WordPress 3.9 “Smith” Launched — It’s Enchanting & Futuristic!

by Ahsan Parwez
April 17, 2014

Finally the wait is over. WordPress 3.9 has been officially launched after a rigorous development period which saw three Beta and two Release Candidate versions.

WordPress 3.9

The WordPress 3.9 is named “Smith” after the great Jazz musician Jimmy Smith. It seems like a suitable name. Smith was known for popularizing electric organ which became an essential part of Jazz in 1960s.

The same is the case with the new version. WordPress 3.9 redefines the way we work with the WordPress. While 3.8 seemed like a lick of paint over the previous, 3.9 is where all the fun begins. The CMS works better on mobile now, especially the new Visual Editor. Media handling has been revamped. It is easier to put images, videos, and audios. Plus, it is speedier than its previous iterations.

However, before you go upgrading, you can need to do a bit of work.

What you need to do before upgrading?

We suggest that you do not upgrade your live site to WordPress 3.9 immediately, especially if you are using plugins that you fear may not be compatible with new version of WordPress or if you have been using a customized theme and have made changes to the WordPress core files. It is better to go through the following checks:

  1. Deploy a copy of your live site on test sub-domain and then upgrade to WordPress 3.9. Check each and every plugin, custom codes, and other functionalities of your site. Keep multiple backups!
  2. If you are using paid themes and plugins, then ask the authors if they have tested the compatibility of their themes and plugins with WordPress 3.9. That will save your time.
  3. Take special care if you are using plugins that customize TinyMCE editor. The WP 3.9 is using the updated version, i.e. TinyMCE as of latest reports.
  4. The WordPress 3.9 now uses MYSQLi extension for sites with PHP 5.5. That makes the mysql_* function obsolete and any plugins using this function will need to be upgraded.
  5. Make sure to block web crawlers from indexing your test sites and sub-domains by defining <META NAME="ROBOTS" CONTENT="NOINDEX, NOFOLLOW"> in the head section.

What to expect in WordPress 3.9?


Improved visual editing

TinyMCE has undergone a major upgrade. WordPress 3.9 will use the version It has quicker response time, speed, and mobile support. Plus, you can paste from any word processor directly into it while retaining the format. It will not add any unwanted formats to mess up the post. The “Paste from Word” function will no longer be available. And, the most surprising bit: we have a “Horizontal Rule” button. Amazing!

Post Editor

Visual Editor – No More “Paste from Word”

Responsive Mobile Visual Editor

Responsive Mobile Visual Editor

Edit images easily

Images can now be dragged from your desktop or any folder and dropped directly into the Visual Editor. Also you can edit, crop, and resize the images easily from there too. I feel “Add Media” button won’t get much love after this. 🙁

Drag and Drop Images

Drag and Drop Images

Edit Images

Edit Images By Clicking The Pencil Icon

Image editing has surely received a major overhaul. You can now edit “Image Title Attribute”, “Image CSS Class” and even the “Link CSS Class” for each image.

Image Details

Image Details

In the “Edit Original” window, you will have options to flip the image, rotate it, crop it and change the aspect ratios. The new layout looks impressive and it is something that I would like to use compared to the previous image editors that were quite annoying.

Edit Original Image

Edit Original Image

Gallery previews

Galleries will have a nice highlight and border around them in the visual editor. Neat!

New Gallery Preview

New Gallery Preview in Visual Editor

Audio and video playlists

Working with audio and video files is now much easier in WordPress 3.9. Now you can create audio and video playlists. The good part is that the new TinyMCE 4.0 Visual Editor displays the files just the way they would appear on a live post.

Audio Play List

Audio Play List

Another good news is the audio and video players are completely mobile responsive. So, they are fully compatible with your responsive themes by default. The media modal is now based on HTML5.

Live widget customization and theme previews

Live widget preview is a treat by WordPress core developers to all of us. On your first visit to Appearance -> Widgets, you will see a new notification box: “New Feature: Live Widget Previews”.

Widget Feature Notification

Widget Feature Notification

It will hint you to navigate to Appearance -> Customize, where you can play with widgets and see them get updated in real time and notice how your site will look like.

Live Widget Preview

Live Widget Preview

You can also add new widgets by clicking “Add a Widget” button.

Add Widgets in Live Preview

Add Widgets in Live Preview

This visual enhancement encourages the visitors to explore the Theme Customizer  in depth.

Header customization option

That is not all, seems like in WordPress 3.9 we will be visiting Theme Customizer quite often. We have got “Header Image” cropping and that too with “Randomize uploaded headers”.

Header Image Cropping

Header Image Cropping

Stunning new theme browser

The Theme Browser has also received a major visual and performance enhancement. The theme previews are much more beautiful and appealing.

Searching new themes is also  made easy within WordPress 3.9. The “Feature Filter” option makes the job so much user-friendly.

New Feature Filter

New Feature Filter

That covers all the major visual, performance, and usability attributes in WordPress 3.9.

WordPress 3.9 Treats for WordPress Developers

HTML5 captions and galleries

The galleries and captions now utilize the popular HTML5 template tags. For custom theme developers, you will need to add a call in after_setup_theme in functions.php file:

add_theme_support ( 'html5', array( 'gallery', 'caption' ) );

Read complete details here

Improved MySQL functioning: MySQLi

If you have installed WordPress on a server supported by PHP 5.5 or higher, then your WordPress will utilize the MySQLi. Every plugin developer will have to say goodbye to mysql_*() now.

External Libraries

In WordPress 3.9, following external libraries are updated:

  • TinyMCE 4
  • jQuery 1.11
  • Backbone 1.1
  • Underscore 1.6
  • Plupload 2
  • MediaElement 2.14
  • Masonry 3

So, if you are using one of these libraries, then you need to look at this.

New functions added in WordPress 3.9

The following function has been added:

Identify a hook in progress with doing_action() and doing_filter(), and manipulate custom image sizes with has_image_size() and remove_image_size().

They will be explained in the Codex in a few days.

Improved Database Layer

WordPress installs running on PHP 5.5 which now uses MySQLi.


Well, we think it is an awesome update. It is something that you would need if you love working on WordPress. However, we advise you to test it first, and before update, take a backup.

However, if you are reliant on plugins, then wait for plugin authors to verify that their plugins are compatible with new WordPress 3.9.

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About Ahsan Parwez

Ahsan is the Community Team Manager at Cloudways - A Managed Cloud Hosting Platform. He loves to solve problems and help Cloudways' clients in any aspect he can. In his free time, you can find him playing RTS PC games.

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  • Linda

    thanx for the post Ahsan, it is really helpful. As for me, recently I’ve got Achromatic theme for my website (http://www.gt3themes.com/demo/?theme=Achromatic%20WP) which is also updated to the version 3.9 and it seems it works well. Though I’m just customizing it, so we’ll see. I hope it will set good.

    • Thanks for the compliments. That theme looks impressive and is WP 3.9 compatible as far as I checked it out. Good luck! 🙂