The open-source WordPress blogging and content management system (CMS) released its 4.1 update on Dec. 18, providing users with new tools to develop and publish online content.
The new WordPress 4.1 release has been named Dinah Washington, after the famous Jazz musician. WordPress has had a traditional of naming its releases after Jazz musicians for the last several years. The WordPress 4.0 release in September was named Benny after famed jazz musician Benny Goodman, WordPress 3.9 was named for Jimmy Smith, and WordPress 3.8 was named for Oscar Peterson.
The most notable user-facing innovation in the WordPress 4.1 update is the enhanced distraction-free writing mode. WordPress has been evolving over the past several sets of releases to optimize the application's interface, and the new writing mode takes that effort a step further. The basic idea behind the distraction-free writing mode is to present the user with as close to a blank screen as possible, without the usual additional navigational or application buttons.
"When you start typing, all the distractions will fade away, letting you focus solely on your writing," the WordPress 4.1 release notes state. "All your editing tools instantly return when you need them."
Also from a visual perspective, WordPress 4.1 introduces the new default Twenty Fifteen theme, which leverages the Google Noto font family. Noto has been optimized to work well with multiple languages, which is particularly important for WordPress. WordPress 4.1 is currently available in 44 languages.
Plug-ins are a very important part of the WordPress experience, providing WordPress site administrators with ways to extend site functionality. In WordPress 4.1, there is now a plug-in installer suggestion feature that offers administrators recommended plug-ins to try, based on the plug-ins that have already been installed.
WordPress 4.1 also boasts a number of enhancements that boost user security. It's not uncommon for a user to log into a WordPress site from multiple locations, and it's also likely not uncommon that users don't always log out. With WordPress 4.1, users now have the ability to log themselves out of other logged-in sessions from the user profile screen.
One of the most interesting minor fixes in WordPress 4.1 corrects what is labeled by WordPress developers as a "suspicious comment" in a piece of WordPress' php code. The class.smtp.php file had a comment in it that stated "hacked by Lance Rushing."
"hacked by is a common filter criteria for several tools in multiuser-hosting environments," WordPress enhancement #27946 states. "Since the last (Auto-)Update of Wordpress, many customer's installations throw a warning because an automated scanner finds this wording."
WordPress developers were able to get the suspicious wording removed for the 4.1 release. While WordPress has provided auto-update capabilities to its users since the WordPress 3.7 release in October of 2013, auto-updates are only for bug and security fix releases. Existing self-hosted WordPress users will need to go into their WordPress dashboards and manually click a button to update to the new 4.1 release.
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.