10 Things You Should Know About WordPress 2.1

This article will take approx 4 minutes to read.

Back in December of 2005, I was filling in for Darren Rowse at ProBlogger and I wrote an entry that was very highly read and commented on. The topic was 10 Things You Should Know About WordPress 2.0. The occasion was the release of the much-waited for release of the current major release of WordPress (We’re up to 2.0.7 but the “dot releases” have all been security/bugfix releases).

Tomorrow (January 22, 2007), WordPress 2.1 will be released and it signifies the first major release since the 2.0 branch was launched. As is typical of major releases, they do not only address security/bugfixes but they release new functionality.

So in the spirit of the original article, I give you ten things you should know about WordPress 2.1.

First though, it’s notable to point at the progress the entire WordPress community has made in the last year since 2.0 was released. Many things, such as themes, have been improved upon. For instance, theme authors can take advantage (and now do!) of screenshot.png, a screenshot image that can be included in a theme folder that provides a visual representation of what the theme is. This ability was implemented in 2.0 but since most themes were designed for WordPress 1.5 at the time, most themes did not have this feature implemented.

In addition, the addition of WordPress widgets as an add-on has provided theme authors and bloggers a phenomenal way to simply drag and drop sidebar elements. This takes the mystique out of placing modules in a sidebar when the vast majority of the WordPress users really don’t know how (or want to) mess with the HTML that makes up a sidebar.

Testing has been given serious effort with the release of WordPress.com hosted blogs. You just thought you were getting a free no fuss, no muss blog built on WordPress but what you little guinea pigs may not have known was that it has been the testing bed of most of the WordPress development code. It gives developers a real-time, real-life window into what works and what doesn’t and allows for extensive non-technical testing. Both WordPress 1.5 and 2.0 were plagued with bugs that were not thoroughly vetted out prior to release. While WordPress.com does not guarantee a bug-free release, the chances and scope of bugs are significantly reduced.

So what is new in WordPress 2.1?

Auto-save of Drafts – WordPress 2.1 adds an autosave function that is automatically implemented when writing new drafts. This functionality uses AJAX and operates without new pageloads. The title of the post must be filled out in order for autosaving to occur.

Better Image Upload Handling – If you do any image uploading under the 2.0 branch, you’ve probably been a little frustrated by the confusing menu that becomes available for those images. It was a bit of “back to basics” to implement radio-button style visual prompts assisting in the handling of these images. You can even Edit image attributes after the image is uploaded.picture-3.png

Deprecation of

1
$tableposts

,

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$tablecomments

, etc – Deprecation is a mild word. Typically in software development, deprecation means that it is no longer a recommend approach but for backwards compatibility, the function or variable still exists. In this case, elimination would be a more appropriate term. This is going to affect a lot of people because there are still many plugins out there using these variables when generating queries within plugins. Instead, the method for querying wordpress table sis to use the

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$wpdb

global. For instance,

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$tableposts

should be termed

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$wpdb->posts

.

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$tablecomments

should now be

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$wpdb->comments

. And so on. Plugins using the old format will cause SQL errors that might be displayed on a blog or simply break a blog altogether. I had a post recently on the WordPress Development blog which describes these changes.

Update: According to Ryan Boren from WordPress, these variables have been “ressurrected” andplaced in deprecated.php. This is critical as it means that most plugins that may have broke before, will be fine now.

Plugin Compatibility – As mentioned above, many plugins will no longer work in 2.1 due to deprecation of database table variables. However, whenever there is a new version of WordPress, the other possible “plugin breaks” extend farther. Fortunately, the WordPress community has been hard at work testing plugins with 2.1 determining compatibility. You can find a list of backwards-compatible plugins at the Codex.

Native WordPress Migration Functionality – I unequivocally can say that when I released the WordPress-to-Wordpress migrator, I had no idea that it would bring me as much traffic or that the tool would recieve such warm welcome. So, it’s with mixed emotions that I say goodbye to the vast amount of traffic I recieved. The WordPress migration tool was released to essentially mirror functionality that is in WordPress 2.1 (and thus WordPress.com). So while the 2.0 branch will remain available through 2010 (it is available in Debian Linux now) , the new 2.1 branch introduces the functionality that I provided to 2.0 customers with my tool.

MySQL Version – It should be noted that although most hosting providers have upgraded their MySQL version to 4.0+, many are still lingering at MySQL 3.23. WordPress 2.1 eliminates support for this older version of MySQL. An easy way to determine what version you are running is to drop this in a file called

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testdb.php

and drop inside your web root:


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2
3
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5
< ?php
// Replace with your database connection info
mysql_connect("localhost","dbuser","dbpassword");
echo mysql_get_server_info();
?>

New Visual Editor Interface – A big problem (to many) in the WordPress 2.0 branch was the Rich Text Editor (RTE) powered by TinyMCE. I believe the RTE was a good idea but was before it’s time. Thankfully, the developers have heeded the concerns brought to bear on the RTE in WordPress 2.0 and have significantly improved it. Notably, there is now a tabbed interface in the Write screen that will allow bloggers to switch between the two views seamlessly.

picture-4.png

Merging of Links and Categories – This is another one of those things that tend to be more of a backend database thing, but there are notable semantics to be pointed out. In previous versions of WordPress, links and categories were handled as two separate entities. Links were seen as a thing used solely to power a blogroll and Categories were seen as a way to solely compartmentalize posts. In WordPress 2.1, the development philosophy shifted in such a way to recognize that these things actually tend to serve nearly similar purposes. While those philosophies can be discussed in other posts, the important thing to recognize is that the Categories table is now prepopulated with a Blogroll category and all links are assigned, by default, to the blogroll category. Folks who are upgrading will have this association made as part of the upgrade process.

Privacy Features – Probloggers will not find this feature particularly useful, nor will most bloggers who desire exposure. However, in WordPress 2.1, there are privacy features which allow you to block your site from search engines and directories. This is useful, however, if you were to want to keep a blog for family or friends or a purely personal blog intended for your own self.

Nonces – This is not really new in WordPress 2.1 but it is new since the original WordPress release. In fact, nonces were introducted in WordPress 2.0.3 and they are significant security items. It applies not only to WordPress but plugins so plugin authors take note of nonces. Mark Jaquith [fixed typo. Sorry Mark!] has more on nonces and how to use them. He details the specific implementation in a way my grandmother (who is dead) could understand. In a nutshell, nonces are unique “passwords” embedded in the comment moderation emails, among other things that prevent YOU from damaging YOUR blog. Each request is assigned a nonce which only lets ONE person do ONE thing within your wp-admin (i.e. approve a comment or delete a post). This replaces the “Are you sure?” dialog.

Comments

  1. says

    Great article on what I should know about WordPress 2.1. Over the past year I’ve become more and more acquainted with WordPress through my own personal blog as well as beginning to use the structure as a free CMS option for many of my clients. Thanks for all of this insight!

  2. says

    I think I use a few plugins that are going to break with the deprecation of $tableposts and $tablecomments, but hopefully the fix is as easy as it looks.

  3. Tim says

    And after all this development, there is STILL no Postgres support, denying one of the best pieces of blogging software even more active users who would prefer PostgreSQL instead of MySQL for whatever reasons.

    That’s sad.

  4. says

    Great article Aaron… I’m running RC1, but I’ll be sure to upgrade when the time comes…

    And what’s this about your tool? You saucy thing, you…

  5. says

    Nice overview Aaron.

    Auto-Save drafts – YES! a real life saver.

    Good to see them working on image uploading as that was the one thing that really, really frustrated me way too many times.

    “many plugins will no longer work in 2.1″ – that I don’t like and I think may cause vast headaches for many bloggers.

    A quick look at the list of compatible plugins and my own plugins I use and I think 60% of my plugins are now useless.

  6. says

    It’s my most endearing quality… Speaks volumes about the rest of my character really…

    I just realised the Easy Admin Access is now broken thanks to the post page changing from post.php to post-new.php

    I’ll get on that… It’s proved to be quite popular, so I’d better make sure it’s working properly!

    Congrats on the Digg by the way… You’ve grown up so fast! *sniff*

  7. Can says

    What about static homepage property ? i created a page and called it as home so it apperared at side block as home cool but it also says home in title and h1 tag on the page :( .Its my first time so probably messed something so is there a way or hack for able to name page as home but not title and h1

  8. says

    Hmm .. people still use that horrible tinyMCE? I hope the default is set to “NO THANKS” ..

    And speaking of thanks.. THANKS for linking to the page that shows the latest versions of plugins that WILL work .. it’s a good start for me personally!

    Later Dude/

  9. MajorD says

    Great to hear this wonderful project is moving forward – wish they would implement a better spam guard.

  10. says

    Auto-save! This one feature would have been really useful a few weeks back, and now that it’s here!
    Thanks for the overview. This should be a great update for the WordPress community. Hopefully none of my custom plugins will require too much re-work.

  11. says

    Jason: You may actually be upgrading right now because your site is a completely white page. But if you’re not upgrading, I hope now you’re aware that your site is a completely white page. :)

  12. says

    Hello Unfonrtunately, I did not know your wordpress-t-o-wordpress migrator before I hosted my wordpress elsewhere (and did not want to try the migration of the database due to previous problems I encountered with this).

    My new blog as a 20 days existence (the other one : 1 year 1/2). Do you knwo if it will possible to use this new functionality without loosing my January’s date (entries & comments) ?

    If this is not the place to ask that question, well… sorry… and I’ll ask it elesewhere.

    And thank you for yourt article !

  13. says

    Great article Aaron! I was going to do up an article similar to this, but, since I’ve been so busy lately, I just didn’t get to it yet.

    I know it will be too late now, with WordPress 2.1 being released sometime today. But, I might still do up an article which will be a follow-up to your’s.

    Thanks again for the great article! ;) :)

  14. says

    These are the top 10 new features? Pretty disappointing.

    Categories are so out of date. Where is native and well integrated tagging support? What’s with Atom 1.0 support? What’s so special about this picture upload? Most people I know use flickr for their blog pictures anyway. What about proper geo support? What about an auto-update feature? With a security update every ew weeks the whole upgrade procedure is really annoying.

    Sorry, I fail to understand all the noise…

  15. says

    I’m with Tim. It will be really nice when WordPress offers support for Postgres users. Course I will still use WordPress as it is a great piece of software, but I greatly prefer postgres to mysql.

    I think habari may give wordpress a run for their money especially because the software is database independent (MySQL, PostgreSQL, SQLite).

  16. says

    I definitely would be delighted to get my hand dirty on this new version of WordPress. Hopefully it does meet up to expectations.

  17. says

    I’ve just found your blog through Problogger.net.

    I will use it for my next WordPress blogs, but for now I will hold on since I am afraid that plug-ins don’t work.

    It happen one time when I changed my template. I’ve lost my pages and sitemeter…

  18. says

    Ryan: Thanks. Wonder how I missed that. I’ve updated the post to indicate that most plugins will not now break because the $table* variables have been, at least temporarily, re-enabled.

  19. says

    Cool article, thanks for the info. I am probably going to hold off for a little while before switching to 2.1 (I’m on 2.0.7 now), to make sure there are no major problems.

  20. says

    Thanks for the clear write up and explanation of the new features in WordPress 2.1

    I was previously going to hold off moving to 2.1 but now I hear that plugins using depricated code will still work I can migrate any that need tweaking at my own pace meaning upgrading should be much easier, and that I can make the most of the benefits of upgrading straight away.

  21. says

    Just when I was in the middle of integrating Flash 9 and WordPress 2.0.7, you do this to me! Noo!!!

    Hurry up and release it you dogs! – jk jk – =)

  22. says

    WooHoo! 2.1 is released!

    Now then .. when will 2.1.1 be available?

    just kidding :)

    But .. I did just upgrade my Pap site directly from 1.5.2 to 2.1 version. My biggest problems that I had, was the pre/post compatibility issues of my template, and plugins. A lot of code for plugins in my templates had to be removed. My Random Excerpt plugin brought forth a death black screen, but there were plugins I activated that were “not on the approved list” that do work (so far that is – knock on wood)

  23. says

    Question. I’ve been digging through the mySql.

    wp_posts has a column called post_category. But there is a table dedicated for categorisation (wp_post2cat). So what is that field used for? Backward compatability? Seems silly… they’re all 0 (default)

  24. says

    Excellent write-up. I often get the question of “why do you need to upgrade?” and “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it”.

    You just gave me some ammo to fight of pesky questions about upgrades of WP.

    I found that the ditching of support for old MySql 3 was a MAJOr issue as some of the folks I deal with still run that old bugger ;)
    Thanks!

  25. says

    I would really like to see WordPress 2.1 running on my server. But I think I will wait some weeks before updating. Many plugins I use still don’t support WP 2.1.

  26. says

    I also want to see WordPress on my website but I only have one concern i.e. what if there is a serious & critical security bug discovered (e.g. MySpace Spam King issue) and I don’t upgrade my installation. Somebody will hack my blog. And I have experienced it few years back while experimenting with PHPNuke which was the then great CMS alternative!

  27. says

    I had a problem after upgrading wordpress 2.0.7 server to 2.1 on a FC6 server this morning. The editor is ‘code’ only and no tabs shown at all to switch between the two modes. I have a
    screenshot here for anybody interested to help me troubleshoot. Any pointer is appreciated.