WordPress 3.8 release, developers say that the large amount of planned changes means that not all of them could be implemented. Whatever updates weren’t included will be available in the form of plugins or go into the 3.9 version, to be released in early 2014. WordPress is using the features-as-plugin approach, meaning that a lot of the yet to be released updates can already be tested as plugins, although it’s recommended that you do so in the development environment rather than on the actual site. Some of these new features will continue living as plugins while others will become part of new WordPress version.

Most of the previous WordPress releases added major improvements to this popular CMS and blogging platform, and users expect no less from 3.8. And while the 3.7 version, made available just a couple of months ago, improved the platform’s usability by adding a lot of changes that weren’t necessarily obvious from the appearance standpoint, 3.8 is offering a lot more visual improvements. This article will outline the main changes and updates users will find in the WordPress 3.8 release.

1. New Default Theme: Twenty Fourteen

While WordPress usually goes with blogging style designs for its native themes, it opted for a magazine design with Twenty Thirteen. The theme has several page templates to choose from, as well as different post formats and navigation menus. It gives users an ability to quickly feature their chosen posts or images on the home page with the help of tags. With Twenty Thirteen, you can easily customize your site’s featured area, with a slider or grid layout for images, or just plain text if you don’t want to include any featured images at all. One of the main visual differences of the theme is its left-aligned positioning, which might take some getting used to.

2. Responsive Dashboard

While WordPress default themes have been responsive since several releases ago, its admin panel is now fully responsive as well. The layout looks great and is equally easy to navigate on any device or screen size. This makes blogging from your phone or tablet, or even making quick changes to your website on the go a breeze.

3. Improvements to Dashboard Design

Once you open your new 3.8 WordPress dashboard, you will quickly realize it looks different – the design is somewhat sleeker and the colors are slightly different, making the text a lot easier to read. You will see fewer widgets; for example, the Links are now completely removed, possibly because it wasn’t very popular among users to start with. The Right Now widget is renamed to Activity and QuickPress is now Quick Draft to do a better job at explaining their purposes.

The new design applies the look of the popular MP6 plugin, and those who have used the latter before will find themselves in a very familiar territory. As opposed to the prior version’s two dashboard color scheme choices, you now have four options: blue, default, light and midnight. Each scheme provides a clean, classy look with well-selected color combinations, letting you freshen things up around your admin panel and make it your own. The Open Sans font used by WordPress 3.8 significantly improves the look of forms, buttons, menus and all the other text elements in your admin interface. The icons inside the posts are also redesigned and look at lot more polished and easy on the eye, although they still fulfil the exact same tasks as they did before.

4. Updated Themes Page

Your themes will now be displayed differently as well – a look you might be familiar with if you have used the THX38 plugin before. You will see a selection grid showing your current theme first, and then alphabetically displaying all other themes you have installed. The thumbnails are a lot bigger in WordPress 3.8, showing you more detail of each theme, which could make it easier to find what you need. The themes screen is no longer loaded with text like it used to be. Instead, you’ll need to click on the theme to open the lightbox with the description, which can now be lengthier, as more space is allocated for the text here. The sidebar can be collapsed for a full-screen preview of the theme. The themes search box has also undergone a change, getting moved to the top left-hand corner of the screen. The new look decreases the amount of clutter in the section and makes it easier to find and preview the theme you are looking for.

5. Cleaner Widgets Menu

If your sidebar is packed with widgets, you will love this change. Instead of a single long list of widgets you might have had to scroll through before, the widgets you are using are now organized into two columns to the right of the screen, while the available widgets can be seen in the two columns on the left. You can still drag and drop your widgets like you used to, but the new layout makes that task a lot easier.

6. Omnisearch

This new feature is based on the Global Admin Search plugin, and allows you to search your entire admin area for posts, themes, pages, media, plugins and more. The feature will come particularly handy for new WordPress users who are still finding their way around the interface. It might be also useful for developers who are trying to reduce the learning curve when passing the sites designed in WordPress over to their clients.

7. Better Plugins Display

The Plugins screen is similar to what it used to be, but in WordPress 3.8 it does a better job at showing which plugins have been activated. In the past, the background of the active plugins was slightly changed, which could be confusing if you were using a lot of plugins displayed in a long list. In addition to the background change, activated plugins now also have a blue border on the right side of their names, making them stand out a lot better among any inactive plugins in the list.

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