WordPress 3.9 “Smith” Released

WordPress 3.9 Featured Image
photo credit: wbaivcc

WordPress 3.9 “Smith” is now available, just four months after the release of 3.8. This release continues the strategy of developing features as plugins first. Widgets Customizer by Westonruter is the only plugin that was developed and merged into WordPress this time around. Much of the work in WordPress 3.9 is an improvement of features added in earlier versions. Without further ado, let’s take a look at what this release has to offer.

New: Create Audio/Video Playlists

Building upon the addition of audio and video in WordPress 3.6, WordPress 3.9 offers a lot of enhancements. For starters, you can now create audio playlists. You can also add multiple sources to help with cross-browser compatibility. Managing multiple sources is easy thanks to an improved workflow. WordPress now has subtitle support for videos as long as you supply the appropriate files. This post by HTML5Doctor explains how to create the proper files to add subtitles to videos.

Audio Playlist In The Visual Editor Of WordPress 3.9
Audio Playlist In The Visual Editor Of WordPress 3.9

Searching For WordPress Themes Has Never Been Easier

The theme browsing experience in WordPress 3.8 has been significantly improved in 3.9. The new theme browser features large preview images, indicators on which themes you already have installed, and fast-loading previews. Browsing and installing new themes in WordPress has never been easier.

Theme Browser Experience Revamped In WordPress 3.9
Theme Browser Experience Revamped In WordPress 3.9

Crop and Edit Images From Within The Visual Editor

Images are easier to edit and remove from posts. Simply click on the image within the visual editor and select the pencil icon. This will launch the image details screen. From here, you can quickly edit the details of the image and if you select the Edit Original button, you’ll be able to crop, flip, and change the image size. You can also drag and drop images right into the editor. Alternatively, you can crop and edit an image from within the visual editor.

Image Editing In WordPress 3.9
Image Editing In WordPress 3.9

Instead of seeing a placeholder, galleries can now be previewed as a grid within the visual editor. You cannot yet drag images around to change the display order, but this feature is expected to be added in a future update.

Preview Galleries Live Within The Visual Editor
Preview Galleries Live Within The Visual Editor

Live Widget Previews

You can now preview changes to widgets in real-time thanks to the theme customizer. Gone are the days of having to refresh the page every time you want to preview a change to a widget.

WordPress 3.9 Live Widget Previews
WordPress 3.9 Live Widget Previews

A New Streamlined Post Editor

The post editor in WordPress 3.9 has been updated to use TinyMCE 4.0. The update provides the following enhancements:

  • New UI and UI API.
  • New theme.
  • Revamped events system/API.
  • Better code quality, readability and build process.
  • Lots of (inline) documentation.

The Paste from Word button has been removed. When text from Microsoft Word is pasted into WordPress, the editor will automatically strip out the special formatting. The distraction free writing mode button is now on the right side of the editor. Distraction free writing mode is also responsive. The changes to the editor are a noticeable improvement when compared to WordPress 3.8.

TinyMCE 4.0 In WordPress 3.9
TinyMCE 4.0 In WordPress 3.9

oEmbed Support Added For Meetup and Imgur

Publishing content from either Meetup.com or Imgur is now as simple as pasting the URL into the editor. Meanwhile, oEmbed support for Qik has been removed.

Meetup Group Event Embedded Into A Post
Meetup Group Event Embedded Into A Post

Take A Tour Of WordPress 3.9

Michael Pick does a great job showing and explaining the new features in WordPress 3.9.

Important Information For WordPress Developers

There are a lot of under-the-hood improvements in WordPress 3.9. Over the past two-weeks, those responsible for adding specific features to WordPress have written detailed blog posts on the Make WordPress Core development blog. Here is a list of noteworthy items you may have missed.

HTML5 Galleries and Captions in WordPress 3.9 – WordPress 3.6 introduced HTML5 versions of popular template tags, starting out with comments, the comment form, and the search form. With the 3.9 release the team added galleries and captions to that list. Now, when adding HTML5 support for those features, WordPress will use <figure> and <figcaption> elements, instead of the generic definition list markup.

Symlinked Plugins in WordPress 3.9 – One of the cool little features included with 3.9 is the ability to symlink plugin directories. While it has been possible to symlink plugins in the past, functions such as plugins_url() return the wrong URL, which causes breakage in most plugins. The team has corrected this with the help of a new function.

Plupload 2.x in WordPress 3.9 – Plupload is the library that powers most of the file upload interfaces in WordPress, and in 3.9 the team has updated the bundled library to version 2.1.1. This post lists some of the things that have changed, which may affect WordPress plugins and themes.

MySQL in WordPress 3.9 – In WordPress 3.9, we added an extra layer to WPDB, causing it to switch to using the mysqli PHP library, when using PHP 5.5 or higher. For plugin developers, this means that you absolutely shouldn’t be using PHP’s mysql_*() functions any more – you can use the equivalent WPDB functions instead.

Masonry in WordPress 3.9 – If you use Masonry in your themes or plugins, here’s what you should know about the 3.9 update.

TinyMCE 4.0 Requires text/css For Editor Style Files – As of TinyMCE 4.0, the visual editor iframe now has an HTML5 document type (DOCTYPE html>). In this scenario, CSS files must be served with the text/css content type. A server will serve a *.css file with the proper content type, but if you’re using a PHP file for an editor style file, you need to be the one to do it.

Multisite Changes In 3.9 – Much of the bootstrap code for Multisite in ms-settings.php has been refactored in #27003 with the intent to improve how we handle the detection of domains and paths for sites and networks in core. Several other smaller enhancements and bugs have been completed in this and in other tickets.

jQuery UI and wpdialogs in WordPress 3.9 – WordPress 3.9 does not use the “wpdialogs” TinyMCE plugin as part of the TinyMCE 4.0 update which comes with a new dialog manager.

Thanks To Everyone Who Contributed To 3.9

Although 3.9 doesn’t have a lot of new features, the refinements to existing functionality are just as satisfying. I’m happy to see a release where the focus was more on improving what WordPress already has versus adding new functionality. Even though the live previews of widgets is my favorite feature, several of the pesky bugs that were squashed are a close second.

WordPress wouldn’t be what it is today without all of the awesome contributions from the community. Thanks to everyone who helped make 3.9 a reality! This release was led by Andrew Nacin and Mike Schroder. There are 267 contributors with props in this release, which is a new high for WordPress.

What is your favorite feature or enhancement in WordPress 3.9?

27 Comments


  1. Thanks for the notification Jeff
    I’ll try it out on a few local sites and then go with the live versions.

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    1. We just recently updated the Tavern and nothing blew up! Check out the about page when you upgrade. It has a video and a working playlist.

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      1. Good to hear all went well.
        My first local install upgrade went like a dream but I’m not doing the happy dance just yet.

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    1. Hold your breath and count to 10 @Miroslav… that should be long enough.

      We usually get a security update pretty soon after major upgrades and I used to wait a few days before I upgraded in anticipation.
      These days I upgrade straight away.

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      1. I get core updates notifications from WPTavern faster than WPT

        I was having a discussion with some people on a roundtable thing about how many updates is too many updates.

        We were comparing PHPBB vs WordPress.

        If 3.9.1 comes out within the next 10 days, I will question why didn’t those issues were fixed at 3.9.0 release.

        Would you (Jeff, this question is for you too), be worried if there was a 3.9.1 in a week, week later 3.9.2., 3.9.3 3 weeks after 3.9.0 came out, and so forth? (3.9.x weekly release).

        I am all for “delaying” releases to make sure it is up to the great standards WordPress comes out. Quality vs. Quantity, I will always pick Quality.

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      2. Yes, that would be concerning. Those releases would have to contain security fixes or fix major bugs to be justified in my opinion. Sure, auto update is great but it doesn’t give the team a free pass to just keep pushing updates as they see fit.

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  2. The upgrade was a dream on the local install and a hosted testing site. Sadly the one plugin I didn’t test fails and the live site uses it. Oops … Guess its an excuse to rearrange the Network :)

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  3. Hi Jeff, we upgraded to 3.9 and now our visual editor has disappeared. Been searching all over for help – any advice? Steve

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    1. I’ve been in the support forums for most of the day, you’re not alone. Quite a few people have reported TinyMCE issues, including the editor disappearing. Please create a forum thread on the WordPress.org support forums with a detailed explanation of your problem.

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    2. Yes I’m facing the same problem, My editor disappeared. how to fix it please ?

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  4. I upgraded to WordPress 3.9 and the only problem I have so far is the Twitter embed and the Meetup embed do not work. They worked for a few minutes and then went to just showing the URL. I had this problem back on 3.7.

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  5. Now it’s almost imposible to wonder what’s coming in WordPress 4.0… I know it will be just another major update, but changing 3 to 4 always makes you think about something big… maybe some front editing related? The new API? Who knows…

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  6. Anybody Find the Solution for Visual Editor Problem after Updating the WordPress to 3.9 ?
    Post your Solution if you Worked out that

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  7. My visual editor didn’t disappear, but there are many functions that are missing, and the worst problem with it is that the preview and update buttons deactivate, and I can’t save my work! It looks like the editor is doing an auto save, and gets hung up. It’s not functional this way!

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  8. Any solution to visual Editor Problem/galleries doesn’t show up after Updating the WordPress to 3.9?

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  9. I’m also experiencing problems with auto save. It’s like the connection is lost, even though my connection is just fine. I can’t use the buttons for saving, previewing or publishing after it went into auto save mode. Only option would be to temporarily disable auto save via wp-config but that’s not really a nice solution. Could this be a problem with AJAX? It’s showing in all browsers on all systems (as far I tested).
    Could someone look into that? Much appreciated!

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  10. Actually this is the absolute worst upgrade I have ever experienced from WordPress, and I have now turned off auto upgrade on all the sites I manage, probably forever. I plan to revert to 3.8 on all my (50+) sites until WordPress reinstates the image editing features like easily added margins and sizing. I have NO intention of having to edit image styling by hand and I totally resent being forced to add ANOTHER plugin to wordress. Upgrades are supposed to improve functionality and this upgrade has just added hours every week to my workload.

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    1. I couldn’t agree more. I really didn’t pay attention until this issue began creeping into the forums and blogs but it’s such an idiotic one size fits all approach that I’m almost speechless. It almost makes me cynically wonder if the “premium” WordPress (read that as “paid for” version) will eventually show up where all those functions are available… if we all want to pay for them. While on the one hand there are security issues with updates and the need to stay current, all this fixing things that aren’t really broken really irritates the heck out of me. (And all my clients who now need tutorial help just to continue using their website.)

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  11. It’s a pity that all the taxonomy tickets slated for 3.9 got pushed to a future release, AGAIN. I have no hope for 4.0 because all the resources will surely be directed into another useless iteration of the Twenty theme. Sigh…

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  12. After testing the 3.9 beta version followed by RC-1 and RC-2, last minute hassles with the TinyMCE Advanced plug-in were overcome and all went well. The loss of image-editing features like easily added margins was a big disappointment and has already cost me many hours of extra work until I get used to having to do the styling manually. Why? I thought that certain frequently needed functions were incorporated into the core so we don’t have to waste time or resort to plug-ins. This is a step in the opposite direction. I agree with Karelle, but will stick with 3.9, hoping that something will be done about this in the future.

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  13. Hmm, not a fan of the fact that I can no longer move images around in post editor.
    Since I write content that always has pics then it’s a bit of a pain not to be able to just drag images to different locations.
    On-the-fly resizing isn’t nearly as important, to me at least, as being able to move things around.

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  14. Some new introductions in the new version of WordPress. Just updated and I can see that you can copy from Word which is a good thing. I cannot comment on the other updates since I have not used them so far. I would like the option to see where you can no-follow a link, drag images and so on. But lets hope it gets better and better.

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  15. WordPress Visual editor preview not working. I know it’s within the theme because it worked fine when I changed the theme, also tested without using plugins.
    How to edit preview file, any tips on editing preview what it might be?. This theme was a wp-ecommerce theme which might have to do with the problem.

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