The latest version of WordPress will be released any day now and I wanted to show you what I think are the top five features. WordPress 3.3 is primarily an update of the user interface, so you’re going to notice most of these changes immediately.
Slide-Out Side Menu
Ever since WordPress moved the main menu from the top to the side, users have had to drop down sub-menus. Now, you simply mouse-over a main menu item and the sub-menu items fly-out to the side.
Not only is this more intuitive, it saves both the step of clicking on that main menu item and – for new users – the step of discovering/remembering that’s how the menu works. The only thing I miss is the ability to keep a sub-menu open all the time.
Admin Tool Bar
[Correction - this is now referred to as the Tool Bar]
An admin bar that stayed in place at the top of the page while scrolling was a handy feature introduced in WordPress 3.2, but by default it was turned off on admin screens. Now, not only is the admin bar a non-optional part of the admin design, it’s been revamped to look more like the title bar introduced in 2.7 – dark-coloured, with the site title at the top left and user profile at the top right. The bar stays in placed while scrolling and you do have the option to turn it off while viewing the website as an admin. My only disappointment is that the “Search Engines Blocked” warning has not been included.
Simplified Upload/Insert Menu
For a long time the Upload/Insert menu above the Post Editor metabox has consisted of four well-intentioned but often-confusing icons. The idea was that different types of media needed to be uploaded in different ways, but I think for a majority of users it was more complicated than helpful. In WordPress 3.3 there’s only a single Upload/Insert icon serving every type of media.
Drag and Drop Media Uploader
While you can still click a Select button and find the files you want to upload into WordPress, there’s now a very simple to use drag and drop area too. You can still upload multiple files at one time, of course. This replaces the Flash-based uploader, which sometimes suffered from browser compatibility issues. The new system should alleviate those issues because it uses Plupload, an upload handler that defaults to whatever method a browser can handle – HTML5, Silverlight, Gears, Flash, and so on.
Improved Help Menu with New Feature Pointers
The new Help system, which has been kept at the top right beside Screen Options, is more detailed and easier to use. Recent versions of WordPress have added more help information, but the screens were getting hard to read. By using a tabbed menu system, you can get more information that’s easier to find and read.
Plus there are now pointers – little popups – that appear when you mouse-over a new feature. They’re supposed to appear only when you’re upgrading an older version and should only appear the first time you’re using the new feature. All this has changed a lot through the development versions of WordPress 3.3, so how exactly it comes out in the final version, I’m not sure.
More To WordPress 3.3
I’ve only covered the features that will most impact users from the moment they open WordPress 3.3. There are many other useful improvements and additions, including the end to widgets disappearing when you switch themes, and the ability to install child themes through the Install Themes screen.
One handy thing users will notice if they’re on an iPad or other smaller screens – the left side menu automatically collapses now. Apparently more “responsive design” changes are coming for the admin screens, but that’s for 3.4.