New releases of WordPress are always highly anticipated and met with great fanfare.
Why? It’s fairly simple: more people use WordPress than any other blogging or content management platform, and new releases make WordPress easier and safer to use.
WordPress 3.4 came out recently, introducing several new built-in options that are extremely beneficial.
If you are not yet running Version 3.4, go update your site now.
No, seriously. Go do it now before reading the rest of this. I’ll wait …
(If, for some reason, you experience any issues with the upgrade, this post provides two quick and easy troubleshooting tips that can help you solve almost anything you run into.)
Next, let’s run through four new built-in features Version 3.4 introduces that will make your lives easier.
Then we’ll highlight nine others that were already there but that may be overlooking.
Friendly New Features in WordPress 3.4
First, let’s thank WordPress for being so considerate.
If you, like me, are a generally impatient blogger, you may not always take time to immediately investigate all of the new features included in each release. Fortunately, WordPress will remind you about new features the first time you click on a dashboard page that includes one.
Look for this to pop up, which I just encountered when checking the Manage Themes page for the first time since updating:
Speaking of the Manage Themes page, let’s begin there with our look at the new features.
1. Live Theme Preview
Underneath each inactive theme on the Manage Themes page, you will see a link that says “Live Preview.”
By clicking this link, you’ll be taken to a new page that shows you exactly what your site would look like with that theme applied, but only you see this preview. Your users are still being served the current theme.
The benefit here is obvious: you do not have to actually apply a theme to a live site, or set up a dev site, to see what it will look like. The preview function gives you the full view you need to make a decision.
2. Theme Customizer
See the left nav bar of the screen shot above?
Bundled with the theme preview option is a theme customizer that allows you to quickly edit and preview the following options:
- Site Title and Tagline
- Header Image
- Background Image
- Static Front Page
If you like your changes and want to make them live, just hit the “Save and Activate” and button. If you don’t want to change themes, just hit “Cancel”.
It’s that simple.
3. Easy Tweet Embedding
But it’s not this simple.
Do you realize that to embed a tweet now, all you have to do is copy the URL into your WordPress editor?
It couldn’t be any easier.
Just make sure that you copy and paste the full URL of the individual tweet and that you put it on its own separate line, as I did below. Then you’ll see the tweet just as you do here:
I’m writing a post about built-in WP features for @websynthesis and will be using this tweet to show the new easy auto-embed feature.
— Jerod Morris (@JerodMorris) June 18, 2012
Not only do you not have to hassle with screen shots or embed codes, but notice how all of the links, including the Follow button, are active? Pretty sweet huh?
Just by pasting the URL. Yet another reason why more people use WordPress than any other platform.
Here’s what my visual editor looked like to embed the tweet:
4. HTML in Image Captions
I didn’t see much fanfare about this new option when WordPress 3.4 was initially released, but it has me as excited as any of the other new options do.
I’ve long been frustrated at the inability to add HTML to image captions. The primary problem this presented was being unable to create links in captions.
For example, when I credit sites or photographers for images, I like to be able to link to their site. Also, sometimes using italics, bold, or underlined text is called for. This (and more) was impossible before WordPress 3.4.
Frankly, I believe the WordPress developers who enabled this feature in 3.4 deserve a cookie. A whole plate of them!
These four additional built-on options alone are enough to enhance everyone’s WordPress experience. But we’re not stopping here with this post.
More Built-In WordPress Features To Know
Something I’ve learned spending time in the Synthesis Help Desk is that many people are not aware of the myriad built-on options that were already available with WordPress long before the 3.4 update.
There are nine in particular that everyone needs to be aware of and use.
5. Easy YouTube Video Embedding
The concept of embedding a tweet by just pasting the link is not new. WordPress users have been able to do this with YouTube videos for a while now.
Just as with tweets, all you do is paste a YouTube link on its own line, like I’ve done below, and – Voila! – the video embeds with zero additional effort.
(In this case, the video is from 2008 and features Copyblogger CEO Brian Clark — several haircuts ago — providing a quick tip about content that is just as relevant today.)
You can also edit the height, width, and other parameters quite easily using shortcodes. This post from the WordPress Support blog shows you how.
Update: Actually, these shortcodes only work for blogs hosted on WordPress.com, not self-hosted blogs. My thanks to Otto for correcting me on this in the comment section below.
Here is what my visual editor looked like to embed the YouTube video:
6. Page Break
For longer posts, it is sometimes a good idea to split the post into multiple pages. When I first realized I wanted to start doing this for long posts we’d run on MSF, I sought out a plugin to do it for me.
I had no idea that page break functionality was built right into WordPress.
So when you want to end one page and send readers onto another page for the rest of your post, as I am about to do here, just paste the following code into your HTML editor:
The post will continue on down your post editor screen like normal, but users will be linked over to page 2 (as you are below).
If you want to split it again later in your post, just paste <!–nextpage–> again in the HTML editor, and there will be a third page in your post.
Continue onto page 2 to find out seven more built-in WordPress options you absolutely need to know about …
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