Focus Project and Session UI Approved for Merge Into WordPress 4.1

John Blackbourn announced this afternoon that he will be merging the Focus Project into WordPress core ahead of the upcoming 4.1 release. Last week Jeff Chandler explored how the Focus Project plans to enhance distraction-free writing in WordPress. If you haven’t been following the project, it’s essentially a complete re-think of the way WordPress has approached the DFW feature.

dfwMark Jaquith posted a demo video of the feature earlier this week when proposing it to be merged into core for 4.1. If you haven’t tested it yet, this video gives you a good idea of how the feature will work.

In general, WordPress users have found distraction-free writing to be a valuable experience but are dissatisfied with the disconnect of being separated from the rest of the publishing tools in the editor. The Focus Project minimizes the transition, automatically fading the non-essential parts of the editor when you start typing. It keeps the the publishing tools just a mouse swipe away.

The old DFW button is now changed to be a disabling toggle. For the 4.1 beta, this new feature will be automatically on, and WordPress core contributors will use this time to gather feedback and decide whether or not it should be on or off by default. If left on by default, it will be the most visible new feature in 4.1, since it impacts anyone who uses the content editor.

Session UI Approved to Merge Into Core

The second item approved for merge into 4.1 is the user session UI, which is essentially a button that displays when a user has more than one active session. When clicked, the button will log the user out of all other sessions.

During today’s core development chat, Blackbourn also outlined plans for the putting the session UI feature on track for future improvements. “We’ll use the session UI repo on GitHub for future iterations (and we’ll do it as a proper feature plugin too if necessary),” he said. “Or it might just not be developed any further.”

He also clarified that planned improvements to extension installation and update screens will not make it into this release. “So unfortunately due to the work that some core folks have been doing on 4.0.1, the improvements that were slated for the plugin and theme install (and update) screens has not progressed past mockups, so that has been shelved for 4.1,” Blackbourn said.

Shared Terms Will be Split in WordPress 4.1

Under the hood, developers can look forward to progress on the taxonomy roadmap. Boone Gorges has made huge strides in fixing issues with shared terms. Unraveling this knot was an extraordinary feat, not unlike navigating through a minefield, when it comes to backwards compatibility.

As of 4.1, updating a shared term will cause it to be split into two separate terms. This solves a common problem where you update a term and have the others changed unintentionally. It also paves the way for more exciting improvements to taxonomy meta and post relationships, as Andrew Nacin outlined last year.

The new Twenty Fifteen default theme should also ship in this release, ready just in time for the new year. Blackbourn and contributors are aiming to have WordPress 4.1 beta 1 available Thursday around lunchtime GMT. The official release is scheduled for the week of December 8th.

13 Comments


  1. Well, I guess they can’t all be good features.

    Focus will be the first thing I disable permanently on all my own sites. I don’t like or use DFW either, frankly. Don’t really see the point.

    I think these types of interfaces are really designed more for people who don’t use max-size browser windows. If you have other things on the screen already, in other windows, then making a window just contain what you want it to contain makes a fair amount of sense. But the truth is that these features are always displayed as screenshots or video of the browser only. A better way to sell it would be to show the whole environment that it’s actually useful in.. and a max-size browser just doesn’t make any sense to have DFW or Focus on. IMO.

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    1. Otto – Well, you never know, the focus feature may be released as “off” by default so as not to bother all the grumpy gooses of the world. ;) I’m actually a huge fan of DFW- it saves me from accidentally clicking ‘Publish’ instead of ‘Save,’ which is one of my worst fears.

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      1. Things I can disable don’t make me grumpy. Just annoyed. :)

        But I fully understand that it will most likely be off by default at release. Turning that on by default would be somewhat crazy. It’s probably only going to be on-by-default for the beta period.. and that actually makes perfect sense, so as to expose more testers to it. More eyeballs, more opinions, more bugfixes.

        But I’ll still disable it on my own sites, so that I can never accidentally turn it back on. The nature of it as shown strikes me as extremely ill-conceived. Having things move around on my screen and making my screen actually become brighter overall is a lot more distracting, honestly.

        I can kinda see doing a fade-to-dark on the non-focused areas, Sort of like how some video players on the web (like Hulu) support a “cinema” mode, where the rest of the screen goes dark and you only look at the brighter areas. That kinda works more to focus your attention on a specific portion of the screen. But scrolling the bar away, and fading to brighter colors (why must the rest screen be just so bright when nothing is there) is opposite of what I think is the intended experience. Staring into what is now essentially a light bulb doesn’t help improve focus.

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      2. I don’t know what the final decision will be but there was a strong push to have DFW enabled by default in order to address the discoverability issue that exists with the current DFW mode. There would also be a feature pointer letting users know about it.

        Staring into what is now essentially a light bulb doesn’t help improve focus.

        I hate staring into lightbulbs!

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    2. As the tech guy who’s more concerned about the metadata, structure, and code on a site than the content, I probably don’t care about DFW one way or the other. However, I think my users — who are producing the content — may actually prefer it. I’ll have to see what they think. I doubt any of them will hate it enough to want it disabled.

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  2. I don’t want to be negative, but since I’m feel part of the WP community since the first WP release, I whant to share my perplexity about DFW. :-/

    I really can’t understand all the “hipe” around Distraction Free, nor why it’s a such important feature to have this in the core.

    I say this with all the respect of the developers and all the team, but frankly I don’t see the point in putting so much effort in it.
    …a distraction free text editor? now? in 2014? when we have all around any kind of devices constantly flashing, bliping, sounding to grab our attention? I fear that will not be DFW to help us writing more focused… :-O

    ..or am I miss something?

    Stefano

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    1. Totally agree. And actually, I can’t remember anyone asking for this feature anywhere.

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      1. Yes, absolutely. I agree too. But it’s all the rage with writing software these days, so WP is just following lamely along.

        It’s a complete waste of time, of course. After all, one click of a button and you’re back to the regular writing window. It’s not like the rest of your computer gets disabled.

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  3. The new focus mode seems well-executed, but it’s refined so much as to be completely pointless. The next logical iteration of this feature would be to put everything back on the screen at all times so you have easy access to it.

    The off-center editor doesn’t look great, and, well, what problem is this solving? Right now, my eyes can see a window, a closet, a few posters, a desk, a notebook, a bed, two bookshelves, a fan, and a computer screen. On the computer screen is a toolbar and an open window. The new focus mode hides a couple things in that window, because while my brain is perfectly OK ignoring everything else, it apparently might have a hard time with a few meta boxes.

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  4. as someone who manage client site: ihate it cause now i have to explain this update (nothing seamless here, if it will trigger question my user)

    as blogger, i dont use it. will disable it.

    as developer: now i need ro re check all custom meta box script if it still working/compat issue, etc. hate it.

    as someone who care about wp growth: i dont think it will WOW potential user and get them onboard.

    anyway, i also hate staring at lightbulbs.

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  5. I like very much the concept. DFW helps me to think. When I’m typing a long text, I don’t need all these widgets – and I’ve got a ton of them – and the previous feature was to frustrating to use.

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  6. I starting writing a blog this last week and I’ve constantly been saying to myself, “I’d like to just focus on what I’m doing”… Making the screen 1 column kind of helped but made the editor too big and I still got a glimpse of the meta fields below. This is the first I’ve herd of this being implemented and I think it’s something that Defoe fly should be considered, without a doubt. It’s just up to WordPress and us to make sure it’s implemented in the most beneficial way. Looking forward to testing :)

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  7. I think DFW is catered towards a different audience than a lot of users, specifically users like us who read articles about what WordPress is bringing in future releases ;)

    DFW is for the OTHER huge chunk of WordPress users, the writers, journalists, bloggers, etc. Those people (at least in cliche!) like a comfy seat, laptop, cup of coffee, and a screen that doesn’t have anything on it but the impending words of their labor.

    I myself, I like my tools available at all times, and found the current DFW to be a pain in my ass, so I welcome this new attempt. That being said, I don’t feel it’s the kind of thing you need to spent too much time on, and we should wrap it up and move on.

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