I’ve always loved Billie Holiday, so a little smile crossed my lips when I saw that WordPress 4.3 was code named “Billie”, and in fact was named after her.

A plethora of previously reported bug were fixed with this release – 180 or so in fact, so both developers and designers should enjoy a much more stable experience. I’ve been working with 4.3 for a few days now and it seems pretty tight. A lot of the enhancements in this version are under the hood API  changes, depreciation of old code, a new singular.php template that simplifies things a bit for theme developers.

In this article, I’m going to focus mainly on the more visible changes.

Password Enhancements

Password handling got a much needed makeover, and some cool features and important security changes. When a new user is created, WordPress will generate a strong password automatically. You can keep it, or change it to whatever you want to use. There’s a password strength indicator that will let you know if your password is weak, strong, or in-between.  You have the ability to hide the password so others can’t see it. WordPress will no longer send out passwords in email messages. Instead, it sends password reset links and those links expire after 24 hours. Email notifications are sent out to the email address associated with the user account when a password is changed.

Favicon, meet Site Icon

Favicon has always been troublesome for WordPress sites. Sometimes you can just put the favicon.ico file into the root folder for the web site (right there next to htaccess) but hey, don’t act so shocked when you learn that a lot of WordPress designers don’t know how to (or don’t have access to) the file and folder structure for a web site. Some themes let you define it, there are plugins…. oh the pain. The WordPress 4.3 new features contain an end to all that – the Site Icon. You can set the Site Icon in a new panel in the Theme Customizer. It’s completely 100% theme independent, and according to the documentation it should work with mobile devices as well. Oh, and if you change your theme, it’s “sticky” (meaning it survives between theme changes).

What’s On The Menu?

The menus for your site can now be edited and previewed right in the theme customizer, so you can see how the menu changes will look before you commit them to the site. Now that’s a really big deal because before this, you had to make a menu change, save it, then go refresh the site in another browser window or tab, and if you forgot to change the “Menu Text” property from “My Great Big Web Site About Us Page” to “About Us”, the whole world would see that. Of course, at least until you went back and fixed it and saved it. I have to say this is one very welcome change.

Formatting Shortcuts Right In The Editor

When I’m working in the WordPress Editor, there is an undercurrent of anxiety that accompanies the need to create a Header 1, Header 2/3/4/5/6 line in the content. What do you do? Move the mouse up to the Paragraph drop-down and select the header size you want first, or do you type first and then select the header size, or do you type a line and then hit the return key and then move the cursor back up to the line you need to be a header… wait, should you highlight the line, or is just having your cursor there enough…

All of that goes away, and thank the stardust that made us all. Now, you can simply type the pound sign – # – once for each header level followed by your text. # for H1, ## for H2, ### for H3, etc. Just don’t put a space between the pound signs and your text otherwise it won’t work.

You can also use 1. or 1) followed by a space to start a numbered list (an ordered list for you checking my proper use of terms), you can use a * or – key followed by a space to start a bulleted (unordered) list, and the trusty greater than key – this key: > can be used to create a blockquote.

This blockquote text was created using the > key followed by the word “This” (without the quotes). Oh, the fun of describing how to use special characters in typed text.

There’s a cool new link toolbar that pops up when you click on a hyperlink in the editor to allow you to edit or remove a hyperlink, saving you from having to open the Edit Hyperlink dialog. This is a REALLY BIG DEAL for those of us who use DIVI, because even though the toolbar in the WordPress editor remains always visible when you’re typing up an article, when in a Text editor section in DIVI, you don’t get that convenience. If your text is long, you have to scroll the page up to click the Edit Hyperlink button (or any other toolbar button for that matter). But just being able to click on a hyperlink and get a little mini-toolbar pop up that allows you to get to the editor quickly is a very cool thing.

The Admin Bar

The Customize link has been moved to it’s own spot in the WordPress Admin Bar. It used to be in the drop-down list if you hover your cursor over the Site Name link in the Admin Bar, but now it’s got it’s own place on the toolbar. This is important, because this button allows you to get to the Theme customizer as well as manage your menus and widgets from the same customizer interface, allowing you to preview your changes before you commit them to the site.

Commenting Changes

When you create a new page, the ability to Comment is turned off by default now. The same goes for custom post types. Comments are only on by default in actual Blog Posts. I always thought this should have been a no-brainer from day one, and for me it’s an architectural “shame on you” that it wasn’t this way all along. Because of this, developers created plugins, theme developers added functionality to their themes, all to be able to specify when comments should be turned on or off. Comments should be always turned on for blog posts and articles, and not for anything else. Maybe with custom post types like Projects you might want to turn them on, but you can still do that manually. Another welcome and long overdue change.

Conclusion

There are many new under the hood changes and tweaks to the appearance and functionality of the WordPress Dashboard and Admin screens, particularly changes to the List Tables you find throughout the various back-end screens. They’ve introduced a Primary Column and easier subclassing, and some API changes to go along with the UI changes. Since according to some estimates, as much as 24% of the web is now running on WordPress, I think it’s about time the folks over at WordPress start focussing on making the UI and UX improvements that have long plagued this incredibly powerful and extensible framework.

Next time, I think I’d like to see them tackle the WYSIWIG editor, and make it truly useful. We need the ability to grab data using SQL query’s and display it in an editable grid. We need the ability to work with all of the HTML formatting tags in the visual editor and we need a visual CSS editor for the various CSS files. I think someone over at WordPress should go take a look at the ridiculously awesome and powerful editors that Microsoft products use. Since way back in the FrontPage days, they’ve always had the most kick-ass editors for web design, and their superiority should be revered. And copied.


 

Be AWESOME!

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Jerry Boutot is a Microsoft Certified Application Developer (MCAD) and Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP). He owns AppDataWorks, LLC, which develops custom solutions for Desktop Software, Web Applications, Database Systems, and Online Marketing Solutions.

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