At about 19:30 GMT WordPress 3.9 (codenamed “Smith”) was released. Like 3.8, there doesn’t seem to be that many startling new features, certainly compared to 3.6 or 3.7. Nevertheless, here is what has changed in WordPress 3.9…

Improved “Customise” area with Live Widgets Preview

WordPress in the last few releases has seen constant improvements to the “Customise” section, which is located under Appearance. This is fast becoming the area to improve front end design, as changes that are made here are previewed in the right panel. This is incredibly handy as you can check to see how your theme looks with added widgets and content.

I quite like this new feature, and can possibly see it replace the current widget screen. Only time will tell though, but WordPress appears to be pushing hard the Customise section, so it’ll be interesting to see if it is featured more prominently.

I think somewhere down the road too you’re going to get pure front end design and customisations. This seems like a step towards it.

If you’re a theme author, you probably should be moving your options panel to the “Customise” section of the site eventually. There’s an API surrounding it which could be a start in switching to the Customiser.


TinyMCE (Visual Editor) Upgraded to 4.0

The potentially biggest change so far has been that the visual editor that runs WordPress’ post/page editor (TinyMCE), has been upgraded to version 4.0.

TinyMCE 4.0 does add on some nice new features. You can upload images directly to the editor if need be, and the new Gallery Layout – seen in the picture above – is quite nice. Finally, copying and pasting from software such as Microsoft Word becomes a lot cleaner and the “Paste From Word” button has been removed.

It is a much needed upgrade, and very welcome. However be aware there could be some small plugin issues, but nothing that isn’t a security issue or a bug that affects your site being used correctly – but some buttons may be lacking icons until the authors get them fixed (it’s something I’ve been looking at myself).


Creation of an Audio/Video Playlist

This feature is quite exciting.

If you are a podcaster, musican or video site, you can now create playlists of audio or video that you upload. Playlists can contain any number of files, which are then played in a clean user interface on the front end of the website.

Genuinely think this is a fascinatingly useful feature, and one that should be well received by the community, particularly as WordPress users seems to be publishing more and more rich content. This feature along with strong rich media hosting should see more and more WordPress users hosting their content natively, rather than on systems such as Youtube or Grooveshark. WordPress believes that people should own the content they create so it’s nice that they’re continuing to put their money where there mouth is.


The Final – And Coolest – Thing On WordPress 3.9

The final thing with WordPress 3.9 which is cool to only me and a few others, is that I contributed to it. Yes if you click on the “Credits” screen after installing 3.9, you should see my name present. This is the first release I have contributed to, so for a line or two of my code in the release is quite humbling, yet quite nice.

A big thank you to WP Contributor Day in Manchester, who helped me get up & running on how to contribute, as well as provide support. If you ever want to contribute to WordPress, or indeed improve your skills, then I would highly recommend attending a WordPress Contributor Day. They are usually held after WordCamps, but now they are slowly becoming independant.

So that’s the new features of WordPress 3.9, what are your favourite new features? Please leave your thoughts in the comments.

  • Comments
  • Ben Greenwood

    Ah, nice work, Rhys. Also…nice round up, I’m loving the Customise area and hope it continues to get better and better.

    April 17, 2014 at 8:46 am
  • Stewart Ritchie

    Definitely a user/editor focused release. Nice to see the pace of the updates is coming along at a good speed now. Excited to see where WP is 12 months from now.

    Not much for developers, is there a feature list for WordPress 3.10 yet?

    April 17, 2014 at 9:40 am
    • Rhys Wynne

      The next release is 4.0 (yes, I think it should be 3.10 too! But that is how WordPress works :-|) – WordPress operates a “Features as Plugins” methodology, where new features are run as plugins first, here’s what’s scheduled to appear “at some point” –

      April 17, 2014 at 9:48 am
  • Laura Briedis

    Very excited about the new features. Congratulations!

    April 17, 2014 at 12:04 pm
  • Jake Caputo

    Thanks for the round up Rhys!

    As a theme author, I’ve slowly begun to move my themes to the customizer. It’s tough with old themes because there are literally thousands of users with the old options system in place, and without a way to covert those options into the customizer, my users will upgrade and lose their options; Likely if I try to warn them.

    April 17, 2014 at 12:27 pm
  • Jake Caputo

    That was supposed to be “likely EVEN if I try to warn them.”

    April 17, 2014 at 12:28 pm
  • Richard Martin

    The best thing for me personally is the upgraded image editing and dragging into a post feature.

    WP has changed a LOT since I first started using it, and I am glad to say, mostly for the better.

    April 17, 2014 at 8:53 pm
  • Burlo Arthur

    Great work, Rhys!

    Love the way WordPress is being upgraded. I started using it when it was on version 3.5 and since then it has really improved a lot. I didn’t notice that the junk created when pasting from Word has been fixed. Hurray! That’s one fix I was looking forward to. Thanks!

    April 19, 2014 at 3:40 am
  • Paul

    All that being said, it still is no where near WYSIWYG. In fact the whole editing process for WordPress has been one of my biggest frustrations since moving several of my sites over to it 5 or 6 years ago.
    What is more surprising is, that until 2012, Microsoft offered a regularly updated real WordPress WYSIWYG tool 100% free with “Windows Live Writer”. However, they have decided to stop supporting it, and it is gradually becoming less useful as WordPress changes and WLW doesn’t keep up.
    Just waiting several seconds for the page preview to load is frustrating enough, then to find it really is nothing like the layout in the in built editor (and even with 3.9 it is still a very long way from being accurate) means I’m staggered, I mean really staggered, that a desktop WYSIWYG tool that is updated properly isn’t available.

    Still, this is a step in the right direction. 20% there in one step maybe? That’s pretty good

    April 24, 2014 at 9:52 pm
  • Rob

    Great article Rhys, It’s nice to see a developer put it all out there.Not gathered content by just any blogger. Ever since the new release I have seen lots of reviews. I personally love the updates my favorite update has to definitely be the copy and past from MS Word going much smoother. I write all content in word .
    I love the sleek new Dashboard too.
    I don’t know what not to like about all the updates I just love WordPress all together. Every new update just increase it awesomeness.

    April 24, 2014 at 11:08 pm
  • Ben

    Great work Rhys. Really nice. I just have a minor issue; The options under ‘customize theme’ are greyed out so i’m unable to customize any theme. What’s the way out?

    May 8, 2014 at 2:05 pm
    • Rhys Wynne

      Hi Ben,

      I think it’s a case of the theme you use not being compatible with the “Customize” function. I’m not 100% sure if I’m honest.

      May 27, 2014 at 3:17 pm

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