Dec 11 2012

WordPress 3.5 First Look: Yay or Nay?

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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.

Visual Tweaks

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

WordPress 3.5 now includes certain JavaScript libraries, most notably Backbone and Underscore. Furthermore, switch_to_blog() has been improved as well (multisite, that is) and components such as TinyMCE and SimplePie have been updated.

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.

Etcetera

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.

Conclusion

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!

(dpe)

About the Author

Sufyan bin Uzayr is a freelance writer and artist. He writes for several print magazines as well as technology blogs, and has also authored a book named Sufism: A Brief History. His primary areas of interest include open source, mobile development, web CMS and vector art. He is also the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of an e-journal named Brave New World. You can visit his website, follow him on Twitter or friend him on Facebook and Google+.

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Comments and Discussions
  • Corey, 11 December 2012

    Good article, but you are correct about getting disagreements on the media manager topic :)

    I’ll agree with you that the media manager is definitely geared a bit more towards the photo-hungry bloggers now. However, as a UX designer, I think they nailed the ease-of-use functionality they were aiming for. The old media manager was familiar to us so it’s not surprising that it is receiving a bit of flack, but change tends to be good (especially in the web world, and even more in the WordPress world).

    Good points though! Topics like this is why the WordPress community thrives!

  • moodytryme, 11 December 2012

    Hi ! I agree with you regarding the new Media uploader : my website is both a portfolio and my blog, so for the first part is kind of intuitive and stuff, but for my blog articles is less practical.
    Besides, I’m having some trouble with the media upload, it won’t show any of my images when I’m in an article, but when I go to my media library directly they all appear ! I desactivated all my plugins, I guess it’s an incompatibility with one of them…

  • wahyu, 12 December 2012

    wew.. nice share.. thank’s

  • Ben Schumin, 12 December 2012

    I installed 3.5 in my sandbox, and I have to say: I’m glad someone else doesn’t like the new Media Manager! I host my images outside of my WordPress installation due to the need to sort my images in a more hierarchical manner (since WordPress doesn’t natively support image folders), and this new Media Manager has made inserting images from a URL amazingly cumbersome, removing a lot of the functionality that I was used to, like adding the title attribute on images, and then clicking the image link button and then editing it to add a parameter. And to add insult to injury, if you go back in and edit the image information, you get the old media manager window like it’s always been. Seems like an incomplete implementation, and a major pain in the butt for me.

    I’ve also found that TinyMCE is a little clunky now when it comes to inserting linebreaks and things, in that it gives too much room at first and leaves me feeling uncertain whether there are extra lines that I don’t know about in the final version of things.

    The other changes don’t bother me that much. If another update comes out that fixes the above (and a plugin to reinstate the old media manager tool), I’ll probably move my production sites to 3.5, but right now, I lose too much functionality to do it.

  • Pat, 12 December 2012

    WP’s media manager new or old has always been its weak point stopping WP from higher levels of awesome.

  • Bruno, 12 December 2012

    Particularly, I liked the new version. It just seems new. Beautiful.
    I was glad also about the retina feature. Great share!

  • Scott, 12 December 2012

    Have not been able to upload a single image since the update. They all start fine, then just stall and never complete. Anybody have this problem?

  • Paul, 12 December 2012

    I’m getting a bit annoyed with wordpress in general and I too think it’s getting too bloated for it’s own good. These days I generally use it as little as possible.

  • Shirley, 12 December 2012

    I agree too that wordpress is getting too bloated and annoying. I’ve learned the hard way not to upgrade right away unless it’s a security update and even then I test on a production site first. I think I’ll wait this update out a bit. I don’t have time to fix stuff that stops working because of various issues that almost always happen with a new update.

  • Curt, 12 December 2012

    The one weird thing I discovered with the new media uploader is that the image title doesn’t stay put. when you upload your image, you’ll see the title and you can change it as usual, but once you insert it into the post it disappears and you only have the alt image tag and description if you filled it in.

    Oddly the moderator on the WP forum had this to say and that the title disappearing is intentional.

    “This was an intentional change made in the name of accessibility.”

    If you’ve in Google News, you’ll suddenly notice that your articles won’t have your images next to them without a title. Big G likes Titles, alts and descriptions…and I’m rather baffled why WP would think that deleting them upon insertion is a help.

    Now to find a workaround on that one! Great article, and I can really see where you’re coming from. The Media uploader definitely makes you take an extra step, and not that you have to re-insert your image title adds yet one more step.

    • Amanda, 14 December 2012

      There is a way to add the title tag back in after WP annoyingly removes it. When the photo is inserted in the post, click on it and click the little image icon to edit. Then insert the title tag AGAIN. Grr.

  • Lawrence Martin, 13 December 2012

    I’m having the same problem as Scott – “Scott, 12 December 2012

    “Have not been able to upload a single image since the update. They all start fine, then just stall and never complete. Anybody have this problem? also having a problem with the new media.”

    I’m use to uploading my images via my Picasa folders.

  • Arit, 13 December 2012

    IMHO the new MediaManager ist much better than the older one. Nevertheless, I agree that it’s still a weak point of WP. And for galleries you better use NextGen Gallery.

  • Jos, 13 December 2012

    I’m a bit confused by the new Media Manager. Yeah it looks new, but it offers the same (or less? not sure yet) functionality using more clicks and more screen estate. So for me it seems a bit pointless.
    I’m glad the Links Manager is at least maintained for existing users as I use it for keep track of sites and use it as a source for a WP plugin that generates a news page with the latest posts from those links.
    So I’m sure there are plenty of people out there excited about 3.5 but for me it doesn’t really improve anything. It seems more aimed at people new to WP with the overhauled media manager, new theme and removed links manager.

  • Ron, 13 December 2012

    I am having a bigger problem with media. When I press the Add Media button to add an image to a page or post, nothing happens. Zip, Nada, Zero.

  • Scott, 13 December 2012

    Update to my earlier comment: Support from WP suggested flushing my browser’s cache and deactivating ALL plug-ins. This WORKED for me. I was able to upload an image. But when I tried a second time, the problem came back and I’m still stuck. The work-around no longer works. I’m ready to give up. Is there a way to go BACK a version of WP?

  • K Bharath, 14 December 2012

    the gallery feature is great in wordpress 3.5.

  • Peter, 14 December 2012

    The new Media Manager…………… :(

    I liked the way I could operate the older version, able to bulk change titles ou alts of images, able to see only what i have upload during the post itself instead of all media i have,…

  • Curt, 14 December 2012

    Scott,

    The only way to go back a version of WP is if you backed up your database before updating to 3.5. Then you can just use that database and you’re back with the last version.

    If you backed up before updating, your hosting service can usually reinstall your last saved database. Hopefully that makes sense!

    I wish WP would do a fix for the image Title disappearing issue as you have to back in after posting your image to put it there. If not, Big G won’t index properly.

  • Amanda, 14 December 2012

    I couldn’t agree more about the new Media Manager. I don’t like that I can’t insert an image and set it as a featured image at the same time. Now it’s two completely separate tasks. I also think that the default should not be “all media items” but rather “uploaded to this post”. I don’t use the gallery feature at all and I also feel like this upgrade was geared toward those that do and the rest of us weren’t considered at all. :-/ I now have additional steps to an already long process of creating a post.

  • Wilson, 14 December 2012

    I wish WP would have include the new media manager as an included plugin just like Akismet. I used for websites for my clients and to date, never used a single image gallery.

    The media features is good for avid image player, photographer or may be photoshop students. Loading a nice looking photo seems a daunting task for most of the people I know, let along playing with it. :)

  • Mario Bruneau, 16 December 2012

    I was looking for the “privacy” settings and got here after Google search.

    OK, it is now in the reading settings. Fine with me.

    But I had a big problem on one of my sites after updating to this 3.5 version of WordPress. Had a Warning message appearing on the top of the site. I manage to fix it but make sure you backup your WordPress site BEFORE updating to this version 3.5

  • Dina Dadian, 17 December 2012

    Just to add to the opinions specifically on media manager: I like the interface and features when uploading the media/image into specific post, however, am annoyed at the fact that I cannot change the media (specifically images) titles AFTER they have been uploaded into the library. Maybe it’s just the old habits prevailing, but I am used to being able to title the image as I go when I need to manage my library, especially when uploading/working with multiple media files at once.

  • Tracey Rissik, 18 December 2012

    Thanks for this comprehensive summary of the new changes – I’ve added it to 2 test sites, and found one thing that they have taken away, which I’m not happy about! The “Size of the post box” setting (screenshot: http://screencast.com/t/rkuEZPTaJ79p) – I always change mine from the default 20 lines (which is usually too small) to at least 28 or 30 – but upon upgrading to WP 3.5, this option is gone AND they have reduced the size back to 20 lines – for someone who does a lot of editing for clients when setting up websites, this is a real pain in the *** ! So just be aware….

    Great article…

    • Greg Keith, 25 January 2013

      Actually, the post box size option has changed, but it’s not gone – in the visual mode of the post editor, you can drag the bottom right-hand corner of the post box down to increase the post box size.

  • Natalie, 20 December 2012

    Same issue as Scott. Tried all fixes on Google I could find. Nothing is working. My last backup before 3.5 seems to not be complete for some reason (fabulous) so I got around it by adding the image to my image library, it seems to let me do that, but I can’t edit the image at all in there. Anyway, after doing that, I manually inserted the html code into the post and that seems to allow it to get there. Won’t allow the thumbnail to insert on my homepage via my studiopress theme (pain) but rather than to any more plugin messing, wp-config adds, cache clearing etc, I am hoping to be able to ride it out until WP releases an update to fix the problem.

  • Peter Watson, 21 December 2012

    The new media manager looks better than the old one, but it needs improvement. Agree with the author that it is annoying the way it handles featured image and edition of images. Previous version let you do it in one simple step and within same window. Cute and Simple should go hand-to-hand, not in separate roads.

  • Bilal, 22 December 2012

    I agree with the previous complains but the thing that annoyed me most is finding the URL’s of the uploaded files. I hope it will be fixed soon.

  • Beren Erchamion, 23 December 2012

    Great post! I agree with you about media manager. With products like highslide, why bloat up the main wp product where it is great for simple uploads of a screen shot or two. For some reason the “small medium large” options have also disappeared and I can’t set a sie percentage smaller than 60%. Quite annoying.

    Agree also about Drupal – nice tool – but the simplicity of WordPress was why I went with it.

  • AshvinDX, 28 December 2012

    Overall, it’s more usable, but for some plugins and themes that rely on their own versions of jQuery, some may stop working. The solution is to get their latest version. Or you can try fixing it yourself. The good side is that your sites should load faster if all your plugins and themes are using a single jQuery js instead of many.

  • Subhamoy Sengupta, 31 December 2012

    Hi! Nice article. Much like yourself, I am facing trouble with the new Media Manager. Although I am not that concerned about whether I want to create a gallery every time or not, my gallery is forcing its first image as the featured image of my post, even though I do not want any featured image. This is really annoying, and I have been trying to find a way to prevent it, but no success so far. I am starting to think perhaps I need a different gallery plugin.

  • zee chen, 09 January 2013

    I hate so much about the new media. HATE it.
    Total pia to get rid of images on posts , the entire “attachment” issue, PDF problems , I really hate it

  • Flor, 10 January 2013

    Couldn’t agree more about the Media Upload! And I DO upload tons of photos, as I am editor for a fashion site, but I just don´t need to see all the photos I’ve uploaded for the past photos. Made my whole proccess a lot slower also. Was so nice to just upload the photos, already setup the Featured photo and then just add the gallery. Was PERFECT.

  • Dave, 07 April 2013

    I’ve had errors with the media manager on a couple sites, a work around I’ve found is this plugin “Faster Image Insert.” It also might be useful if you don’t want to use the add media button and the new media manager for images.

    http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/faster-image-insert/

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