I've taken the WordPress challenge to Please update now. WordPress and I have been friends for quite some time and I've always tried to stay on top of new releases. This time I was a little slower on the response, as I am currently in the middle of moving all of my data at home to a new file server. More on that later. I finally got around to updating and here are my impressions on WordPress's latest release.
The upgrading process was pretty simple. Before doing anything, I made sure to backup my files and database. That was probably the hardest part. WordPress also recommends disabling all plugins before upgrading, so I did that too. I use SVN to keep WordPress up to date on my server, so upgrading the source code was just a command line away.
Then I went to the upgrade link, re-enabled my plugins and was up and running. It can't get much easier than that. Nice work WordPress!
This upgrade is probably the most dramatic change in WordPress since version 1.5 came out. A revamp of the admin interface, lots of new features and tools, increased security. And while there are all these new things going on, the first that popped out to me was the new color scheme. How shallow is that? Just goes to show how much design matters.
Fortunately, the WordPress team worked with Happy Cog to create the new interfaces and I think they work really well. The admin section is less cluttered and focuses on what blogging is all about, writing content.
The ability to edit the dashboard without having to install third-party hacks is a welcome change. The dashboard was always something I quickly clicked around. It was a wasted jumble of stuff I didn't care about that posed a distraction instead of a quick launch point for what I needed to do in the site. Now that I can go in and edit it, I might actually find it useful.
No-Distractions Post Editor
Last year everyone was talking about Writeroom and its no-distractions take on writing. Writeroom revolutionized computer writing by blocking out all other programs and replacing your screen with a blank slate of words. By killing all the multi-functionality goodness of your computer, it forced you to focus on the task at hand. Writing.
Now it seems all of the CMS developers out there are following suite. Expression Engine is including this feature in their next release, and I'm pleased to see that WordPress is using it, too. While a browser can't remove all distractions as well as a desktop application can, it is nice to not have all those links and tabs staring back at you while you are trying to think.
These are very much improved from the previous version. Instead of a clunky images section taking up space on the page, you only get the media upload, import dialogs when you are going to use them. Additionally there was only the option of importing images. The new media buttons also include video, audio and a generic media option. This might just make it possible for me to upload my Flash while writing my posts.
I never liked the old image upload/import mechanism and opted to ftp media up and hand enter it. It remains to be seen whether this new system allow me to avoid the tedium of manually uploading and importing my media.
I am probably the most excited about this feature. With shortcodes, you can abstract tedious blocks of html into simple, brief "codes". Best of all, the API allows for additional shortcodes to be written and used. I've been wanting an easier way to enter Flash content. Being a standards junkie, I've had to hand enter my Flash media. This finally gives me an option for quickly entering the bulky object tags and all of their params the way I want them to be entered. I can't wait to get that shortcode up and running.
My one problem with the new WordPress was being able to use the Visual Editor. A while ago I changed my settings to use the advanced html editor, since I put most of my tags in by hand. Now that WordPress allows easy switching between the visual editor and the html editor, I wanted to revert my settings back to using the default editor. It took way to long to find the check box that switched it back. (It's in the user settings page, if you happen to have the same problem.)
If you want to read up on all the new features in WordPress 2.5, here is Matt Mullenweg's full break down of the updates.
It also appears that this new, full page editor makes it way too easy to write ridiculously long posts and not notice until it's too late. Maybe it isn't such a good thing to have no distractions.