Tools & Resources

Preview WordPress 3.8 Features You Can Test Drive TODAY

WordPress 3.8 is scheduled for release on December 12th. YAY!

WordPress 3.7, released about a month ago, was all about functional improvements. We saw plenty of  “behind the scenes” features  like automatic updates to help simplify and streamline workflow.

WordPress 3.8 features are focused on enhancing the user experience. The church Web worker’s user experience. Lots of exciting visual and accessibility improvements to the interface are on tap.

Unlike previous WordPress updates, the “cool factor” for this release is that some of the new features have been developed as plugins. That enabled contributors and developers to work in tandem on their projects.

You can test drive these plugins now. But a word of caution: since they’re still in development, I don’t recommend using them on a “live” website. If you’re feeling adventurous, take them for a spin in a development environment.

New WordPress 3.8 Features

Visually Overhauled Admin Area

The WordPress Admin area hasn’t seen a major visual upgrade since WordPress 2.7. The MP6 plugin is currently in use on websites, and greatly simplifies the Admin user interface. Approved for core, MP6 gives WordPress 3.8 a complete visual overhaul right out of the box.

[image source_type=”attachment_id” source_value=”3090″ caption=”Wordpress 3.8 Default Color Scheme” alt=”Wordpress 3.8 Default Color Scheme” align=”left” width=”628″ autoHeight=”true”]

The updated interface sports the Open Sans font, cleaner styles, flatter elements, and lots of spacing among elements. The upgrades work together to create an interface that’s very user friendly and easy on the eyes.

In Users » Profile, you can choose from eight beautiful, high-contrast color schemes to customize your experience.

[image source_type=”attachment_id” source_value=”3092″ caption=”Wordpress 3.8 Ectoplasm Color Scheme” alt=”Wordpress 3.8 Ectoplasm Color Scheme” align=”left” width=”628″ autoHeight=”true”]

Redesigned Dashboard

When I activated the Dashboard plugin, I was like, “Whoa!” My Dashboard went from this:

[image source_type=”attachment_id” source_value=”3097″ caption=”Current WordPress Dashboard” alt=”Current WordPress Dashboard” align=”left” width=”628″ autoHeight=”true”]

To this:

[image source_type=”attachment_id” source_value=”3098″ caption=”Wordpress 3.8 Dashboard” alt=”Wordpress 3.8 Dashboard” align=”left” width=”628″ autoHeight=”true”]

As you can see, this new feature rearranges, tightens, combines, and cleans up the Dashboard nicely.

So what’s changed?

  • WordPress Blog, Other WordPress News, and Plugins are now combined to form WordPress News.
  • Recent Comments as well as your scheduled and recently published posts have been merged into Activity.
  • QuickPress and Recent Drafts are now Quick Drafts.
  • Number of columns screen option is removed and replaced with a new responsive Dashboard. Now, the appropriate number of columns will automatically display based on your screen resolution.

A few extras are also added, including that  fun little smiley in Activity if you delete all posts and comments.

Simpler widgets area interface

I work a lot with the Striking Theme by Kaptinlin. The theme is packed with widgets and sidebars. On top of that, the ability to create custom sidebars is built in. I love that! Then, some of the plugins I use add even more widgets to the Widget area. I love that too. But, the current layout and “drag and drop” functionality has always made working with widgets and sidebars a pain in the neck.

This problem is solved beautifully with the new Widget area User Interface. The new Widgets Area Chooser allows you to simply click a widget and choose where it goes. Juggling lots widgets and sidebars will definitely be made a lot easier.

[image source_type=”attachment_id” source_value=”3107″ caption=”Widgets Area Chooser Plugin” alt=”Widgets Area Chooser Plugin” align=”left” width=”628″ autoHeight=”true”]

If you try out the plugin, be sure you have the MP6 plugin installed and activated first. The developer of the Widgets Area Chooser notes that if you don’t “things may look a little wonky.” This is a true statement.

Better theme browsing and full-screen previews

The Themes area is currently very text heavy and overloaded with information. The THX38 plugin transforms the WordPress Themes experience into an interface that’s uncluttered and easy to use. And when previewing a theme, you’re now able to completely collapse the sidebar for a  full-screen theme preview.

[image source_type=”attachment_id” source_value=”3113″ caption=”Wordpress 3.8 Themes Experience” alt=”Wordpress 3.8 Themes Experience” align=”left” width=”628″ autoHeight=”true”]

As with the Widgets Area Chooser, if you want to try out this plug, you’ll need to have the MP6 plugin installed and activated first.

Other goodies on the way


Omnisearch enables users to search once and get results from all of your posts, pages, comments, and feedback. The plugin is currently available for JetPack plugin users. But, it’s still “in development” for core, and won’t be included with the new WordPress 3.8 features.

Twenty-Fourteen Theme

Twenty-Fourteen is a beautiful magazine layout theme that is scheduled for release with WordPress 3.8. It will become the default theme for the new year. A customizable Featured Content area and stunning treatment of Featured Images are just two of the many design changes, performance tweaks, and UI enhancements rolled into this great looking theme.

[image source_type=”attachment_id” source_value=”3119″ caption=”Twenty-Fourteen WordPress Theme” alt=”Twenty-Fourteen WordPress Theme” align=”left” width=”628″ autoHeight=”true”]

If you want to take a peek, a live demo is available. A beta release is available at GitHub, if you’ve got a hankering to get your hands dirty.

Which features are you most excited about?

I hope you’re as excited as I am about the new features coming with WordPress 3.8. Actually, I have a confession to make. The new Widgets Area Chooser made me squeal! {blushing}

Do any of the new features make you especially giddy? Please let me know by leaving a comment below.

And, if you found this post helpful, please be sure to share it with all of the WordPress lovers you know!

7 replies on “Preview WordPress 3.8 Features You Can Test Drive TODAY”

[…] 3.8 is scheduled for release on December 12th and in this article you will find most of new featuresincluding new widget area, dashboard changes and […]

Nice roundup of WP 3.8 changes. I’ve been developing on 3.8 using the beta tester plugin for the last few weeks and at first I didn’t like the new UI (mainly the dark menu) but I have to say it has grown on me and now when I look at an install of 3.7, it looks dated. The theme page is a really nice improvement and the way widgets are handled now is much easier to work with.

This update sort of keeps WordPress’s admin area up with the times.

Thanks for your comment, Steven. I agree. The visual style definitely reminded me of Apple’s iOS the first time I saw it. Looks like “flat and light” is the new trend. Of course, the new Widget area is my favorite! So, now that it’s live, have you chosen a lighter color scheme for your workspace?

What’s interesting about the new default theme too is that Automattic originally developed it as a commercial theme and set a price of $150 dollars on. I haven’t tried it yet but I’d expect it to be the most robust default theme as of yet.

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