First impressions of WordPress 3.4

WordPressJust over a week ago, the good folks at WordPress released the latest version of their product, version 3.4. Now that we have had some time to install and use this new version, I thought it was a good time to post a quick review of the latest installment of our favorite CMS.

Installation

Installing the update was simple. We use the automatic update function without hesitation, and such was the case this time. One click, and BOOM! Done. The update completed in fewer than 30 seconds. Of course, you can always download a zip file of WordPress and install it through FTP. There are situations which call for such, but I love the automatic upgrade feature.

New Features

At first glance, most people won’t see a slew of new features in version 3.4. But there are a couple of significant additions to this latest version.

Theme CustomizerThe Customizer is the biggest change, which allows site administrators to make changes to the header, background, title, and menus of their current theme without all the tedious back-and-forth between settings required in previous versions. In addition, the Customizer also has a Live Preview function which lets users both customize and preview a different theme before activating it.

The Customizer is pretty cool addition, but as we generally create highly customized child themes for our clients, I can’t say how much of an effect this will have on how we work with our sites. On the other hand, people who use standard WP themes like Twenty Eleven or Twenty Ten themes should be thrilled with this addition. It will certainly cut down on the number of clicks needed to make your customizations, because in one place you can change the site title and tagline, play around with the color scheme, change your layout, change or upload your header and background images, and set a static front page for the site.

Tweet embedding is another major addition in version 3.4, and is supposed to make it simple to throw in a tweet on your blog without having to mess with plugins or embed codes. Ideally, you can just grab the permalink of whatever tweet you want to show, put it on its own line in your post, and viola! There’s your tweet.

I had no issues with the Twitter embeds in the Twenty Ten and Twenty Eleven themes, but within our customized child theme, our test embeds came out as standard hyperlinks, when they are supposed to look like this:

Embedded tweet

I’ve seen some posts on the WP forums where people suggested that plugin and/or theme conflicts could be the cause of the problem. At this time, I don’t do enough Twitter embedding for it to be an issue for us, but this could be a problem for some users.

Another change that affects the front end is the addition of simple HTML coding in image captions. I have never been a big fan of the image captioning in WordPress, but this improvement will make our lives a little easier.

There are also quite a few back-end upgrades in the new version, but I’ll not get into those here. Suffice it to say that while there is nothing earth-shattering in the new version, one week into the new release it seems as if WordPress has released yet another fast, stable, and user-friendly version of their software.

For our clients whose hosting setups permit it, we will be upgrading sites to the new version during the next few weeks.

You can find all of the updates made in version 3.4 here.

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