13 Built-In WordPress Options that
Online Publishers Need to Know …

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
  • Colors
  • Header Image
  • Background Image
  • Navigation
  • 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:

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.

Not anymore.

Frankly, I believe the WordPress developers who enabled this feature in 3.4 deserve a cookie. A whole plate of them!

We present these snickerdoodles, courtesy of Food.com, to the WordPress 3.4 developers who gave us HTML captions. Thank you!

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 …


  1. The youtube shortcode they talk about on wordpress.com doesn’t work on a self-installed WordPress. WordPress uses the built in [embed] shortcode instead.

    More info on it here: http://codex.wordpress.org/Embeds

    Also, it supports a *lot* more than just Twitter and YouTube. :)

  2. It’s hard for me now to imagine life before WordPress. I am glad they are so dedicated to it, every update seems to really make it better and better.

  3. Now I want a snickerdoodle …

  4. Great points to highlight the new features of WordPress. The barrier to entry for an online publisher is greatly reduced by these new features. The ease in which to add rich content should make posts easier to consume. Great tips!

  5. Thanks for this really useful post. But to me, it just shows the frustrations and mind-boggling awkwardness of the WordPress system in general! Why have to wait until version 3.4 to be able to apply the most simplest of adaptations and changes to a Website design..? (Leading DTP Programs offered these adjustments YEARS ago in their 1st software versions!). And WHY does WordPress constantly seem to try and hide it’s sensible adjustments – like being able to add HTML to image captions..? It’s COMMON SENSE! (I don’t think the developers deserve real cookies – they deserve a telling off, for not enabling it before!) And finally, why have WordPress approached their ‘help/how-to’ sections by supplying reams of pages that never DIRECTLY answer a simple question..? Maybe they’ll finally wise up, and start mending their ways – and offering Bloggers, Website designers, small businesses, etc., the ultimate flexibility they want, right from the start – particularly when they realise that many rival new Website/Blogging platforms are now in their final pre-launch testing stages – and soon to be launched to an expectant audience…

  6. Great tips – Thank you. I immediately subscribed to your newsletter.

    However, at the top of your article you urged us to go to our WP blog and upgrade right away, then come back.

    I’m paranoid about doing that without backing up my blog. WP urges us to do that and maybe you assume all of us would automatically do that. However, I know a lot of people who wouldn’t think of doing that.

    Also, once we upgrade we’ve got to pay attention to plug-ins and themes to make sure all are compatible, right?

    • Jerod Morris :


      Yes, you should always get a backup before upgrading, but this should not be a barrier to upgrading. Get the backup and upgrade! That way you can take advantage of the new features and have the security updates in place. Also, we backup our sites so well here at Synthesis that even if you don’t backup, and something goes wrong with the upgrade (which is rare), we could restore you pretty easily.

      And yes, you have to pay attention to plugins and themes. That is why using premium themes like StudioPress is such a good idea, because you know they will be on top of WP updates, and it’s why vetting your plugin sources is so important too. You don’t want to be using plugins that are no longer supported and can’t make it through an upgrade.

  7. The Tweet Embedder feature is very cool! But putting the link in a picture captions via HTML… awesome! Thanks for posting these, for those of us that need a little tutoring once in a while:)

  8. Wow, A very great article loaded with information.

    I have actually updated mine but didn’t put all these wordpress built-in into consideration. I will start making use of them asap.

    On that of embeding videos, is it aduisable to embed a youtube video link that is not made by me?


    • Jerod Morris :

      Thank you! Yes, you can use any YouTube link. As a previous commenter mentioned, the parameters to change width and height via short code do not work on self-hosted blogs, but the auto-embed from the link does work.

  9. Oh, thanks.
    I was even afraid thinking that it voilets google adsense TOS.
    I will start using youtube videos on my blog then.

  10. A great post here and a lesson learnt too, I didn’t actually know about the ‘next page’ feature but this will help a lot for future content on my site. Thank you.

    • Yes! It had never even occurred to me to do a multi-page post on those longer posts. Jerod, do you know if it’s still considered “one page” for indexing purposes?


      • Great question. They would be considered separate pages for a search engine. So if SEO is the #1 objective of a page, splitting it up might not be the best idea. But, on the flip side, if it’s a REALLY long post, how much marginal value are you getting from the second half from an SEO perspective? And if you make money off of pageviews, is any negative SEO impact offset by the additional pageviews? It’ll just depend on the situation.

  11. Hi !
    Thanks for this cool post. I’m using this Shortcode for integrating a youtube vidéo on my self-hosted website and it works fine ! (it wors also with vimeo and dailymotion):

    [embed width="600" height="450"]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oN00527ru9I[/embed]

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