WordPress version 3.6 has finally launched! It’s named Oscar and includes a beautiful new blog-centric theme, bullet-proof autosave and post locking, a revamped revision browser, native support for audio and video embeds, and improved, integrations with Spotify, Rdio, and SoundCloud. Here’s a video that shows off some of the features:

WordPress has named version 3.6 “Oscar” to honor Canadian Oscar Peterson, a jazz pianist, vocalist and composer. Learn more about Peterson.

Now here’s a list of what’s new in version 3.6:

  • new default theme: Twenty Thirteen
  • more purposeful emphasis on revisions
  • more rigid post locking (to make sure only one person is working on a post at a time)
  • enhanced autosave
  • native HTML5 media player
  • clarity in the Menu Editor
  • embed capabilities for Spotify, Rdio and SoundCloud
  • A/V API (for developers)
  • extended support for HTML5 (for developers)
  • JavaScript utilities (for developers)
  • Shortcodes searches (for developers)
  • Revision Control based on post type (for developers)
  • new and updated external libraries (for developers)

To read about any of these new features in more detail, you can read WordPress 3.6 “Oscar” on the WordPress blog.

Here are a few tips before updating:

Backup First

Before you make any major change to your site, like updating WordPress or plugins, do a full backup first and download the file. I use and recommend Xcloner. It allows me to do a complete backup or just the database. The complete backup includes all of the content in the database, plus theme and plugins.

Update all your plugins first and then disable all plugins before upgrading to version 3.6. Don’t worry about losing your plugin settings. As long as you don’t delete any plugins, your settings will remain intact and be available when you reactivate. That’s if there’s no major issues with the platform upgrade, which is why you should perform a backup before upgrading the WordPress platform.

Make sure you have a copy of your current WordPress version, which should be version 3.5.2, readily available in case you have issues with version 3.6 and need to revert back until you can deal with any compatibility issues. If your theme isn’t compatible with the latest version of WordPress, it is strongly recommended that you find a different theme.

Will it Break My Theme?

Not likely. The new HTML5 changes to the core will simply not work for any themes that do not support them. If you have a Genesis theme (StudioPress), you’ll want to know that the new Genesis 2.0 framework has an option for HTML5 support. Simply don’t check the box to turn it on until you have your theme updated by a qualified designer or developer.

Also keep in mind that many browsers do not fully support all HTML5 features yet. So be careful what you rush to upgrade and always have a graceful fallback for lack of browser support.