Some Early Thoughts on WordPress 3.9

on April 17, 2014 in Blogging, Productivity & Organization

WordPress 3.9 is here.If you run a blog or website on WordPress, you probably know that they rolled out the next major update. WordPress 3.9 was released on April 16th.

I take my time with upgrades. I have a little over 50 WordPress installations that need to be upgraded. I start with the smallest sites with the fewest plugins -- usually projects in-development. That allows me to test out new features and check for compatibility issues with the most common plugins I use before I upgrade the bigger sites (like this one, which is always my last).

WordPress 3.9 is a bit of a mixed bag for me. There are things I love. And while I can't think of any updates I don't like in theory, they don't all work as expected. Today I'd like to share a few thoughts on these changes, and introduce you to them if you weren't aware of them yet. But first, here's a video intro from WordPress.

Image Upload and Editing

So far, so good with the new image editing features. Now you can drag and drop images from your desktop right to your post edit window instead of having to enter the media upload area first. It's not a huge time-saver, but any time-saver is a good thing if you're as obsessed with productivity improvements as I am.

Another cool feature is that you can resize images right from the post edit window now. Just drag the edges of your image to resize it.

Wordpress 3.9 Image Resizing

{adinserter 3}

Live Widget Previews

The WordPress widget editor was already pretty good. It was easy to drag and drop widgets between different locations and even between different widget locations on your site (such as from your sidebar widgets to your footer widgets). But previously you couldn't see exactly how those widgets would look on your site until you made the changes to the live site.

With WordPress 3.9, that's changed. Now, instead of visiting the usual widget area to move things around, you can go to your theme customizer (Appearance > Customize). This brings up a live preview of your theme and it allows you to make some basic customizations. With the latest WordPress upgrade, one of those customizations is placing your widgets. The live preview to the right will show you exactly how widgets will look in their new locations before you save them. You can drag and drop right from this page, as well as add new widgets.

WordPress 3.9 Live Widget Preview

Pasting from Word Processors

This is the one change I'm incredibly disappointed in, but that's because it was probably the one I was looking forward to the most. I prefer to write most posts in a word processor, and then transfer it to WordPress (though not always).

The problem is that word processors can add their own garbage to the text which causes problems when pasted into WordPress (you'll find a lot of extra code with text formatting info for example). They used to have a "paste from Word" button on the visual editor's toolbar. That was never perfect. Whenever I used it WordPress would insert an extra line between all paragraphs. For a long post, it could be a pain in the ass to clean that up at times.

WP visual editor bar

That paste from Word button is now gone. In theory, you should be able to paste directly into the WordPress post editor and it should now process these transfers correctly.

But it doesn't.

I'm having the exact same problem when pasting from Word. It adds an extra line between all paragraphs (or before and after lists). I tried pasting from WordPad. I get the opposite problem. WordPress now strips paragraph breaks and turns them into line breaks, meaning each paragraph runs into the next with no space between. I tried pasting from Scrivener. It kept the proper spacing, but stripped things like bold subheadings. The only option I tested that worked without a problem was pasting from the Google Docs word processor.

With the trend moving toward longer posts, this has become a bigger problem and a bigger waste of time. With the move toward optimizing the WordPress experience for more streamlined publishing, I hope this is a feature they continue to work on. It's been a problem for far too long.

{adinserter 3}

Other Things I'm Looking Forward To

I haven't had a chance to play with all of the new features yet because they aren't all relevant to the smaller sites where I've already run the upgrade. But here are a couple of other features I'm excited about:

  • Audio & Video Playlists -- I plan to use these extensively in upcoming e-courses.
  • Other Updates to the TinyMCE Editor -- I'm hoping this will address some optimization issues caused by the older version.

Have you upgraded to WordPress 3.9 yet? If so, what do you like the best about it? Is there anything you don't particularly like with this update? Tell me in the comments or stop by the forums where I've started a thread where members can share problems and compatibility issues they come up with to help each other out.

Thanks for sharing!
Tweet about this on TwitterGoogle+Share on FacebookPin on PinterestShare on LinkedIn
Short URL:
The following two tabs change content below.

Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, and indie author. Through her company, 3 Beat Media, she operates All Indie Writers,,, and numerous other blogs.

Jenn has over 15 years experience writing for others, over 11 years experience in blogging, and 9 years experience in indie e-book publishing. She is an Active member of the Horror Writers Association.

Subscribe to the All Indie Writers newsletter to get personal updates from Jenn in your inbox.


  1. KeriLynn Engel April 18, 2014 Reply

    I was nervous to update to 3.9 because I’ve had compatibility issues with updates & themes/plugins in the past, but this one went very smoothly for me! I’m loving the widget previews. I’ve wished for that for a long time. It’s a pain to keep tweaking widgets and refreshing to get it looking right.

    That really stinks about the pasting from Word processors. I’m surprised it doesn’t work for Microsoft Word because it looks like that’s their main selling point for this update. For me it’s not an issue because I don’t use the visual editor; I like to hand-code all my posts in the code editor. But I only have ~5 installs, not 50!

    It’s nice to know I can copy and paste from Google Docs now, though, since that where I do all my writing. Are you not a fan of Google Drive? I know you like to keep backups of everything, which is a bit of a hassle on Google Drive, so I’m assuming that’s why you don’t use it?

    • Author
      Jennifer Mattern April 19, 2014 Reply

      Apologies KeriLynn. I missed this comment somehow yesterday.

      I’m glad to hear the updates went smoothly for you! I’ve updated all but this site and the new marketing site that hasn’t launched yet. So far, all went smoothly on my end too. 🙂 I can’t update these two until the theme developer (same for both sites) sends me new theme files. I don’t upgrade the bigger sites via WP upgrades because everything is so heavily customized (and using child themes here slowed down the site too much to be worth it). He said he’s email them to me, so as soon as I have them, I’ll start running upgrades here. I have 8 or 9 plugins, including some bigger ones, that also need to be updated on this site. That’s where my biggest risk is.

      As for Google Drive, I occasionally use it for collaboration, but I wouldn’t use it for much else. I probably wouldn’t use it for anything even remotely sensitive. As for backups, I have a solid backup process in place where important files are usually backed up in 3-4 places as it is. I don’t trust most third parties to keep things secure anymore. There’s always one attack or another these days, and even major players are vulnerable. Perhaps more importantly, I don’t trust them to keep services active anymore. Google and Yahoo have been some of the worst offenders when it comes to messing with popular resources (from Yahoo killing my favorite productivity app a while back when it acquired it to Google keeping things like Feedburner in limbo). I don’t want to be left scrambling to move files off of some third party service if they decide to close their doors. If I didn’t have a good system with external backups already, I’d only consider backups through a company totally dedicated to that service and with a long track record of being secure. So I can’t speak to the difficulty of backing up with Google because I haven’t tried to use it in that way.

      I’m not opposed to using things like the Google Docs tools through Drive. But I have two local tools I just happen to like better (Word, and Scrivener has been growing on me). I’d be more likely to write using Google’s word processor from a mobile device where I didn’t have those available. Right now I have that and an app called OliveOffice Premium on my phone. Both work reasonably well when I’m in a voice-to-text writing mood.

  2. Amandah April 18, 2014 Reply

    Thanks for the review!

    I haven’t updated to WordPress 3.9, yet. That’s too bad about Word. It would be easier to copy and paste from Word to WP. Using Notepad is okay, but you can’t include links. I write in WordPress and then copy and paste into Word to check my spelling, punctuation, etc. There’s something about editing in Word that appeals to me. It’s a check and balance.

    • Author
      Jennifer Mattern April 18, 2014 Reply

      This will be a working weekend for me so I can get these site upgrades finished during quieter times visitor-wise. So far no real problems on the simple WP installs at least. 🙂

      Your strategy is actually the opposite of mine. I usually draft in Word and edit in WordPress. I like to see it formatted in a preview with all the site formatting when I’m editing. Sometimes I’m bad though I and do everything right in WP. Not ideal because you don’t have the file backups. But I backup the database enough that I at least don’t have to worry about posts disappearing completely.

  3. Greg Ward April 21, 2014 Reply

    Must say me personally I was very disappointed in the new update. Especially the editor as it broke two premium plugins that I use for adding sales and landing pages etc.

    As to the touted improvements to the media editor – I would have to say not improvements but a complete step backwards especially with regards to editing individual photos. The editor already had resizing capability within the editor window with a nifty resizing bar that gave you the pixel size in width and height with + or – indicator of which direction your resizing was heading (that is gone) I found that adding pictures through the editor no problem, as it was a snap to add multiple pics either from the media manager window or from drag-n-drop uploads.

    But one of the features in the media editor I miss the most is the ability to modify the styles by adding margins and a picture border which would place the correct code in the image – now while some kind soul has already written a plugin to replace that feature, ( I find it ironic that WordPress believes that this is an “improvement”. As for the crop and edit functions, I have skills editing pictures in other editors so it was no problem for me to crop and edit pics outside of WordPress and while it could be considered an improvement, I personally do not find it so.

    As to adding content from Word, am I the only one who figured out that you could edit a post in Word, go to the Text editor and drop it in without all the coding that Word likes to add to its documents. You could then simply go to the Visual editor to apply your Styles then add pictures and viola you are done. But now thanks to the “improvements”. It strips out the hard returns and replaces them with line breaks. So now I have extra work on that front as well.

    Well enough on my rant.

    IMHO, if you ask me they are stripping out functionality to make it leaner because they do not know how to write clean code. Well my opinion and $3.00 will get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

    Thanks for allowing me to post my rant!


    • Author
      Jennifer Mattern April 21, 2014 Reply

      With the plugins, that’s on the plugin developers. They’re responsible for making sure their plugins stay compatible, and they should have been testing them against beta versions early on to find out if there were compatibility issues they needed to work out. So hopefully they’ll get on it and release updates for you soon, and those problems won’t be problems anymore. 🙂

      Sure, you can paste from Word into text mode. But that defeats the purpose of doing any formatting in Word, which is something a lot of us like to do. We don’t want to add headings, links, etc. twice, and we shouldn’t have to. Based on what we were told, we should be able to paste from Word now without losing our formatting, and it just isn’t happening. That’s my biggest disappointment.

      I hadn’t noticed the missing advanced image editor. I rarely use it. But I can see that being an infuriating change if you use it regularly. I just saw a thread in the WP forums that said the developers were torn on it — removing it completely and leaving it to themes to handle image spacing (stupid because there’s a huge difference between sitewide image formatting and image-by-image formatting for special cases), putting it back in the core, or including it only as a plugin. Hopefully they’ll sort something out soon, and in the meantime hopefully the plugin you’re using will get the job done.

      I do prefer the drag-to-resize option (previously we either had to go with percentages or know the exact dimensions we wanted I believe). But I don’t see why we couldn’t keep both options available.

      Despite the problems, which most updates have to some degree, I’m reasonably happy with 3.9. I finished over 50 upgrades in the last few days, and so far I haven’t run into any major compatibility issues. That’s not to say something won’t turn up. But it’s better than the last big update where there were so many plugin compatibility problems that I spent well over a week just trying to restore older versions and manually fix problems. I was worried 3.9 would be another pain in the ass project, but so far, so good.

  4. Author
    Jennifer Mattern April 22, 2014 Reply

    This isn’t necessarily an issue with 3.9, but I did notice that we still don’t have the option to make links nofollow without manually changing it in HTML mode. I was hoping that would change with the TinyMCE update, but it looks like I’ll still have to wait on that.

  5. Erik Gable April 29, 2014 Reply

    The loss of the “Keep linebreaks” button in the (no-longer-extant) “Paste as text” popover window is a huge problem for my workflow. Have you found any way to restore the functionality? I may have to revert to 3.8.3 if there’s no fix yet.

    • Author
      Jennifer Mattern April 29, 2014 Reply

      Someone else here had mentioned a plugin that restores some of the editor’s functionality. I would suggest starting with that option to see if it helps. I did a quick search and it looks like some other bloggers are using third party tools to make it work, but I’m not experienced with those I’m afraid.

Add comment

By using this comment form you agree to the site's Comment Policies.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *