Grain Belt Beer sign and Hennepin Avenue Bridge in Minneapolis

WordPress Images

WordPress media processing just moved up a notch with the release of version 3.9, called “Smith” for the famed jazz pianist Jimmy Smith.  WordPress has long had powerful image functionality built into it’s core, but it was neither obvious that it existed nor how to employ the features. Now that has all changed.

When you want to create a visual portfolio in WordPress, you might think that needs a special theme or plugin or both to add the functionality for working with images.  Indeed, there are a plethora of portfolio themes for photographers and artists to use, and there are plugins like the popular NextGEN Gallery for managing and presenting image collections.

However, we’ve long had a smart gallery function built into WordPress. When you upload images into a post (or page), they become an attachment of it. A group of images attached to a post become a gallery by default. Who knew? Few knew or cared because it was a hidden feature, and even if you noticed or learned that you could insert a gallery of images into a post, the mere result in the edit view was an icon of a camera and snapshot—not the images:


Not cool, or inviting, or very useful to most. The results on the viewing end were nice, as you could arrange the grid layout of the gallery with shortcodes or launch a slideshow or lightbox with simple jQuery plugins. For WordPress geeks, this worked fine, for everybody else used to WYSIWYG editing, it didn’t work much at all.

All that has changed with WordPress 3.9. Now when you add a group of images to a post, you can see the gallery of images in the edit view just as you’d expect, such as with this group of photographs shown below. By default, WordPress displays a caption with a user hover, and clicking an image goes to an attachment page displaying just the image. Plugins could launch a lightbox experience.

There are a host of new features for working with images in WordPress:

  • Drag and drop images into posts
  • Scale image size directly in the edit view
  • Jump to the Edit Image window from post edit view
  • Toggle from a gallery layout to a slideshow

WordPress 3.9 also includes new features for working with and previewing audio, video, and widgets. This is a definite move towards a more seamless visual editing experience in WordPress, and there’s more to come in upcoming releases.

These What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get (WYSIWYG) features may seem trivial or even pathetic to hard-core web geeks. Really? WordPress wants to be more like Wix or Weebly or SquareSpace in the Content Management System (CMS) space for automated generation of websites? Is that a good or bad thing?

Joomla was the first popular CMS that worked easily out of the box and offered basic visual editing of web content. Joomla is no longer in the lead with WordPress ahead of everyone and Drupal offering more extensive backend power than Joomla. Still, Joomla proved that having a smooth frontend experience for authors and an extensible. programmable backend engine for geeks was the holy grail for CMS user experience at both ends of the spectrum.

This new release elevates WordPress to a higher balance of frontend and backend capabilities for CMS users at all levels.  Besides, it honors Jimmy Smith, one of the jazz/blues  greats!