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WordPress 3.4 Is Coming Soon! Find Out What to Expect

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WordPress 3.4 Release Candidate 1 has been available since the end of May. The full release is just around the corner with a whole slew of bug fixes, enhancements, and new features. So let's go over some of the highlights and interesting points we can expect on release day.

Start Getting Excited

The next version of WordPress to be released will be 3.4, and it's going to be dropping soon, so I thought it'd be good to take a look at why we should care. What will 3.4 bring us to get excited about? There is a big list of bug fixes, enhancements, and new features for users as well as for theme and plugin developers. You can see a list of everything (currently a draft) on the WordPress.org Version 3.4 page, but we're going to have a look at some specifics here.

Highlighted Features Coming in WordPress 3.4

Enhanced Theme Control

With the enhanced theme control, you'll be able to make adjustments to your theme's options and settings before actually activating the theme on the front-end of your sites. This is made possible with the additions of the Theme Customizer and Theme Previewer. Theme Customizer will also be bringing a new and more interactive way for theme options to be used. You can watch an overview of this new feature as it was in WordPress 3.4 Beta on Otto's blog, where he explains how to leverage the Theme Customizer in your own themes.

Custom Headers

Up until now, uploading a header image for a theme using WordPress' built-in functions could in some cases be problematic. If you uploaded an image of a different size than the header was expecting... things went pear-shaped fast. Now, theme authors have access to the functionality for implementing headers with flexible widths and heights! If you upload an image that doesn't precisely meet the default dimensions – no drama, the theme can now gracefully adapt. Have a read of Sabreuse's blog post introducing flexible header in WordPress 3.4 themes.

Another nice addition in this area is the ability to now choose your custom header and background images from the Media Library. The Media Library continues to improve usability-wise!

Media Improvements

You've probably come across the frustrating issue, when adding an image to a post, of not being able to include any HTML in your image's caption. Well, when 3.4 drops and you update: all fixed. HTML will now be supported in the image caption field.

Under the Hood Improvements

Behind the scenes, there are a bunch of improvements. Some of the highlights there are:

  • Internationalization and localization has been improved. This includes things like:
    • localization of certain punctuation
    • spellchecker language list can be translated
    • POT files are now split into front-end, admin, and network admin (which will hopefully make translations faster!)
    • Dashboard widgets can be translated

    Read more about these changes on the official translation team P2 blog.

  • XML-RPC information in the Codex has had an update, which you can read under XML-RPC_WordPress_API.
  • WP_Query has had an overhaul to improve its performance. This has mainly been achieved by splitting the query. So rather than fetching all posts that match a query and all data at once, just IDs are fetched, then data from the posts matching those IDs. You can read more about this in WordPress Trac Ticket #18536.

Those are the features highlighted on the current Version 3.4 page, but there are a few other things I wanted to make note of as well...

Diamonds in the Rough: User Features

  1. If you liked the 'Recent Comments' Dashboard widget but had to disable it for performance reasons with a high number of comments, WordPress 3.4 might be a good time to give it another go. There have been some improvements to the performance of the widget on blogs with a large number of comments.
  2. You will now be able to add a new comment to a post from the 'Edit Post' screen. Up until now, you've been able to reply to a comment, but couldn't post a new one of your own.
  3. Twitter.com has now been added as an oEmbed provider. Which if you don't know what that means, will allow you to copy a link to a tweet on it's own line, and WordPress will pull in the tweet, quote-style.
  4. In accordance with the custom header / custom background feature additions, the default Twenty Ten and Twenty Eleven themes will get updates to support these too!
  5. If the current theme supports Post Formats, they will be show in nav menus.
  6. Autocomplete added to Add User screens in WordPress Multisite (this feature was worked on by yours truly! my first contribution to WordPress core)
  7. Default upload space limit on WordPress Multisite has been increased from 10MB to 100MB (make sure to check that one if you usually trust the default)

Diamonds in the Rough: Development, Themes, and Plugins

  1. There will be an improvement to WP_Screen methods, adding methods to get help tabs and allowing proper removal of help tabs by referring to their ID.
  2. Addition of the jQuery UI Touch Punch plugin, so WordPress will now be able to handle drag 'n' drop on mobile devices. This is pretty cool, especially because as it will be built-in, plugins can also easily take advantage of it. One thing to note though, is that this won't work on Windows Phone devices below (yet to be released) version 8, as Microsoft haven't included touch event detection yet.
  3. YUI Compressor has will be updated to the latest version for compressing CSS and JS.
  4. WordPress will now also redirect attempts to visit /login, /dashboard, or /admin to the WordPress equivalents, if they would otherwise have returned a 404.
  5. Introducing the WP_Theme class, which at the moment seems to be lacking documentation (hopefully that will come by release time), and is some of WordPress' gradual embrace of OOP.
  6. A whole slew of library updates, including jQuery UI to 1.8.20, PHPMailer to 5.2.1, SimplePie to 1.2.1, and TinyMCE to 3.4.9, to name a few.
  7. XML-RPC has had some really nice updates. Various image information is now exposed, such as featured images, image sizes, etc. Taxonomies have begun to be implemented, and new CRUD APIs for Posts, Pages, and Custom Post Types.

So, When Will We Get to Play With All This?

WordPress 3.4 was originally scheduled for release on April 18th, which has come and gone. For various reasons, the release was pushed back, and now we're finally almost there.

Some final tickets are being worked on now, so the release really is imminent. If you're getting anxious and can't wait, put your coding chops to good use and pick a 3.4 ticket!

What feature are you looking forward to most that's due to come with WordPress 3.4? What feature are you hoping to see in future versions of WordPress? When will you jump in and try your hand at contributing to WordPress? We'd love to hear what you have to say about all this in the comments below.

Note: Keep in mind that all features and information in this article are based on Beta and Release Candidate versions of WordPress. The feature set that will be released with WordPress 3.4 may vary from what is described here, but will still no doubt be awesome.

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