We Love WordPress
is undoubtedly the leading blogging platform in the world, hands down. I’ve experimented with a lot of blogging CMS, from blogger, to drupal, to typepad and none came close (although I hold a particular fondness for typepad) to the versatility, reliability and support that WordPress offers.

Yesterday night, the fine people from WP released the latest and much awaited stable version, the WordPress 2.5 at the Dallas WordCamp conference and as always an update is in order. Apparently to celebrate the release, the WordPress official portal has also suffered a drastic re-design to go hand-in-hand with the new version.

My first thought though was “why 2.5? where did 2.4 go?.” I did some digging around and found that 2.4 was simply skipped, because the regular 120-day release cycle was extended. So basically this latest version is a two in one. WP 2.5 took almost 6 months (185 days) to develop, being the end result of countless hours of tinkering, tweaking, design and programming from behalf of over 110 contributors. Let me tell you though, the wait was worth it. The new version is radically different (364 files with 54008 insertions, and 29136 deletions were changed) and brings in a lot of new features, both visible and invisible (nested deep in the CMS’ core).

I had the pleasure of playing around with some earlier versions of the 2.5 a few weeks ago (wasn’t particularly impressed at the time), including the RC2 release from a few days ago, but decided I’d post a review when the final cut came in. I upgraded right after it was announced last night (a friend ecstatically quickly e-mailed me), as always with no difficulties, clean and fast; played a bit with it and decided to sleep it over, so I better digest these new changes. Before going further with the review, if you haven’t update yet to the latest 2.5 version, please read Lorelle’s guide to safely upgrading WordPress.

The Design And Navigation

The new improved WordPress 2.5 Dashboard.

The first obvious change you’ll notice after upgrading, right after you log into your admin interface, will be the design. The update is clearly huge and the design also obviously needed a total makeover. When I first logged in, I was a bit shocked on how beautifully weird the new dashboard looked. The coloring is still dominated by the usual blue, gray and orange colors, but this time they’re much more lighter, bringing a more relaxing and modern vibe.

WordPress 2.5 navigation

The navigation has also changed its structure as well, but I’m not sure yet if it’s better or worse. I have to admit I’m feeling a bit uncomfortable with the new navigation, but that’s because I’ve been so used to previous releases, so I guess that’s not really a impediment.

Upon first inspection you’ll immediately notice how the dashboard has changed, completely modularized. It’s a lot easier to go through it as well, with important stats like number of posts, comments, tags, pages or spam right up front for analysis. As for the modules they’re four big ones by default, Recent Comments (displays the five most recent comments), Incoming Links (displays the five most recent incoming links), WordPress Development Blog (displays five of the most recent headlines from the official WordPress blog) and Plugins (displays five of the most recent plugins available on the net). Also plugin developers, thorough a bit of hacking, can add their own modules to the dashboard or so I’ve heard from the forums.

Basically the main navigation has been divided into 2 segments. The first one includes four of the most often used features by bloggers, according to WordPress official surveys, like Dashboard, Manage, Design and Comments, each with their further characteristic nested options. The second segment is comprised of 3 less used functions of the blog, but which are, however, very important like Settings, Plugins and User. Although this new navigation system may seem a bit awkward, I can tell that it now feels more organized and less cluttered.

Writing/Publishing Screen

The WordPress Visual Editor

WordPress 2.5 visual editor

Here’s where some of the best improvements have taken place. The previous visual editor was pretty terrible, with a lot of bugs, that lead to some of my posts being lost forever or getting my theme broken because of video embedding issues. This time, however, Matt and co. from from WordPress have really outdone themselves and implemented some much needed improvements and features to the publishing screen. They’ve been working more closely with TinyMCE on this one, thus managing to upgrade the visual editor for TinyMCE 3 support. Here’s just a few important new features:

  • Flash uploader. As many of the other wordpress features, the image uploader has been completely changed, from a php/java script uploader to a full flash one. You can now easily upload images, videos, mp3s any many other types of media files. The flash uploader however can be a bit of impediment if you don’t have the respective player. Worth noting is the fact that now when uploading a progress bar will also appear, so that you may now tell if you’re uploading something or if wordpress just got stuck.
  • Multi-file upload function. This one’s closely related to the above feature and man does it rock! Previously if you wanted to upload a few dozen photos you were obliged to upload each photo at a time and this took a lot of time. This new function from WordPress spares you of all this pain, by allowing you to upload entire folders of files with just a few clicks of a mouse.
  • Custom thumbnail size. In previous WP releases the blogger couldn’t set the size of image thumbnails, so he was stuck with 100×100 px ones. Now the user can set the size of the thumbnails to as much as his heart desires and also has the option of displaying medium flickeresque 300×300 thumbnails.
  • Full screen mode. If you’re in the habit of writing long articles, or prefer to have a larger editing space, then now you can always switch the visual editor into full screen mode. I’ve found this particularly useful.
  • Permalink preview. Bellow the post title you can now view the post’s permalink. I’m not sure about it’s practicability, but I believe a lot of people will find it useful.
  • Media embedding. All bloggers know what a hassle embedding media, especially flash videos, can cause. Now you can easily embedded a video from, let’s say YouTube just by clicking the “insert/edit embedded media” and adding the youtube video link (not the embedding code). That’s all, now you can stop worrying about carefully inserting html code or broken themes.
  • Time stamp improvements. Ah the mysterious timestamps, that’ve been dazzling and intriguing WordPress users all over the world, have finally received an overhaul. In past versions a lot of WP users were confused by it, because few truly knew how to use them. Now as opposed to the past, you can choose to immediately post an article (instantly, without posting it in advance), removing the confusion that the previous WP calendar brought with it. If you’d like change the timestamp, just click the “Edit” button, next to “Publish immediately.”
  • Built-in galleries. I’ve been waiting for something like this for a heck load of time. I eventually found a few plugins that managed to integrate image galleries with neat thumbnails into the posts, but now the feature comes by default and looks better then any plugin I’ve ever encountered. So now you can display all your thumbnails and captions and each will link each to a page where people can comment on the individual photos, all just by calling [ gallery] (without the space, I didn’t remove the space otherwise a gallery would pop-out right here: P).

Other Miscellaneous Features

WordPress 2.5 Post/Page Management System

WordPress 2.5 manage category

  • Better post/page management system. I’m really digging the new manage posts category. It’s designed a lot better, being easier to follow and enabling you to get a better glimpse of your latest posts. Other then the design side of the new manage system, there’s a few other improvements present as well, like being able to see what tags a post has, without having to edit the post. Also a low-contrast comment icon in the header row has been inputed in favor of the up till now text based label, which apart from making it look cooler, doesn’t bring any real improvements.
  • Improved tag management. When WordPress released version 2.3 I was really pissed off because of their crappy tagging system, that didn’t come even close to the near perfection of the UTW plugin. Although with 2.5 the tagging system has been improved, users now being able to add, rename and remove tags, I have to say I’m still not satisfied with it. There’s so many tagging features that they could implement, like tag synonyms or in-post tag embedding, that made me feel disappointed. Luckily we have the Simple Tags plugin to do all that.
  • Password strength meter. I’m a avid believer of internet security, so any feature that helps better protect a blog from hacking is more then welcomed from my behalf. What the password strength meter does is whenever you go to your profile and decide to change your password, wordpress will tell you how strong your password is. Add a short and letters only password and it’ll be deemed weak, add a three type (letters, numbers and symbols) password and it’ll be declared strong.
  • Optimized database. With each version the fine folks from WordPress have always striven to improve as best as they can the database, making it both secure and efficient, despite of its complexity. On this version the development team have added few new indicies and made a few default fields more flexible based on some bottlenecks found on WordPress.com hosted blogs, that made database queries roll out a lot faster. Just browse a bit through my blog and you’ll how fast pages load. Great work!
  • Automated plugin update. WP 2.3 came with a innovative and excellent feature, that notified bloggers if any new version of a plugin was available. Now with 2.5 things have been taken a step further and with just a few clicks you can automatically update your plugins, without having to manually downloading them and then uploading them on the server. It’s all done by conferring wordpress your FTP details.
  • Gravatar implementation. Gravatar has been used by wordpress.com hosted blogs for some time, but now it’s available by default on self-hosted wordpress installs as well, without the need of a plugin.

Final Thoughts

[digg-reddit-me]All in all WordPress 2.5 is a great improvement to its predecessors, both esthetically and practically, proving once more that they’re on top of the game in the blogosphere. Of course there’s still a lot of work to do, before the WP team can put out something almost perfect. I know I’d definitely enjoy a few extra features, like WP included podcasting tools, better anti-spam and hacking protection or a simple function that can also activate all my plugins at once, not only deactivate them. If you’re still not convinced by it’s capabilities, I’ll give you the most important reason to update: because it’s the responsible and secure way to do it, otherwise you might end up like me.

Did you install the new 2.5? Do you like the new version of WordPress? What features do you think should’ve been added?

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