WordPress 3.3 — A Major Update

The word from WordPress was that version 3.3 would arrive sometime this week. Well, It’s here and it’s a major release. Whereas version 3.2 was mostly a bug fix and stability release, version 3.3 introduces new tools for all users from admins to authors and subscribers.

I’ve been working with the beta and release candidates here on this blog and the improvement that has me most excited is the unified drag-n-drop media loader. In version 3.3, the four buttons for image, video, audio and media are gone;  there’s only one Upload/Insert media tool.


Post editor tool bar with unified media tool

 

Clicking the Upload/Insert button pops up the new loader which defines a space for dragging and droppin one or more files. You can see this in the following screenshot showing me uploading the following screenshot into this post following this sentence.

 

 

The uploader then smartly figures out what type each file is and displays them in the familiar show/hide popup panel. But, it keeps the drag-n-drop window available for more quick uploads into the gallery. Editors will appreciate this thoughtful touch.

The second new feature I like is the Welcome to WordPress 3.x dashboard page that you’re returned to after automatically upgrading to a new version. It describes the new features. It’s the version’s README file located in your blog at /wp-admin/about.php. It’s very friendly.

 

It part of a package of new features that make the dashboard a more friendly place for the millions of non-technical, website owner/operators who are using WordPress as personal publishing platforms (like many of my clients.) In the same manner, version 3.3 pops up a tip window the first time you try a dashboard feature or visit an admin page.  And, throughout the dashboard, there are improvements and added touches that’ll make it more application-like. According to the about page, these are:

  • Combined toolbar and admin bar — They’ve finally gotten it right and it can be customized by theme developers
  • Fly-out dashboard menus — No more accordions. The sub-menu extend out horizontally
  • Screen design fixes — To take into account tablets and other non-pc devices and screens
  • Better  help information — A frame open at the top of the page with tabbed sections and related links

For theme developers, WordPress version 3.3 adds new APIs for the editor and dashboard admin screens supposedly making it easier to customize the back end for special themes and applications. It also include the complete jQuery UI stack and makes good use of it. This more or less standardizes WordPress’ JavaScript framework. It’s a good move, in my opinion. Other JavaScript frameworks such as MooTools, Prototype and Scriptaculous may have richer behaviors to attach to page elements, but they are also prone to causing plugin conflicts.

Anyway, Based on my first impressions and a few hours spent with it, I con recommend updating your WordPress to version 3.3 soon, especially if you regularly write posts with images and other media attachments. As always, back up your WordPress files and database before you upgrade your website. If you’re using non-standard plugins or customizations, ask your web developer if they are compatible with the new version. And, don’t forget that you can aways get answers from the WordPress Support Forums.

Happy Blogging!
Larry Aronson