April 8, 2008

The new WordPress

Author: Tina Gasperson

How do I like WordPress 2.5? In a word, "wow."

Its developers promised that WordPress 2.5, released last month, was more than just "a fresh coat of paint." Instead, they said, 2.5 was a "from the ground up" redesign. The goal was to create a new WordPress that would be powerful but easy to administer. After upgrading my WordPress installation and using the new format, I found that the WordPress development team has done a fabulous job of making WordPress even better than it was. It's not perfect, but it's darn close.

Esthetically speaking, 2.5 presents a sleeker, more beautiful administrative back end. Older versions sported an institutional beige, black, and blue color scheme; now, with just a bit of tweaking, the WordPress team presents a pleasing combination of rich brown and muted slate blue that is much easier on the eyes. But colors are not the most important detail in the grand scheme of things.

Long considered a waste of bandwidth by many users, the WordPress dashboard has been brought to life with some artful layout changes and the addition of some useful elements. Whereas before the dashboard seemed to be all about WordPress.org, now it is all about you and what you need to do with your blog. Above the fold you'll find direct links for creating posts and pages, information about how many widgets you are using and in which theme (with links to change both), recent comments with links, and incoming links with an actual summary of the verbiage surrounding the link. There's still a link to WordPress.org forums, but it is more appropriately placed in the upper right corner of the admin screen, next to the login/logout and "my profile" links.

The only problem I ran into on the dashboard was that I accidentally created a "page" instead of a "post" the first time I tried 2.5. That's probably because it used to take a good three clicks to get to the "page" editing screen, and now the link appears before the link for the "post" editing screen. But if confusion about link placement is the only complaint with WordPress 2.5, that's not much to complain about.

Below the fold are WordPress.org announcements and news, and links to new and popular plugins. Another nice touch on the dashboard is the addition of RSS links on each element. You can subscribe to comments, links, and announcements through a reader, or even aggregate those feeds and put them in a reading list to display right on your blog.

WordPress has streamlined the administrative menu, listing only four main tabs (Write, Manage, Design, and Comments) where there used to be nine. Three more tabs off to the right of the screen let you control Settings, Plugins, and Users. The Blogroll tab included in recent releases of WordPress has disappeared, but you can still manage your blogroll by clicking on Manage, then Links. Also under the Manage tab are options for posts, pages, categories, link categories, import, and export, as well as two new options: tags and media library. The tags option is a friendly nod to the move toward tags and away from categories, but I didn't find it particularly useful. Still, you can use this part of the interface to delete tags or to check how many posts are labeled with each tag. The media library is convenient if you use a lot of graphics, audio, or video on your site. I often upload photographs to illustrate my blog posts, so I appreciated this easy way to see all my files at a glance and which posts they appear on.

The Design tab is simply a rename of the former Presentation tab, and under it are options to select new themes, edit existing themes, and work with widgets. The Comments tab doesn't have any startling new features except maybe for the little clickable flag with a number on it that shows beside the word Comments when there are comments in moderation.

Not too much has changed on the "little" tabs over on the right side of the screen, except that there's now a handy button under Plugins for deactivating all plugins at once. The only bug I found was in this section. A new automatic upgrade feature for plugins was broken. Others have reported this problem, and apparently it is only an issue if you use the WPAU plugin. Once I deactivated WPAU, the automatic plugin upgrade worked perfectly.

Have I mentioned that I really like this new WordPress release? If you're a WordPress veteran, I think you'll love 2.5 too. If you're unfamiliar with WordPress, now is a great time to try it to start a new blog.

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