WordPress 4.2 “Powell” has arrived and is now ready for download. It is named for Earl Rudolph “Bud” Powell, an American jazz pianist. This release, led by 10up engineer Drew Jaynes, offers a balanced mix of front-facing features that users will enjoy, as well as improvements for developers. Here is a tour of the highlights.

Press This Overhauled

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WordPress 4.2 contributors have brought the Press This feature back to life with a completely revamped interface that makes it easy to share content from any website. It allows you to grab text, images, and videos, quickly add your thoughts, and publish. Any media is automatically added to your media library during the process. Add the bookmarklet from the Tools screen to your browser’s bookmark bar or your mobile desktop to jump start your publishing.

Switch Themes in the Customizer

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WordPress 4.2 makes it possible to switch themes in the customizer. Users can now browse through themes that have already been installed and activate a new one without ever leaving the frontend. This further streamlines the UI for customizing your site and paves the way for the theme installation process to be added to the customizer in the future.

Expanded 4-Byte Unicode Character Support, Including Emoji

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This release changes database character encoding from utf8mb3 to utf8mb4, which makes it possible for WordPress to natively support Chinese, Japanese, and Korean characters. The character encoding update also opens up a whole new world for using musical and mathematical symbols, hieroglyphs, and emoji. Emjoji support has been added everywhere, and you can even use them in URLs, if you’re adventurous.

Enhanced Plugin Updates

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After you update to 4.2, you will be able to update plugins on the plugins screen without refreshing the page and without being whisked away to a new update screen. This makes it a more intuitive process and cuts down on the clicking required to manage your site in the admin. It is also the first stepping stone toward improving the plugin installation process to provide the same convenient experience.

Improvements Under the Hood

In addition to all the front-facing improvements, WordPress 4.2 includes some equally exciting updates for developers.

  • Taxonomy Term Splitting – terms shared across multiple taxonomies will now be split when one of them is updated.
  • Complex Query Ordering – WP_Query, WP_Comment_Query, and WP_User_Query now support complex ordering with named meta query clauses.
  • JavaScript Accessibility – Send audible notifications to screen readers in JavaScript with wp.a11y.speak(). Pass it a string, and an update will be sent to a dedicated ARIA live notifications area.
  • Themes can now use HTML5 Markup for widgets using add_theme_support( 'html5', array( 'widgets' ) ).
  • TinyMCE views API improvements – this API is not yet ready for production but developers are welcome to test and experiment with it.

Check out Aaron Jorbin’s WordPress 4.2 Field Notes post for a more comprehensive overview of what’s new for developers.

Many More Small Improvements

WordPress 4.2 is also packed full of subtle refinements that make it more beautiful and easier to use. The default admin color scheme has been updated every so slightly to be more harmonious to the eyes and more consistent with WordPress’ branding.

Pretty permalinks are now automatically enabled for new sites on installation. In most cases, administrators on new sites will never be greeted with ugly permalinks again, saving a step in the setup process.

The oEmbed white list has been updated to include Tumblr.com and Kickstarter, so you can easily paste links into the post editor and have the content instantly appear.

WordPress 4.2 fixes 231 defects, thanks to the volunteer efforts of 283 contributors. A complete list of all the changes in this release is available in the 4.2 codex page. For a quick tour of all the highlights in 4.2, check out the video created for this release:

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