Making a case for updating to WordPress 2.7
(originally posted at idealware.org/blog)
One of the lesser joys of using open source & free software has been the need to do important security and core feature upgrades manually and sometimes frequently. Although I have been a long time fan of WordPress as a super simple CMS for small sites that need dead easy administration for non-tech types, I have not loved the continual updates it requires. I will admit that this has been known to make me crabby in the past and perhaps not as diligent about keeping all my sites up to date as I should be.
Well, WordPress just released another major upgrade – 2.7 (Coltrain), but this one is clearly worth doing and doing right now. Especially since, from here on out, they are automating the upgrade process and making it available from within the administrative interface. Woo Hoo!
If you are using Word Press and need to upgrade here are a few good reasons to bite the bullet and do it now. These are primarily from the perspective of using WordPress as a lightweight CMS and not as oriented to hardcore blogging, where there are also significant improvements, especially with comment management.
The value adds:
Last manual update ever (almost). As mentioned – they have pretty much automated the upgrade process for future releases. If you have gotten fancy and tweaked core files you will need to save your changes and incorporate them of course but for most users this will make it possible for non technical folks to keep their systems up to date without as much help.
One of my favorite improvements is the integrated plug in browser and installer. This little feature not only lets you see if a plug in exists for what you are trying to do but lets you know if its compatible and automates updates, meaning no more need to download, unzip and FTP. Its very nice, but maybe a bit dangerous since they have made it way too easy to load up your site with a ton of bells and whistles.
Themes also now provide alerts when updates are available but as of yet, no automated one click install.
Most secure version yet. Current WordPress users might remember the onslaught of hacking that occurred last spring and hopefully already had upgraded to at least 2.5 and avoided the pain those of us that had to dig out of a hack experienced. Although more security was introduced with 2.5 and subsequent releases, every new version protects you from more known vulnerabilities, so having the latest is always a good idea.
New and actually improved interface. Through a community wide effort WordPress enlisted some top talent to make the administrative experience so much smoother and shinier and more usable to boot.
The vertical navigation might take a few minutes to get used to but it does make a lot more sense. Another neato but also practical feature is the ability to choose what tools and content display on each administrative screen – if you don’t care about the latest theme news you can hide that feed and you won’t have to scroll past it anymore.
Faster, easier, writing and editing. Quick edit and bulk editing for pages and posts is really useful for larger sites and much faster than loading individual post editing screen for simple changes to the non-content areas. I’m still waiting for a faster method of ordering pages but this is a big step in the right direction.
And the behind the scenes speed enhancements they have included are a major bonus for those of us on shared bandwidth. The fancy 2.5 “new and improved” editor was a bit buggy and heavy to load but 2.7 seems to have smoothed things out.
The more robust media manager is another nice addition for anyone that wants to offer PDF and zip files for download on their site without the hassle of FTP’ing files to the server.
Lack of plug in or theme compatibility. While I could see clearly that this particular upgrade was a huge step forward and well worth it, I almost decided to wait on one site because it would mean losing a particular plug in what was not compatible. And looking up the author it was clear he wouldn’t have time to update it in the near future. In the end I made the leap and will just have to wait for some of my favorite add-ons to catch up. If you use a specific plug in that is very important to your overall site functionality or your theme is heavily customized and you have hacked core files, this can be a tough call.
The good news is that the WordPress community is pretty intent on promoting core improvements to help theme and plug in developers make their work compatible and create new options more easily.
You have already put off upgrades for too long. If you are on an older version of WordPress getting to 2.7 may be a bumpy ride. For anyone using WordPress versions below 2.5 there can be some headaches in making the leap – often around the changes to the way the database works in the newer versions. Making the switch through a series of progressive updates can start to look like shoving a square peg in a round hole. It might be possible to export your existing content and import it into a fresh install of 2.7 but you might lose some information along the way.
Upgrades from later versions (2.5 + 2.6) have been fairly painless but as always, backup before you start making changes, turn off all your plug ins and follow the instructions. I look forward to a pain free upgrade future, let’s hope it happens.