WordPress 3.4, “Green,” is officially here.  The release includes a handful of cool improvements, including custom headers, twitter embeds, image captions, and one of the more covered topics, the theme customizer options.

Below, I’m going to go over the updates included in 3.4.  Before I get to that, we need to cover the details about upgrading your site to 3.4 if you’re hosted on WP Engine.

When you’re ready to upgrade, all you need to do is create a support ticket in Zendesk and request that they upgrade your site(s) to the latest version.  This is not mandatory until 3.4.1 is released, which will probably happen next week.

Before you upgrade, we strongly recommend you create a checkpoint in case the update conflicts with your theme and wires get crossed in the process.  If you have a checkpoint created, you won’t lose any work put into your site.  Also, if your site publishes new articles every hour, you may want to coordinate with your editor to freeze publishing until after the update has been completed.

We also recommend testing the update in the WP Engine staging area before you run the upgrade on the production site.  Again, this will help prevent your users and subscribers from experiencing site errors or downtime.

If you don’t want to update, please contact support and state that in the subject.  They will need to know the reason you need to wait for the update, as well as a specific date that you do intend to update your WordPress version.  Once 3.4.1 comes out, updating to 3.4 will become mandatory.  We understand that there are reasons to wait on the updates, but please get your requests in early so that we can keep your site as is.


What are the new features in 3.4?

Aaron Brazell wrote a very comprehensive post about the updates in 3.4, but the new features are worth summarizing here as well.

  1. Theme customizer: This is a really sweet addition for WordPress.com users that adds a very slick WYSIWYG to your theme editor that allows you to design your theme on the spot and then watch the updates happen in real time instead of having to refresh browser windows every time you change the color or misspell a title.  However, this won’t affect you much if you’re using a custom theme.  Unless your theme makes use of the following from Otto’s post.
  2. Embedding Tweets: I love this feature.  Basically, you can finally copy the url of a tweet into WordPress and it will automatically embed the tweet in your blog content.
  3. Query Efficiency Improvements: This is a performance improvement, by about 2x-3x, that refines the data pulled in WP_Query.
  4. Bundled Touch Support: This bundles jQuery UI Touch Punch library to give front-end developers more tools to make websites mobile-friendly.  No support for Windows 7/7.5 Phones due to IE9 limitations.
  5. HTML in captions: Say no more.  You can finally add a hyperlink to the person or place in the photo you want in your content!
  6. XML-RPC Improvements:  XML-RPC is and old technology, and it’s the thing that makes it possible for WordPress apps to function on iOS, Android, and Blackberry.  WordPress 3.4 includes a brand new XML-RPC API that supports the features that have been developed since XML-RPC was added.
  7. Internationalization Improvements (i18n): By some estimates, 40% of WordPress installs are in a language that is not English.  The updates in i18n include updates to comma translation, single-double quote translation, and default timezones.
  8. Page Template Handling: This will be a boon for theme developers.  It will allow custom organization around theme file structure that will have a clear benefit on the front-end, but it also will make the back-end computations more efficient as well.
  9. Custom Header API: This will allow you to create custom headers and backgrounds in terms of image size and a few other things.  This will be awesome for folks who have wanted to install custom-sized headers into their themes, but haven’t been able to until now.  Custom theme header waiters….your time has come!

Grab the full details of each of these in Aaron’s blog post.

Alright, that about covers it.  Remember, updating to 3.4 is not mandatory yet.  However, if you do want to update, 1. Create a checkpoint, and 2) Test in the Staging area.

As always, create a support ticket if you have questions about updating your site to the latest version!

-Austin Gunter