WordPress 3.5 First Look: Yay or Nay?
WordPress 3.5 “Elvin” has just been released, and it comes with a good number of changes, upgrades and updates. In this article, we take a look at the new offerings that WP 3.5 has brought to the table. For someone who has been working with WordPress ever since the 2.x days, each new release brings many expectations and hopes. Naturally, hopes were high ever since the new version of WP was in the testing phase. I had been taking a look at the changes by test driving the release candidates on a dummy site. Oh yes, I was *that* impatient to wait for the final stable version to be released.
WordPress 3.5 — What’s New?
Considering the fact that this is not just a minor update, version 3.5 naturally brings certain new and noteworthy features to the front.
For the sake of simplicity, I shall be sub-dividing them under broad heads: Admin Interface, Visual Tweaks, and Under the Hood. This is just to aid classification, and such division is, by no means, a rigid classification of features.
Changes in Admin Interface
1. A New Media Manager
Codenamed “Elvin”, WordPress 3.5 features a newly revamped Media Manager for uploading your photos and other files, as well as including them in your posts. Basically, instead of ‘listing’ the images, the new Manager shows thumbnails of each image, and loads older images as you scroll down. Plus, it has a side-pane for entering information such as Alternate text and Caption for your images.
Considering the fact that, of late, WordPress has been powering multiple portfolio websites for photographers and artists, having a better-looking and simpler Media Manager makes sense. The new Manager also features drag and drop support, and this functionality will surely come in handy if you are creating a gallery using multiple images.
2. No Links Manager
WordPress 3.5 has done away with the Links section in the admin panel. However, if you are upgrading an existing installation of WordPress to the new version, and already have links or blogrolls added, your Links section will remain untouched. On the other hand, any new installations of WordPress, for example if you install WP 3.5 on a new site from scratch, will not have the Links section.
If you need the Links’ functionality, you can opt for the Links Manager plugin.
3. Favorite Plugins
Recently, WP.org had given users the power to ‘review’ themes in the repository. And now, if while browsing the plugin repository, you are logged in with your username, you have the ability to hit a ‘Favorite’ button on the plugin name. WordPress 3.5 has now offered better integration for this feature, right in your admin panel.
Basically, when you go to the Add New Plugins screen (Plugins–>Add New), you will see a new link, named ‘Favorites’, right next to Search, Upload, Featured, Popular and Newest. Using the Favorites page, you can enter your WP.org login credentials and then browse through all the plugins that you’ve marked as favorites in the repository.
1. A New Default Theme
WordPress 3.5 comes with Twenty Twelve as its default theme. It is clean, responsive and has already gained a good deal of popularity among the users. You can read more about Twenty Twelve here.
2. Retina Ready Display
The WordPress Dashboard is now all prepared for high resolution screens. No matter what device you are using: iPhone 5, iPad, Kindle Fire HD, Nexus 10, or Macbook Pro — your WP Dashboard will look gorgeous!
In fact, right from WP 3.4 itself, retina display was something that was in the making for WP. Even the default theme Twenty Twelve, which was released few months ago, was all ready for HiDPI retina display. Naturally, WordPress 3.5 has followed the trend and offered a crystal clear picture for those on high end screens.
3. Color Pickers and Accessibility
WordPress 3.5 comes with a refined and revamped color picker that makes it easier to pick the right shade of your favorite color. Plus, WP 3.5 also offers better accessibility features for screenreaders, touch devices and mouseless workflows.
Under The Hood
1. Multisite Improvements and External Libraries
2. XML-RPC API
WordPress API is now enabled by default. This means faster load times for profile edits, post revisions and searches. Similarly, the image editing API will use ImageMagick whenever possible.
3. Meta Queries and Objects
Classes such as WP_Comment_Query and WP_User_Query will now support meta queries. Also, post objects are now instances of a WP_Post class.
Among other things, WordPress 3.5 has also shifted the location of website privacy settings. Until now, you could navigate to Settings–>Privacy to turn off/on search engine indexing and visibility. This feature has now been shifted to Settings–>Reading. Seems logical, because having a separate page for just one privacy option was overkill anyway.
Next, the TinyMCE toolbar buttons have also been given a minor facelift. They have become, well, more subtle in terms of appearance. I’m not sure about the rest of the world, but this new-look editor toolbar looks good to me.
So, What’s the Verdict?
Looking at the list of new features, one thing is certain: the folks behind WP were trying hard to keep the user experience as intuitive as possible.
Overall, in my opinion, WordPress 3.5 is a mixed bag. On the brighter side of things, there are multiple wonderful additions: I’m happy for retina display support (even though I don’t have any device that supports it). The Favorite plugins mechanism is another good step towards the betterment of the community, and of course, merging the Privacy settings within Reading as well as eliminating the Links Manager are justifiable and sensible steps too.
However, on the downside, I’m genuinely unimpressed with the new Media Manager.
I know, I’m going to get a lot of hate for the part that I’m gonna write now.
Personally, I think the new Media Manager has been created with the ardent photo uploader in mind. That’s a good thought to have, but the implementation has left me with a bitter feeling. Don’t get me wrong: the Media Manager is ideal if you wish to create a gallery: upload, sort, drag and drop, publish! However, therein lies the problem: not every user creates a gallery all the time!
Speaking for myself, I liked the ease with which I could upload images in the previous Manager, assign them as Featured Images, and insert them in posts. The new Media Manager also lets me do all that, but in slightly more annoying manner: I just need to focus on the right corner to enter image info, and close and re-open the Manager to assign a Featured Image. Why? Because the center portion is reserved for thumbnails of my older images. Instead of showing me all the good (and bad) images that I’ve uploaded so far, I would’ve preferred an intuitive search mechanism for older images — you know, something that’ll let me find an image that I once uploaded, without scrolling through 141 other images?
I must also confess: back in 2009, I migrated to WordPress and left Drupal because WP offered me greater simplicity and a faster admin interface, as compared to the bloated Drupal. Today, while looking at WP 3.5, I realized that, slowly WordPress is also becoming what Drupal is: bloated. I know, many of my readers will disagree, but simply by looking at the Post Editor and Media Manager, I know WordPress is no longer the “Just Write” platform that it once used to be.
Well, I guess that does it for now. What are your thoughts? Happy with the new Media Manager? Have your say in the comments below!
Sufyan bin Uzayr writes for various magazine and blogs, and is the author of "Sufism: A Brief History". He blogs about technology, Linux and open source, mobile, web design and development, typography, and Content Management Systems at Code Carbon. You can learn more about him, follow him on Twitter or friend him on Facebook and Google+.