WordPress 4.3 “Billie” Named After Jazz Singer Billie Holiday Is Available for Download

After four months of development led by Konstantin Obenland, WordPress 4.3 “Billie” named after jazz singer Billie Holiday, is available for download. This release features menus in the customizer, strong passwords by default, site icons, and variety of other improvements.

Menus in the Customizer

You can now create, add, and edit menus in the customizer while previewing changes to your site in real-time. Unlike other parts of the customizer, previewing menus should be fast as it uses a new hybrid transport layer. Weston Ruter, who contributed to fast previews in the customizer explains the approach.

We also wanted to enable fast previewing of menu changes by default. So we implemented a postMessage/refresh hybrid approach which uses postMessage to sync the menus settings to the preview, and then the preview does an Ajax request to render just the contents of the menu container, and this Ajax response is then inserted into the DOM to replace the previous menu container. The technical name for this approach we have been calling ‘partial refresh’, but you can call it fast preview.

In general, previewing menus in most themes should be a fast experience.

Menu Customizer
Menu Customizer

Strong Passwords by Default

Mark Jaquith led the effort to improve the way passwords are chosen and changed in WordPress. On the account management page, clicking the Generate Password button generates a strong password by default. The password strength meter is better integrated into the password field which lets users know immediately when their password is weak.

Better Passwords in WordPress
Better Passwords in WordPress

The same interface is on the add new user screen, the password reset screen, and the WordPress install screen. While WordPress doesn’t require users to have a strong password, it does everything it can to encourage users to choose one.

In addition, WordPress no longer emails passwords and password reset links expire after 24 hours. When your password or e-mail changes, WordPress sends you an email so if someone hijacks your browser session and changes these items, you’ll be notified that it happened, and you can take action. You can disable these e-mails via the send_pass_change_email and send_email_change_email filters by setting them to false.

Site Icons

Site Icons are images that represent a website across multiple platforms. You can configure your Site Icon in the Site Identity panel within the customizer where you can upload a 512X512 sized image. This image will be used for browsers, iOS, Android, and Microsoft devices when a visitor bookmarks your site.

Site Icons in The Customizer
Site Icons in The Customizer

Text Patterns, Quick Link Toolbar, and Word Count Changes

The editor in WordPress 4.3 has undergone more improvements with text shortcuts, a quick link toolbar, and word count changes. Text patterns or text shortcuts allow you to quickly add unordered lists, ordered lists, headers, and blockquotes without having to use a mouse.

When starting a new paragraph with one of these formatting shortcuts followed by a space, the formatting will be applied automatically. Press Backspace or Escape to undo.

In the visual editor in WordPress 4.3, typing * or - and hitting the space bar will generate a bulleted list. Typing 1.  or  1) and hitting space will generate a numbered list. If you don’t want to create these lists or do so in error, clicking the undo button or hitting ctrl/cmd+z or esc will undo the text pattern.

Starting a paragraph with two to six number signs # will convert the paragraph to a heading. Similarly, the greater-than symbol > will convert the paragraph to a blockquote.

  • ## = H2
  • ### = H3
  • #### = H4
  • ##### = H5
  • ###### = H6

Quick Link Preview Toolbar

When you click a link in the WordPress 4.3 visual editor, a small inline link toolbar displays the full URL with buttons to edit or remove it. This avoids having to use the Insert/edit link modal window.

Preview Links in The Visual Editor WordPress 4.3
Preview Links in The Visual Editor WordPress 4.3

Word and character counts have also changed in WordPress 4.3. Instead of updating counts when pressing enter or return, it will refresh when you stop typing. A lot more characters that shouldn’t be counted as words are excluded. Ella Iseulde Van Dorpe, WordPress core contributor, lists other notable changes.

Changes to the Admin Bar

WordPress 4.3 moves the Customize link to the top-level menu of the admin bar. This link opens the customizer, allowing you to manage menus, appearance, and widgets through the customizer interface.

WordPress 4.2 Admin Bar
WordPress 4.2 Admin Bar
WordPress 4.3 Admin Bar

The Dashboard, Themes, Widgets, and Menus links take users to their corresponding admin pages in the backend of WordPress. This makes it clear which interface users are about to enter. The enhancement is a result of ticket #32678 where Helen Hou-Sandí and other WordPress core contributors discussed ways to improve the context of each link over the course of five weeks.

Noteworthy Changes

WordPress 4.3 is the result of hundreds of paid and non-paid volunteers working tirelessly to improve the software used on more than 24% of the web. If you experience any issues with WordPress 4.3, please report them on the support forums. Volunteers are watching support threads closely and if warranted, will create a thread listing known issues.

To enjoy the full upgrade experience, I encourage you to listen to Lady sings The Blues by Billie Holiday as you upgrade your WordPress sites.

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