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Taking a Look at WordPress 4.0

WordPress 4.0 will most likely be with us within the next week, so how is it going to perform and what new features will it bring to the table?

WordPress 4.0 RC-1 is now available.

I decided to give the RC-1 of WordPress 4.0 a try with a test installation to better assess what new features we should be looking forward to. Here is how it went:

WordPress 4.0: All You Need To Know!

Unlike the previous versions, this time, when I upgraded from 3.9.2 to 4.0 RC-1, I was logged out, and presented with the login screen that asked me to log back in to see what’s new! The suspense!

Wordpress login screen that asked me to log back in

Here is a quick run-down of what WordPress 4.0 intends to bring to the table:

Better Media Management

Of late, with each major release of WordPress, the Media Manager has been evolving. WordPress 4.0 takes this a step further – you can now view your images in a grid-based layout from the WordPress back-end. This makes working with and editing multiple images a breeze.

Better Embeds

Now, as and when you paste the URL to a video or a tweet, it will automatically be embedded, right in the editor itself! What this means is that you get a better visual experience while editing and working on your post, and also get to picturize how the published post is going to look, without actually having to go to the preview screen.

Focus on Content

WordPress 4.0 comes with an enhanced editing experience that allows you to focus on your writing. It expands as you write, and the formatting buttons are always visible.

WordPress 4.0 comes with an enhanced editing experience

Better Plugin Management

The Plugin Manager too gets a revamp in the newest version of WordPress. The plugin search, as well as the visual browsing experience has been improved.

Geek Talk

  1. The Customizer API now supports contexts, panels and several other controls.
  2. External libraries such as TinyMCE 4.1.3, jQuery 1.11.1 and MediaElement 2.15 have been updated.

Digging Deeper

Now, let us check out the major improvements offered by WordPress 4.0 in detail.

Content Creation

Starting with the Post Editor. By the looks of it, it appears to be nothing different from what we had in WordPress 3.9 However, as you start writing, you will notice the changes coming to the fore. As you type, the post editor text area actually expands in size – thereby ridding us of the in-editor scroll bar, essentially.

 As you type the post editor text area actually expands in size

Beyond that, the Media Manager, as mentioned, now offers a seamless grid layout that makes it easy to insert and edit images, especially if yours is an image-heavy blog.

the Media Manager as mentioned, now offers a seamless grid layout that makes it easy to insert and edit images

Next, I tried embedding a video in the post.

embedding a video in a WordPress post

As soon as you paste the URL to the video, it offers an embedded preview right in the editor itself. Same concept applies to tweets:

video it offers an embedded preview right in the editor itself

Paste the URL, and watch it work!

Themes and Plugins

The Theme Customizer has received minor tweaks too. Widgets now have their own sub-panel within the Customizer itself.

The Theme Customizer has received minor tweaks too

However, the bigger change has occurred in the plugins’ section. The Add New Plugins section now features better categorization: cache plugins, for example, come under Performance, whereas BuddyPress comes under Social, and so on. The overall interface has been tweaked too, with each plugin getting its own icon.

The overall interface has been tweaked too with each plugin getting its own icon

Beyond that, there is a Plugin Beta Testing section too, meant for the brave hearts. It will allow you to try out newer plugins that might otherwise be unstable for production purposes. Need inspiration? The WordPress Front-End Editor plugin is right there.

there is a Plugin Beta Testing section too

So, How Does One Get it?

As of now, the first Release Candidate for WordPress 4.0 is out. As a result, there is still one week to go before the actual stable version is released.

However, if you want, you can use the WordPress Beta Tester plugin to grab the latest nightly build and install it. This method, obviously, is NOT recommended for any use except for testing purposes.

The wait will not be long, and WP 4.0 is expected to be on its way soon enough. Of course, much like every other major version, this release too comes with its own new set of fixes and tweaks, so you are better off preparing yourself before you actually upgrade.

It is always a good idea to backup your website before upgrading, because, you know, just in caseā€¦.

The WordPress Codex has everything you need to know about backing up your database and other site data. If you are on a managed WordPress host, most likely they will offer an automated upgrade and backup policy, so you have one less thing to worry about.

Furthermore, it is also important to be sure that the plugins and themes you are using are compatible with WordPress 4.0. As of now, even BuddyPress has the “Untested with WP 4.0” tag, so you cannot expect other plugins to be super-ready right away. But eventually, most plugins and themes will be updated to be fully compatible with WordPress 4.0. It might also be worthwhile considering getting in touch with your theme or plugin developers regarding their update plans, if any.

With each major release, WordPress seems to be getting better and better. While the previous 3.x releases were marred by complaints of WordPress becoming too bloated for casual bloggers, version 4.0 does not seem to be posing any such concern. In fact, WP 4.0 RC-1 acts and operates in a rather nimble and swift manner, be it the Plugin Manager or the Media Gallery. Of course, TinyMCE improvements seem to be stealing the show here.

Image credit: Gudella


About the Author Sufyan bin Uzayr

Sufyan writes about web design and development, Content Management Systems, open source, and everything else in between. He blogs at Code Carbon, and you can find him on Facebook and Google+.