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WordPress 3.1 Brings Lots of Fun

A typical WordPress update is nothing more than a few security holes and maybe a little tweaking of the code (at least for most normal users). So it’s fun when WordPress introduces more user interface features because it’s stuff that normal users actually care about.

I know, I know… you’re thinking “Hey wait, isn’t this site all about wordpress security? Shouldn’t they care more about those other updates?” Yes, you’re absolutely right–we do care very much about all those seemingly inconsequential updates because the WordPress team plugs security holes for all of us. But it’s not very exciting blog material to explain the details of yet another security update to the core files.

The latest WordPress update is version 3.1 and they introduced several new “pretty” features. Let’s go through each of the features.

The new admin bar

WordPress 3.1 Admin Bar

The most obvious of the new features is the admin bar that appears across the top of your wordpress site when you are viewing the site (the preview mode). WordPress.com users are already familiar with this admin bar, but it’s a new feature for WordPress.org users that have installed wordpress on their own server.

While the bar does make wordpress perform more like a full-blown CMS instead of just a blog, I actually find the feature sort of a waste. I don’t typically switch back and forth from editing to previewing very often, so I don’t need another bar across the top of my screen. Fortunately, you can turn off the admin bar by simply accessing your user profile page and unchecking a box.

WordPress 3.1 Admin Bar Settings

Post Formats

Standard WordPress “pages” (static content rather than posts) can already use different templates to differentiate sections of a website. Until now, you either had to be creative with categories, hack the code, or use plugins to change a post template.

WordPress 3.1 introduces Post Formats: meta information that can be used within a theme to customize the presentation of a post. For example, the latest Twenty Ten theme defines Standard, Aside and Gallery which can be chosen on the post editing panel.

WordPress 3.1 Post Formats

Post Formats could be one of those understated features which provides a range of possibilities.

Internal Page Linking

If you’re like me, you’re probably saying to yourself “It’s about time!” Seriously, I don’t know why this feature wasn’t available with version 1.0 of WordPress. It has always been a little difficult teaching people how to link within a site because this feature didn’t exist. A person had to understand how to open the site, copy/paste the URL, and then link in the page or to a new tab. While that is relatively simple for advanced users, it was pretty tricky for newbies.

WordPress 3.1 Internatl Page Linking

 

Tons of support from the community

The official WordPress update page states that more than 180 people helped out with development during the 3.1 cycle. That’s a testament to the strength of the WordPress development community. And that should help you feel good that your website backbone is built well.

Miscellaneous Improvements

Other improvements include:

  • A streamlined interface. Many lesser-used options are hidden by default — WordPress 3.1 feels faster and slicker
  • A refreshed blue color scheme for the administration panels (the gray scheme still looks better, though, in my opinion)
  • A new network admin screen removes super administration menus from regular panels in multi-site networks
  • Improved data import and export
  • More than 820 bug fixes

Word of Caution!!

We tested this update on several demo/sandbox sites before we upgraded mainstream websites. We typically don’t have problems with updates, but on 1 particularly old website with dozens of plugins, the site actually broke with the update. We quickly reverted back to a backup and are currently figuring out what we need to do to successfully update that website.

As always, be sure you have a backup of your website before you perform an update. (Fun Note: I used the new 3.1 page interlinking feature to set that link to another post. A lot quicker than the old method!)

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