On Saturday Automattic announced the release of WordPress 2.9, the newest version of their popular blogging platform, bringing with it a whole new slate of features, bug fixes and other improvements.
With the update also comes the usual mix of upgrade heartburn including broken plugins, fractured themes and the general time of uploading. However, those issues have already been largely mitigated by previous features, including the automatic upgrade feature, and new ones, including multiple plugin updates and plugin compatibility checks.
So as WordPress users hover their mouse over “Update” buttons, be they in WordPress or their host’s control panel, the question becomes what’s new and is it worthwhile for me?
The answer, from what I’ve seen, seems to be a resounding “Yes!”
According to Automattic, the most important new features of WordPress 2.9 (from a user standpoint) include the following;
- Global Undo/Trash Feature:Deleted posts, comments, etc. no longer simply disappear and instead go into a “trash can” for thirty days where they can be recovered if needed. This works very similar to the trash can or recycle bin on your computer.
- Built-in Image Editor: Uploaded images can now be cropped, rotated, flipped or scaled using WordPress’ new image editor. The first of several planned media enhancements, this eliminated the need to do all of the editing on an image before uploading.
- Batch Plugin Update and Compatibility Checking: Now, rather than updating one plugin at a time you can update up to ten at once. This is especially useful for users, such as myself, who have to enter FTP information for each upgrade. Also, plugins are now checked for compatibility using croudsourced information from WordPress’ official plugin directory.
- Easier Video Embeds: WordPress now supports the Oembed format, which makes it easier to embed content from sites such as YouTube, Flickr and Scribd..
In addition to the “star” features, WordPress has also gained “rel=canonical” support for improved SEO, the ability to repair and optimize tables from within the admin interface (this feature requires an update to wp-config files, and “post thumbnails” for templates, which can be a powerful tool for those with magazine-style templates.
All in all, this is a very robust release and there hasn’t been any significant talk about plugin incompatibility as of yet (likely mitigated by the new compatibility checks that alert users of problems before they spread too wide). There have been some reports that those with PHP 4 may have some problems, but most have likely updated to PHP 5 (Note:WordPress requires at least PHP 4.3).
In short, if you’re hesitating to get this update, it seems to be all systems go at this time. I’ve updated my blog and highly encourage others to do so as well when time allows.
Another Holiday Surprise
The WordPress 2.9 release comes just two days after the release of version 1.6 of the WordPress Stats plugin. The new release is somewhat misleading as the new version doesn’t change anything with the stats themselves, but rather, adds support for Automattic’s URL shortener, Wp.me.
Now, when you’re editing a post, directly underneath the title where the “View Link” is there is a new button that lets you “Get Shortlink” and will shorten your long WordPress URL using Wp.me.
This way, you can get shortlinks for Twitter, Facebook, etc. directly from within your WordPress admin and even before you publish your post.
This can be very handy for people who forward post a lot of content and also future schedule tweets. This way, you can have your Tweets go out with your URL on time. However, if you use FeedBurner, you can achieve something very similar with their “Socialize” feature.
All in all, it’s a great time to be a WordPress user, a solid new version has been released there’s a bonus surprise hidden in one of the most popular “official” plugins.
WordPress is on a constant path of improvement and though there is disagreement about what features should be next to tackle, it’s clear that the improvements are almost exclusively community-driven.
The question now becomes what will Automattic break out for WordPress 3.0 and how many security or bugfix releases will we see to 2.9 (there were six in 2.8)?
No matter what though, if you’re a WordPress user, it seems like now is a good time to grab a cup of coffee and run the update script.