20 Reasons WordPress 3.5 is Must Have

in Blog

WordPress 3.5 brings with it some awesome changes, updates, and upgrades. Today we’re going to review and take an in depth dive into everything you can expect to find when you upgrade. We will discuss both technical and non-technical features that may impact you in some way.

Before you upgrade to WordPress 3.5

Even though every version of WordPress goes through multiple alpha, beta, and release candidate versions – you could have issues or conflicts when you upgrade. You want to take some preventative measures and precautions before you go ahead and click the “update” link.

  • Backup your files: Download a local copy of all of your website files (images, assets, and code) in FTP
  • Backup your database: Login to your web hosting account and export a copy of your database as a backup in phpMyAdmin
  • Export your content: As an extra precaution, I also like to visit “Tools->Export”, and export an copy of all pages, posts, categories, tags, comments, users, etc. (just in case)
  • Make an inventory: I make a little text file listing all my installed plugins and user accounts, and do a little audit to see if I need to do any housekeeping

How to Upgrade to WordPress 3.5

What you do next depends on

– your level of experience and tech knowledge
– the type of website you have

If you have your backup(s) ready, and your are the sole owner and account holder for your website – you might just click “upgrade” and see what happens. If you have issues you can always delete the files and db, and start again with previous versions.

If you have a high visibility website, multiple accounts, e-commerce, or the website is for an active business with activity – you may already have a development or “staging” website you can try the upgrade on first (to see if it breaks something). If not you could install the ManageWP.com plugin and service (premium) and “clone” your website to a subfolder for upgrade and testing. Then once finished you could “clone” it back. Or if you use a plugin like “Backup Buddy”, you could update live, and if you have issues – roll back to the last known good version.

WordPress 3.5 Overview

Before we take a deep dive into the new features, let’s do a quick overview of what’s to come. The easiest way to do this is just go through the default “What’s New” screen you see when you do the actual upgrade.

New Media Manager

WordPress 3.5 completely overhauls the media library manager. The interface is different, you can create galleries faster than ever, you can drag and drop things, captions are better – it’s just easier to use. You can even insert multiple images at once inline. (click image for larger version)

New Responsive Default Theme “2012”

With the new install comes the latest yearly theme “2012”. It is a bare bones theme (like 2011 and 2010), but it’s “responsive”. This is the first WordPress default responsive theme. It’s a bit more crisp than the other 2 themes, and makes good use of all the new features. We won’t talk about 2012 in this post, we’ll save the juicy details for a future post all it’s own. For now just know that you get a free responsive theme with WordPress by default once you install 3.5 (can you say awesome?). (click image for larger version)

HiDPI “Retina” Ready

Mobile and tablets are everywhere, and the new WordPress dashboard is what they call “Retina Ready”. That means it’s high resolution, or will look great on hi-res screens found on iPad, Kindle Fire HD, Nexus, Macbook Pro (things with Retina display). (click image for larger version)

People don’t just access the web on a desktop anymore – they use all kinds of devices that make using the web more accessible. WordPress 3.5 is now easier to use when accessed by these devices and controls. (click image for larger version)

Review of the new Media Library Uploader

The first time you login to WordPress 3.5 you’ll see the new “add media” button announcement:

Click the button and you’ll see the new interface:

As before, you can still drag and drop files to upload (or click to select them). You also now get a message as to what the maximum upload file size is (per php.ini I believe). If you’re not going to upload files here, you have two other options – visit the media library, or choose a URL to upload from.

Uploading images is pretty snappy, and if you’re technically curious about what lies beneath the hood, the code libraries that crunch the images has been changed as well (from GD to Image Magick). Image Magick is known for slightly better quality when resizing images (compared to GD).

Once you upload an image, instead of showing the edit screen (like previous versions of WordPress), it shows the image along with thumbnails of the other latest uploaded items. The one you just uploaded is automatically selected (indicated by the blue border box and right top blue checkbox).

When an image is selected like that – off to the right is an “attachment details” box like this:

Now it’s very easy and intuitive to edit the details of an image (or any attachment) before inserting it into your content. Just add the title, caption, alt text, alignement, and size. One thing that is new, you can select what this attachment links to in the “link to” dropdown. You can chose from none, custom URL, attachment page, or (another) media file. So you could attach an image to a Word doc, an image to a video, an image to an image, etc. Last you can choose the size (thumb, medium, or full size).

The thing you may not realize at first is that this interface allows you to insert multiple images at once into a post or page. Gone are the days of manually inserting a dozen images one by one.

In the last image you saw how an uploaded image was “selected” with the blue border and checkbox (with attachment details box to the right). Click on additional images and they will be selected (for insertion) as well like this:

The last one you clicked is the active selected item (that you can edit the details of), but all items with a checkbox will be inserted into your content (at once). This is confusing until you realize everything selected will be inserted – and they you’ll find it’s an awesome addition!

It’s a matter of figuring out (the first time or two) where things are at. If you look at the bottom of this interface you’ll see it shows you exactly what you’ve selected it (and provides a link to clear them and start over):

On the bottom right of this screen, you also have the ability to insert the selected items, or create a new gallery with them:

If you choose to create a gallery – you’ll see that you have the ability to edit the caption of each, and you can reorder the images by drag and drop.

You can also choose what the gallery is linked to (attachment page or media file), and how many columns (1-9) for display:

When you insert, a shortcode is inserted in your content to display the gallery.

The new WordPress 3.5 media uploader is a welcome and refreshing change, you should find it much, much easier to upload and manage your images from this point forward.

On the other hand, there are still plenty of things still completely lacking and missing (such as the ability to categorize media). There is a reason for this (explained in the next section). You might want to read my last post 44 Ways to Hack the WordPress Media Library for some ideas (the majority of them should still work just fine with this new version).

Other Media Library Changes

Featured Image Changes

In the older media library, if you inserted an image you were able to make it a “featured image” right then and there. No more. Now the only place you can do that is from the featured image button on a post page (under tags and categories) (click for larger view of image):

You can upload a file, or choose something from the image library. Choosing an existing image gives you the same options as before – except you can only choose one (not multiples of course), and the attachment details edits are simple (only title, caption, and alt text) (click for larger view of image):

Attachment Page content box: another new feature is, if you go to “Media” in wp-admin and click on any single item, there is a new box called “attachment page content”:

This is brand new, and could be an area where you describe the image, or put details about where / how it was shot. You might wonder where this is used (because most of us never use attachment pages because they are horrible). This box could actually make an “attachment page” for a media item useful (and would probably be the only place this content would be displayed).

Full Post Type UI for attachments

A few people have already asked me why with all the media library overhauls categorization tools were missed (and obviously needed).

For a system running on 70+ million websites, I think the hardest thing must be to make sure it meets everyone’s needs. In regards to media, I can see where categories would dramatically help, what if some people would be better served with tags, or some other type of taxonomy?

Then I read this support post and it all made sense. Media in WordPress with 3.5 are assigned to the “attachment” post_type. If you register any taxonomy for “attachments” (categories, tags, anything), it will show as an editible field right along with title, caption, etc.

Media uploads folder changes: if you want to move the media uploads folder, you won’t find it under “settings->media” section of wp-admin anymore. You can still move it, but you’ll have to add a line to your wp-config.php to do that from this point forward.

Plugin Changes

Links Manager going away: there has been a section for “Links” in WordPress as long as I can remember. It was mainly for (blogroll) links to other websites. I rarely use it in any website, and with WordPress 3.5 it’s been removed. If you need or are still using this functionality – worry not, you can install the official Links Manager plugin which replaces it.

Installing plugin favorites:

WordPress added the ability to “favorite” a plugin in the plugin repository awhile back, and now when you install plugins you can click “favorites” and you will be prompted for a WordPress.org username. Once you enter it you’ll see the plugins that ID has favorited, and you can install them:

Editing Screen changes

Color picker updated: If your theme supports color changing (links, background, other items), you might have noticed the default WP color picker wasn’t all that intuitive. Now it’s much, much better:

Retina display changes: WP 3.5 now supports HiDPI viewing for screens that have the ability to display it (Nexus, iPad, Macbook Pro, etc.)

Misc Updates

UTF-8 encoding by default: WordPress now has UTF-8 character coding enabled by default.

Remove publishing enabled by default: XML-RPC used to be disabled by default, now it’s enabled by default with WP 3.5. There was a time when it was a big security risk to have on by default- but times have changed (for the better).

Privacy settings have changed (for search): You won’t find “Settings->Privacy” anymore in wp-admin, it’s been relocated to “Settings->Reading”, and now it looks like this:

Technical Updates for Developers

oEmbeds now enabled: WordPress has had (for awhile now) the ability to easily embed media from YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, and Vimeo. With 3.5 SoundCloud, SlideShare, and Instagram have been added to that list.

External Libraries have been updated: the following libraries have been updated:

TinyMCE 3.5.6
SimplePie 1.3
jQuery 1.8.2
jQuery UI 1.9

The following have been added:

Backbone 0.9.2
Underscore 1.3.3

Comments API: you can easily search for a status (#21101, #21003)

WP Query: you can now sort the order passed in “post_in”

TinyMCE views: now it’s much easier to implement TinyMCE custom views

WordPress multisite: switch_to_blog is now much easier to use, and used in more places


WordPress 3.5 is GREAT! With each new release we see the platform getting more and more mature as a CMS, and you will definitely find the new features to be an enhancement to your website management experience.

What new features to you like best? Share your thoughts below in our comments section.

Comments (1)

  • Comment by Justin

    In the template files, how would you call the title and caption of an attached image?