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By Morten Rand-Hendriksen | Thursday, August 01, 2013

WordPress 3.6: What's New, and Why it Matters

A few months behind schedule, version 3.6 of WordPress is out and ready for you to make the most of. The scope of changes in this release are relatively minor, but the updates are important and will help in your day-to-day work with WordPress. Here’s what’s new and why it matters to you.

Twenty Thirteen: The new theme standard

Since 2010, a new default theme has been released every year, and this year is no different. With 3.6 comes Twenty Thirteen. While the previous three themes—Twenty Ten, Twenty Eleven, and Twenty Twelve—got progressively simpler, Twenty Thirteen goes in a new design direction. It’s aggressively blog-centric with a heavy focus on Post Formats, and it’s a great example of the popular flat design trend currently sweeping the web.

The Twenty Thirteen WordPress default theme

Post Formats are a new feature in WordPress 3.6 that lets you choose unique layout and design templates for specific types of blog posts, such as images, videos, quotes, and regular articles, among others. The Twenty Thirteen theme supports Post Formats by providing a bold, unique visual style for each post so your site visitors can differentiate between the content in each one. In the image above you see the Video, Quote, Status, and Chat post formats on the front page. The Standard post format has a white background. The post format styling is also carried over into the post editor so as you change your post format you’ll see the styling change as you work, and the post formats are now identified using icons throughout the dashboard.

The Twenty Thirteen WordPress default theme

The overall style and color palette of Twenty Thirteen harks back to the ’60s and ’70s and is a bold choice for anyone wanting to make a blog stand out.

I encourage you to try the new theme and see what it has to offer for your site or blog, and also to experiment with the different post formats to see how they change the appearance of your posts and content on both your index and single-post pages.

Improved menu customization

Menus in WordPress 3.6

The introduction of the custom menu option was in many ways a demarcation line in the history of WordPress. Custom menus allowed users to create, well… custom menus in an easy and intuitive way, giving them full control over site navigation. The user interface of the Menu customizer has gone through several iterations, and in 3.6 a new architecture simplifies the creation and positioning of menus even further. The new design swaps the separated panels of optional menu items for an expandable accordion menu. This doesn’t make much difference for small sites and standard blogs with minimal menus and simple content, but if you have multiple custom post types, taxonomies, or other extended features, this new design will make the menu page easier to navigate with less scrolling. Menu locations have also been moved to a new tab to make a clear distinction between menus and theme position. After all, menus don’t have to be placed in the theme. They can also be placed in your WordPress widgets.

The new menu UI design is also a sign of things to come: There is work being done on a whole new user interface for WordPress and this new proposal shares many similarities with the new menu UI.

Autosave, Modal Login, Revisions and post locking

If you’ve ever written a long post inside the WordPress dashboard you have likely come across one or more of the following scenarios:

• Your browser or computer or Internet connection shuts down and you lose the last 10 minutes of work (for which you would surely have won a literary award).

• You leave your computer in the middle of writing a post, only to come back to the login screen.

• You make countless revisions to a post and then can’t figure out how to recover older versions of the post without ruining everything.

• You and your blogging partner accidentally edit the same post at the same time and much of the edited content gets lost.

WordPress 3.6 comes with new features to address all of these issues:

Improved Autosave

Out of the box WordPress now does an autosave every 15 seconds so you won’t lose more than a couple of words or sentences if something weird happens to your computer or connection as you write.

Modal Login

If your session times out while you are working, a modal window will appear on top of whatever admin page you are on, allowing you to log in again without losing your place.

Post Revisions

WordPress has saved backup revisions to your posts for some time, but they’ve been rather cumbersome to work with. A new post revisions approach was introduced a few versions back and with 3.6 this feature has fully grown into its own. The post revisions option gives you a detailed view of the changes between different revisions of a post, allowing you to scroll back and forth in time to see exactly what was changed, deleted, or added, and pick the right excerpts. You can also compare specific revisions against one another to see what was changed when. This is an impressive piece of coding and the image below doesn’t come close to showing just how useful it is. The only way to fully grasp the new post revisions is to try it out: Just click the new Revisions link in the publish panel when editing a post or page and the window will open.

Revisions in WordPres 3.6

Post Locking

Post Locking is a new feature targeted at multi-author sites. Simply put, it locks posts that are currently being edited so that another person can’t accidentally start editing the same post at the same time. The person trying to open a post is alerted that the post is locked, told who is currently editing the post, and given the option to take over editing.

Your turn!

WordPress 3.6 has been in development for some time now with a rigorous beta testing cycle, so I recommend updating to this new version to get the latest features and security patches. My best advice would be to do a full backup before running the updater.  You can also watch the official release video below.

Once you’ve given the new version and features a spin, let me know what you think. Do you like Twenty Thirteen and how Post Formats  are implemented? Is everything working the way you expected? What new features do you want to see in future versions of WordPress? Please leave a comment below; I’m all ears!

Learn more:

• Morten’s WordPress Essential Training course • All of Morten Rand-Hendriksen’s coursesAll WordPress courses on lynda.com

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