WordPress 3.9: An Early Overview


With the release of WordPress 3.9 beta 1 on March 11, everyone is (or should be) ensuring their plugins and themes are ready for the update.  There’s a lot of exciting things coming from this update, and it’s easy to overlook some of the more technical (but still important) aspects being added into WordPress.  There’s new features, updates to existing one, and even some new surprises in store for those who update.  Here’s your definitive list of the features to look for in WordPress 3.9

New WordPress 3.9 Features

A Media Gallery Overhaul

The WordPress 3.9 gallery has been the focal point of a lot of this update’s new features.  From the very moment you click the Add Media button you can see the big changes

The “Create Playlist” and “Create Video Playlist” buttons are new, and allow you to add audio and video files to a gallery, very similarly to how you add posts.  The final result of each?

WordPress will add individual file blocks that you can separate, add content between, or modify however you wish.

The videos are similar, but have their specific settings.



I tested with a FLV, and everything seems to work seamlessly out of the box – but your mileage may vary (and it is a beta, after all).

All in all, I’m extremely impressed with WordPress 3.9’s new gallery functionality.  This is going to give bands and musical artists a way to easily upload music for their fans to listen to.  While I’d still use YouTube for videos (simply for the social aspect), for any videos that can’t be used there (for copyright, or other reasons), it’s a great fallback that works seamlessly.

As an aside, your image galleries now show a WYSIWYG preview in the editor – which, personally, is a long time coming.

New WYSIWYG Editor Version (TinyMCE)

This is more of an update than anything else, but WordPress is rolling in updates to TinyMCE, the current WYSIWYG editor.  The editor itself, as opposed to the Media screen, is drag-and-drop, so you can drag over your photos straight from the desktop.  Also, the “Paste from Word” button is gone (gasp!) but that’s OK – because you no longer need it.  TinyMCE converts Word content automatically, so there’s no need to fret over formatting issues.  They may still arise, however, but that’s what “Paste as Plain Text” is for.

New Theme Selection Screen

In another amazing redesign, the “Add Themes” screen gets a much-needed visual update.  You can see a preview of the theme by clicking the button in each theme card.

Widget Customization

This is, by far, what I believe is the most important update in WordPress 3.9.  Everyone has a love-hate relationship with the widgets section.  It’s impossible to see just how the widgets will look because you have to save a widget to view it on your site.

Not anymore.

The widgets are now being copied (not moved, as the original widget area will still be there) into the “Theme Customizer” section of WordPress.  This means that you can see a live preview of all of the work you do before you save it.  This is huge for people who hate “live editing” their site, as it lets you preview the changes before pulling the trigger.


I can’t stress how amazing this is.  Live previews always make things easier to manage, and this is the icing on a fairly decent sized cake.

Other Developer Edits

For the developers out there, fear not – there’s a few things for you guys as well.

  • The “crop positioning” on custom thumbnail sizes has always been “horizontal and vertically centered”.  This update adds extended options to allow you to set the crop position.
  • The “Autosave” feature was bloated, and a lot of it has been refactored to run faster and better.

My Thoughts on WordPress 3.9

I may be biased because I’m a WordPress fanboy, but there’s a lot of exciting things to look forward to in this release.  The new galleries take WordPress from being “photographer” friendly to “content creator” friendly, as it allows anyone to showcase their medium of choice, whatever that is, easily.  The additions to theme selection and widget modification should make any power user excited.

As a side note: I’ve had a few people ask me if the new playlist feature will kill off plugins like PowerPress.  On the contrary – I think it’ll enhance them.  I can’t wait to see how those authors use the new built-in technology to make their plugins better.