WordPress 3.3 is in development right now with feature freeze in effect, and it is expected to enter Beta phase in the next couple of weeks. For now, here is a preview of some of the features that will be part of this new version. WordPress 3.3 should be released in december 2011.
I am using latest trunk code for WordPress 3.3 for a week now, and even now, I can feel the performance improvements that are continuation of the work done with WordPress 3.2. These are not drastic changes, but many things in WP are improved: improved permalinks performance, some meta and navigation menu changes and many UI improvements. CSS used by WP is optimized further to load less files and have less of it, so that also is noticeable during page load.
Admin bar is looking a bit different, with darker look and few pixels less height (you can see it in action already on WordPress.com). Some of the important admin bar elements use improved dropdown and some of the admin side elements are further integrated into admin bar. So, admin side pages don’t have normal header as before: website name is now also part of the admin bar, and same goes for tabs for Screen Options and Help. This makes admin pages looks cleaner, but it makes admin bar a must have element on the page, and disabling it will leave you without many options you are used to have by now in the page header. Is this good or bad, it depends on you, but it will take some time to get used to. New admin bar can’t be disabled from Profile page for admin side anymore.
But, there are two great additions to UI: improved menus and pointers. As you can see on the image on the left, if the menu is active, it is displayed as before (Users menu in this case). But if you hover over the menu (Appearance) you will get nice popup menu for it. This way, you can find much quicker page you need.
Pointers are nice addition to admin side UI, and they are used to inform user about some changes in the WordPress or plugins (there is a way for plugins and themes to use it). So, after WP is upgraded, you will get a pointer with info and links on update. If a plugin gets updated, it can use similar pointer to let know user about changes. Image below shows a pointer to admin bar with Screen Option and Help icons in the bar and the new admin bar slimmer and darker look.
Dashboard now has auto size option, allowing it to resize based on the display used, so it can have different number of columns on different devices. This also means that menu will automatically collapse if the screen is smaller.
But, most important changes are in the editor and uploader. Uploader dialog now supports drag’n’drop and uses Plupload library instead old Flash based one. Depending on the browser this new library can downgrade to different upload methods. Firefox and Chrome support drag’n’drop, and it is expected that Opera will get it soon.
Post editor uses latest version of TinyMCE, but the code behind it is changed to allow better re-usability of the editor. Right now there are few methods (none of them working well) to have rich editor on the admin page, but with latest changes this should be really easy to do. New WP will have jQuery 1.6.4, jQueryUI 1.8.16 (finally complete version with all components), editor API for easy use of editor anywhere and improvements to scripts enqueue process.
Many of these new features are still in development, and WP is not yet usable for live websites, but it is stable enough for testing and for improving plugins to use new features. I will be adding support for it into Dev4Press plugins in the next month, but for now, there are only few visual issues with my plugins and new WordPress.
Current WordPress development cycle is working nicely, smaller set of changes for faster development, and changes coming in 3.3 for the most part are really great. I think that new admin bar will get mixed reception, but the rest of UI changes, API and performance improvements are gold.