a focussed round of development.


The Next Step in the Development Process

Early this week Nacin will be posting the official summary of the scoping session on Make / Core, and developers who want to be involved are encouraged to put their hands up ready for teams to be formed around each of the major features. Teams were used for the development process for WordPress 3.4, and it seemed to go really well, so they're sticking with it again this time around.

Next week in the WordPress dev chat Nacin's agenda will likely be:

  • Formalising the feature scope based mainly on what was discussed in this meeting
  • Hammering out any platform/API considerations
  • Discussing things like unit tests, XML-RPC, etc. These will need to be worked on to keep up-to-date with the other development that happens

Conclusion

WordPress 3.5 planning is underway, which is very exciting. Some of the features talked about are fairly major, so once it's released and you upgrade, you'll notice them! Again, I should mention that everything mentioned above is very tentative, but it's at the very least an indication of the direction development will head in.

So what are you most hoping makes it into WordPress 3.5? What wasn't mentioned that you really think needs a work over? And most importantly, do you plan on getting involved and contributing to WordPress this time around? Let us know in the comments below!

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