A few days ago I was setting up a new WordPress site that wasn’t going in to production for a few days and saw the option to update to WordPress 4.0 – the perfect opportunity to upgrade without too much risk. I updated via WordPress and it went through without a hitch, despite me having quite a few plugin installed, a complex theme, quite a few posts and running on a Plesk / Windows server.
Note: For anyone looking for a beginners manual for WordPress (either for yourself or to give to a customer to help them update their website), I highly recommend: Wordpress for Beginners: A Visual Step-by-Step Guide
So What’s New?
Unlike most reviews I’ve only commented on the things that I feel are a big deal – there have been marginal improvements to many areas of the platform but no more so than we see in every update. The plugin manager is now a little better and the ‘Customization’ module has been improved and generalized to try and drive developers to pack more non-theme customization options in there.
New Media Library Layout
A feature which is being shouted about in WordPress 4.0 is the new Media Library grid layout.
I must confess to being a little underwhelmed when I saw it as it’s essentially the same the as the post media selector popup for blog posts on the later versions of WordPress but now made the default layout for the Media Library. It is however still an improvement and not being taken to a new page every time you click an image is nice.
I’m glad the WordPress development team left in the option to return list view however because in grid view you lose all sorting options (and no – unlike operating systems, you cannot select your sorting in list view and then view it in grid view, when you click grid view your sorting gets lost).
Post WYSIWYG Editor
A huge frustration for me when editing blog posts has always been trying to keep the editor formatting bar in view, so often I’d hit the scroll wheel on my mouse only to find the whole page – not just the blog entry – jumping up and down because my mouse cursor had drifted slightly. Gone are those days! In what I consider to be the bigger usability fix in many version updates, the WordPress development team have fixed this with the simple and common practice of sticky navigation. When you scroll so far the formatting bar is about to leave your browser’s viewport, it stops and sticks to it! Hurrah! If you are a prolific blogger, it’s worth updating just for this alone!
Language & Internationalization
There’s a lot changed under the hood in WordPress 4.0 with a big shift to ensuring its spread to the non-English speaking continues by ensuring that the entire installation can now be done in the developers chosen language – this may not affect many of you directly but anything that increases the popularity of the platform will make for a richer eco-system and greater peer support and development.
While I’m not convinced this really warranted the rollover from 3.9 to 4.0, there have been significant advances in the backend usability and opening up the platform for the international community – both very big deals. I suspect that most people upgrading from 3.8 or 3.9 to version 4.0 will see little or no problems because the codebase hasn’t shifted that much, it’s more GUI and interface changes – I certainly haven’t seen any problems across a large number of updates sites.
Official WordPress Video
For the full run down, check out the official WordPress release video here: