Work on WordPress 3.6 commenced in January this year, and with Beta 3 being announced on 11th May 2013, we can expect a Release Candidate and hopefully the final stable release in June. This release is an exciting development for a number of reasons.
First, there's the focus on Post Formats - a feature introduced since WordPress 3.1 but not widely used. Secondly, there are also improvements to the editing process, as well as the introduction of a new default theme which is a significant change from previous default themes.
Unlike the past few releases, WordPress 3.6 feels more significant - there's a lot to look forward to. Let's take a look at what we can expect.
Important Note - Since this article was published, the new Post Formats UI has been removed from the 3.6 release and will be available as a plugin instead until it can be rolled into a future release.
What's New in WordPress 3.6?
1. Post Formats
Post Formats have been a feature highlighted brilliantly in premium themes, but not widely used by general WordPress users. A feature loved by users of Tumblr, it remained unused by WordPress users.
With no structure premium theme developers used their own custom implementations.
Thanks to the efforts of Helen Hou-Sandi and many others, Post Formats got a face lift. The new user interface gives more visibility to post formats and also makes it easier to use. Additional custom meta fields give more structure to each post format and provided theme developers more control in customizing their look.
With so many different custom implementations including use of plugins like Alex King’s Post Format UI Plugin, we can now expect a standard implementation by all theme developers.
The different Post Formats available remain the same as earlier, however for better structure, they now have their own custom meta fields such as:
Image Post Format:
- Image URL
- Link URL
Link Post Format:
- Link URL
Video & Audio Post Format
- Video Embed Code or URL / Audio Embed Code or URL
- Quote Source
- Link URL
2. Audio & Video Support
Self hosted Audio & Video support has so far not been one of the strong points in WordPress. A user had to depend on either plugins or custom implementations which varied from theme to theme.
Along with the Post Format revamp, Audio & Video display is also made simpler. You no longer need any external libraries or plugins. Thanks to the inclusion of the MediaElement.js library within WordPress, theme developers can now take advantage of this with much ease.
While uploading the video/audio or adding the media URL or embed code, you can now get a preview directly in the post editing screen.
3. Auto Save
Posts are now automatically saved locally. If your browser crashes, your computer dies, or the server goes offline as you’re saving, you won’t lose the your post.
WordPress 3.6 also checks your active session at regular intervals. If you get logged out or your session gets expired you no longer are redirected to the Login screen when saving a post. Now, the login screen appears in a modal window on top of the page you currently are on.
4. Post Locking
It's now easier to know if someone else is editing a post. The “Take Over” option allows us to take control of the post and lock out the other user from the post editing screen.
A very useful feature especially for Multi-Author blogs.
5. Post Revisions
Post Revisions have received a much needed overhaul with a slider to move through history, and two-slider range comparisons.
6. Navigation Menus
Navigation Menus also received a face lift. The Menu page under “Appearance” is further simplified with an accordion-based UI, and a separate tab for bulk-assigning menus to locations.
Drop-down lists are now used to select which menu to edit, which in previous versions was done by clicking on a tab specific to each menu.
Small details such as the “Add New Menu” link on the “Manage Locations” tabs further saves clicks when you want to create a new menu.
7. New Default Theme – Twenty Thirteen
WordPress 3.6 will come with the new default theme, Twenty Thirteen. Very different from its predecessors, Twenty Thirteen is a bold and colorful theme that takes complete advantage of the new Post Format structure.
Not only being a perfect theme for bloggers, it can also become a reference for new theme developers from which to learn proper theme development standards.
The theme also comes with new headers which are equally as stunning as the rest of the theme.
Preparing for WordPress 3.6
If you are a theme developer or a user using Alex King’s Post Format UI plugin or a theme that uses custom meta boxes to create additional fields for each post format, now would be a great time to:
- Add functionality to disable your custom meta fields related to post formats if WordPress 3.6 is being used
- Add some functionality to avoid users having to retype their content for these fields
And finally remember that WordPress 3.6 is still in beta. The features will be more or less similar in the final release, but could still have changes.
If you love and work with WordPress I would advise testing version 3.6 beta and reporting bugs.