Jeremy BrayApril 25,2014

New Features In The Recent WordPress 3.9 “Smith” Release

Category: WordPress

The most recent WordPress version dubbed “Smith” was released last week and it involves a number of core changes.

The WordPress team worked primarily on admin and back-end editing functionality that included an update to their

  • Gallery previews;
  • Media playlists;
  • TinyMCE visual editor;
  • Widget UI; and
  • Theme previews

We will give you a description of things you should be aware of regarding the changes introduced in WordPress 3.9.

WordPress - 3.9"Smith"

Updated Widget Interface

The pre-existing widget interface did set the UI drag-and-drop standard when first introduced, but an update was overdue. With this update the WP Widget Customiser, which is a plug-in, is now built into the WP core.

Updated Widget Interface

Changes associated with this updated widget interface include:

  • Live previews
  • Adding new widget
  • Existing widget editing
  • Widget reordering
  • Widget removal

Visual Editor Update

The existing visual editor has been completely changed. It’s UI and underlying functionality have been completely revamped. They have updated TinyMCE, Plupload, and have added a button for horizontal lines. Relatively minor visual changes were made to numerous button icons as well.

Visual Editor Update

The updated visual editor includes gallery previews, so you will no longer need to have boxes as place holders for your galleries. Galleries now have a live preview, similar to what exists for images and additional media.

There is also improved drag-and-drop functionality for the visual editor so images can be dragged directly from your desktop into a post. They will be formatted automatically to fit into the post.

Improved Theme Preview

You have the ability to preview themes in order to determine how differing themes may work on your site. This functionality has existed for quite some time and WP is now incorporating additional features into their framework.

Improved Theme Preview

In addition to the normal customisation options such as title, colour, and other theme definitions, you are now able to add widgets, re-order them, and determine how they’ll appear after you save them. Header image functionality has also been updated to provide additional flexibility.

Straightforward Theme Installation

The updated interface for installing themes is significantly improved in comparison to the old version. These updates will be quite noticeable to anyone who has installed a theme with prior WP versions. This interface has been completely revamped.

Several of the most commonly used themes are displayed within the “Featured” tab for rapid installation.

Straightforward Theme Installation

Additional tabs are also present for the latest and most popular themes. One other tab has also been added for the feature filter.

Video And Audio Playlists

With WordPress 3.9 users now have the ability to create video and audio playlists. They function as a shortcode, similar to the way image galleries currently work.

The uploading of video and audio is done through the existing media uploader that is used with images and all other media. After they are uploaded you are provided with the ability to add your video and/or audio to a playlist.

Video And Audio Playlists

One other helpful feature is that WP 3.9 will attempt to automatically load artwork for album covers making use of ID3 tags with your media files.

Main Developer Points

Theme and plugin developers will need to be aware of several important points. When you upgrade to WP 3.9, there will be four new utility functions:

To identify hooks in progress

  • doing_action
  • doing_filter

To manipulate sizes of custom images

  • remove_image_size()
  • has_image_size()

Several external libraries have received updates that include the JavaScript framework, and jQuery. TinyMCE, used for visual and text editing, Underscore used in JavaScript programming, and Plupload, which is the foundation for upload interfaces have also been updated.

The following external libraries have also received updates:

  • Backbone – used in custom events and key-value bindings
  • Masonry 3 – library for cascading grid layouts
  • MediaElement – HTML5 video and audio player

There has also been an improvement in the database layer. It is more fault-tolerant and is more compatible with MSQL 5.6 and PHP 5.5. For instance, the PHP mysqli library is utilised when PHP 5.5+ is available. There has been an improvement in the autosave functionality as well.

Themes are now able to utilise HTML5 captions and galleries. This can be added to the functions.php file within your theme. Symlinked plugins are also an addition to WP 3.9. It was possible to use them in the past, but now it is supported fully.

If you develop plugins or themes, you should remember that your repositories need to be updated. In some instances you may only need to alter the “tested up to” strings. In other instances you might need to examine the core changes in greater detail.


Remember that upgrading your installation of WordPress is the best way to guard against hackers. As is always the case, be sure to perform a database backup prior to your update in case something goes wrong.

Author: Jeremy Bray Jeremy Bray is in charge of eTraffic's creative direction. With a passion for everything design he has been able to help businesses create unique branding positions through creative visual elements and effective marketing initiatives.

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