10 Things You Need to Know About WordPress 2.5

WordPress is about to release version 2.5 into the wild (It just hit Release Candidate yesterday so the release date, though officially not known, is coming soon). If you’ve been using WordPress.com or have peeked at the demo site you will know the biggest change coming to WordPress with this release.

You might ask, “Where did WordPress 2.4 go?” The answer to this is that it was skipped. Yes, that’s right, the 120-day release cycle was scrapped this time and you essentially have two releases in one. Again, the changes are vast and countless. This is a huge release.

So let’s get into the nitty gritty shall we?

New Admin User Interface

WordPress 2.5 GUIBy far the most comprehensive change in this release was the complete rethinking of how WordPressers do their administrative tasks. Happy Cog Studios was enlisted to do usability research and testing – with the emphasis being on usability research. Several of the items in this rundown are going to be broken into their own list item as they deserve their own description and, again, this upgrade is huge.

You’ll notice that the WordPress admin is now bathed in a lighter blue, lighter grey and orange color scheme. I like the nice hues, but others are bound not to. If you’re a developer or know your way around creating WordPress plugins, you can supply your own admin CSS with the

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wp_admin_css

and

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wp_admin_css_uri

filters, and WordPress is already supplying per-user options of “Classic” – the old dark blue feel – and the “Fresh” style which is installed by default.

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function my_admin_css( $cssfilename )
{
    // Use name of the CSS file inside the wp-admin folder WITHOUT the file extension
    return 'my-new-wp-admin';
}
apply_filters('wp_admin_css', 'my_admin_css');

I’d just stick with the default though. It’s not too shabby.

Menu Layout

WordPress 2.5 Menu
One of the first things you’ll notice is the change in the administrative navigation. It struck me as very Movable Typeish. I don’t know if the idea came from them or simply that Happy Cog had such thorough user research that it made sense. Either way… it makes sense.

Primarily, users interact with the WordPress admin in one of four areas – writing posts, managing posts, managing comments, and managing design elements. You’ll notice that these items make up the primary navigation on the left side of the screen. (Sidebar: You’ll also notice that the Presentation menu has been renamed Design – which was a usability decision. It makes sense.) Matt wrote more about this.

The rest of the formerly Primary navigation items – Plugins, Options (now Settings) and Users have been moved to a secondary navigation on the right side of the screen.

Sub-navigation is something that’s a little weird. As both the Primary and the new secondary navigation used to be part of the same menu bar, the “submenus” all made sense to appear below the primary navigation. This is still the “right” place, I believe for the new Primary navigation points but seems awkward for the Secondary navigation items that are relegated to a different portion of the screen. I know this is something that is currently being thought about, I just don’t know what the final results will be.

Also, as a bit of additional commentary, I think plugin authors need to go back and revisit their choice of where they have put their plugin subpages. Do they really make sense to be in the Options page (now Settings)? Do they really belong in the Manage page? In my opinion, plugin settings pages should be listed as a sub-page of the Plugins menu.

Widget Handling

WordPress 2.5 Widget MAnipulation
Another MASSIVE shift in philosophy has been in the Widgets page. Before, you could drag and drop widgets into position. You can still reposition widgets by dragging within a sidebar, however, WordPress is relying less on Javascript “bling” for this release. Each widget is listed in a column on the left, you click the Add link and it jumps into the sidebar. Instead of having all sidebars displayed at one time, the user selects the sidebar from a dropdown to expose a different sidebar.

To me, this adds work to the overall experience, and so fundamentally I don’t like it, but it feels more reliable.

Dashboard Overhaul

WordPress 2.5 Dashboard Overhaul
The second thing you will probably notice immediately on login to the WordPress admin (the color scheme being the first) is the new dashboard interface. Now it is completely modularized, and though there is no “tight” way of adding your own, plugin authors can create their own dashboard widgets. The architecture is primitive at this point, but will improve offering a much easier way for plugin authors to do their thing without feeling like they are “hacking”.

A summary of your entire WordPress install is summarized in a widget titled “Right Now” informing you of the number of posts, comments, draft posts, tags and categories. Other useful widgets like incoming posts, etc are available and can be customized with your own RSS feeds.

Visual Editor Improvements

WordPRess 2.5 TinyMCE Improvements
The Visual editor, a long time bane of many users existence, has been upgraded with support for TinyMCE 3. It even includes Full Screen mode for those of you that don’t like to be distracted when writing. I cannot speak to the ability of this upgrade, as I don’t use WordPress’ visual editor, but I’m told it is a vast improvement over the older version. The TinyMCE team has worked closely with WordPress on this release as well.

Flash Uploader

WordPress 2.5 Flash Uploader
For those of you using a lot of images in your post, the image uploader has been completely overhauled as well. Namely, you can uplopad and insert multiple images at once via a new Flash-based uploader. This will gracefully fallback to the original uploader if Flash is not installed, so never fear. There is now a new “Add Media” link in the header of the post window that handles all this now. For those of you who want to debate the philosophical decision to include closed source Flash into open source, and GPL’ed WordPress, knock yourself out.

Plugin Auto-upgrade

An ambitious new feature that is being included in WordPress is a new autoupgrader. By default, it will try to upgrade plugins that are already in the WordPress plugin repository by writing the new files out to the existing plugins. however, this is an inherent security risk as it would require your plugin files be writable by the world. So the fallback is to upgrade plugins via FTP/FTP over SSL. Though your FTP username and password are stored in your database, it’s important to remember that FTP is inherently insecure. FTP/SSL is much more secure but is still not the best. Thanks to hooks in the filesystem functionality, I’ll be releasing a plugin that I’ve been working on for Secure FTP (FTP over SSH). It’s not ready yet, but hopefully will be soon and I’ll let you know when it is.

Custom Sizes for Thumbnails

WordPress 2.5 Thumbnail Sizes
Since the image uploader was added back in, something like WordPress 2.0, many, many people have complained about the inability to modify thumbnail sizes. I believe the old default was something like 100×100. In WordPress 2.5, thumb-nailing became a whole lot more useful. You can not only set your thumbnail dimensions globally, you can also have a “medium” sized thumbnail, a la Flickr and an option to crop an oversize image instead of just resizing. I figured some of you would like that.

Tag Management

WordPress 2.5 Tag Management UI
With the introduction of WordPress tags in WP 2.3, the development group took a measured approach to adding user interface around them. A minimal form field on the post write page allowed for a comma separated list of tags with no additional way of management. Fortunately, in 2.5, a bit more UI was added, though functionally identical. It works like Flickr tags where tags can be added via a list of comma separated tags or via a “type, click, add” mantra. In addition, the UI has a tabbed interface which allows for the selection of tags by checkboxes and by most used tags, useful to say the least.

Password Strength Too

WordPress 2.5 Password Strength
The last major item (and trust me there are tons of smaller items or more obscure items) in the list of things you should know about WordPress 2.5, is the password strength meter. Passwords should be at least three characters or they will be deemed “too short” and should consist of two of three types of characters – letters, numbers or symbols – or will be considered too weak. Password security is a big concern for everyone in IT and blog security itself could be beefed up significantly by users choosing “strong” passwords.

Bonus Item: Timestamp Sanity

WordPress 2.5 Timestamp ManagemtThanks to Mark Jaquith (Disclaimer: Mark is one of my employees at b5media, but is also a core developer of WordPress), the timestamp functionality of WordPress has recieved a complete overhaul. By default, a new post has no timestamp module. Instead, it’s a publish immediately, or you can click a link if you really do want to modify the timestamp. When editing a post with a timestamp, there is also no “Modify Timestamp” checkbox that caused so much confusion for so many years. If you modify the existing timestamp, it’s assumed that you actually want to change the timestamp! In other words, WP is no longer insulting the intelligence of users (not that it was an intentional insult before, but the big brother protection from the blogger’s own self was a bit tedious).

So if you feel like testing, you can grab a copy of the lastest trunk code at

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http://svn.automattic.com/wordpress/trunk

. The usual disclaimers are in play when using a non-stable released version: No support offered, your mileage may vary, use at your own risk, don’t feed the tigers. But if you want to contribute to the development process, testing AND reporting bugs is a good way. A lot of testing is going on right now before a release, so have at it. :-) Enjoy.

Update: Ozh describes how to create your own wp-admin stylesheet.

Aaron Brazell

Aaron Brazell is a Baltimore, MD-based WordPress developer, a co-founder at WP Engine, WordPress core contributor and author. He wrote the book WordPress Bible and has been publishing on the web since 2000. You can follow him on Twitter, on his personal blog and view his photography at The Aperture Filter.

54 thoughts on “10 Things You Need to Know About WordPress 2.5

  1. NICE.

    Maybe I missed this in your writeup – is the html editor going to finally trust us the way that the timestamp will? There’s NOTHING more aggravating than going in to change the @#$% html only to have WP change it based on what it thinks I meant. DAMMIT JANE! Leave my html alone! :)

  2. Thanks Aaron. You always come through for us on these “heads-up” posts about new releases. It is much appreciated!

  3. Thanks for the great write-up Aaron.

    Sounds like in addition to usual WP upgrades for clients I better block out time to explain all the dashboard changes to them as well. I’m sure the changes will be improvements, especially over the long haul and am looking forward to them. But some of the less technically inclined folks will only see that “it changed!”

  4. Great review and as I responded on twitter, I’m so looking forward to this release. Especially the new admin interface and the new visual editor… Awesome!

    Thanks!
    m.

  5. As far as I know TinyMCE still jacks up source code (and raw HTML) when switching from the code editor to the WYSIWYG editor. I have not tested it yet though, just remember seeing something about it in a WP 2.5 post a few days ago.

    Kevin

  6. That would be why I don’t know then. I don’t use the rich editor. Wendy, if you’re an HTML only girl, why don’t you just switch the visual editor off in your user profile?

  7. Aaron,

    Yes this was an extremly good review of 2.5.

    The folks over at WordPress should recruit you to write their new release overviews and documentation for them:)

  8. Great Write up, but now I still use WP 2.3 :D
    But this write can be reference for me and all WP user..
    Thanks again for Aaron :)

  9. Looking forward to moving to WP2.5 – things are looking promising, even though it looks like the admin section will need a touch of re-learning.

    I’m wondering the same thing as Wendy re: HTML getting messed up by the WYSIWYG editor. Ah well, I’ve been avoiding the visual editor since the early days and will continue to do so.

    Thanks for the write-up, let’s raise a glass to the wicked WordPress team!

    Vero

  10. Thanks for this roundup Aaron. It might seem like a little thing for most people, but for me, the revision to the timestamp module is completely worth the upgrade. Would have been nice if they added native support for Markdown formatting in the post editor, but you can’t have it all, right? =)

  11. Thanks for the article. Two remarks.

    I don’t understand why “it would require your plugin files be writable by the world”. There’s already automatic upgrade plugins and they work with 755 permission (write permission denied for public and group, allowed for owner).

    You rightly point out that “FTP is inherently insecure”. But it should be noted that http is as insecure as ftp. And logging into WordPress Admin without SSL exposes admin password.

  12. Great write up. I’ve tried the RC and it’s mostly there. The only issue I had was with upgrading a plugin, and I’ll bet my socks that the problem’s related to the fact I’m running WP on a WIMP platform instead of LAMP.

    Overall, i think it’s a great release from the team

  13. I wonder why “Design” is so prominent as a main menu. It should be under “Settings” imo. I would guess most people don’t change their design that often. I think having it as a main menu item adds to clutter they are trying to avoid.

  14. Two questions for Aaron…

    1. What do you edit in? External app or code window?
    2. Where can I find out more about this rumored gallery feature? Is it really a gallery?

    PS I’ll wait for 2.5.1. or 2.5.2 before upgrading. Let all you suckers expose the bugs and vulnerabilities first. ;)

  15. Hey Dave-

    I use MarsEdit for my post writing, if that’s what you’re asking. As for the “gallery feature” – I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. :-)

  16. Great writeup, thanks.
    I’ve installed the rc1 version, and so far I’m impressed. I have a question though: In your article you state that (when handling tags) “the UI has a tabbed interface which allows for the selection of tags by checkboxes and by most used tags, useful to say the least.”

    I can’t find that tabbed interface, and it was one of the few features I missed in the new version. So – how do I select tags for a post via checkboxes?

  17. Matt said built-in galleries.”

    Does that mean photo gallery, something more powerful and polished than inserting thumbnails that sometimes link to pages and mostly link to page errors (prior to me cleaning up the code)?

    I edit write into WordPress. I’m always connected (except on flights) so that’s not an issue, though prior to auto-save it was a risk. I toggle between MCE and code view – as was mentioned above, the WYSWIG editor kills random embedding code that it doesn’t recognize. Had to fight it for some ESPN Duke (boo, hiss) video clip the other day.

    By the way, tell me where to find cheap coding help for my little problems. :)

  18. Dave-

    I had to dig into the code to find out that there is rudimentary Gallery support. I say rudimentary with the caveat that I’ve never used it. The code is in wp-includes/media.php and it looks like plugins can hook into

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    post_gallery

    , that it works exclusively with images uploaded via WP (that get the attachment post_type in the database) and that the styling of the gallery can be modified by the user with the

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    gallery_style

    filter.

    Again, without using it I can’t tell you how effective it will be, but it looks like something that can lead to some very sexy photo gallery uses.

    Jens, I misspoke. The category tab on the write screen has a tabbed interface, not the tags. I’ll edit that now.

  19. Great write-up.

    I’m a bit concerned about plug-in compatability for 2.5. I have a lot of plugins installed on one of my blogs and I don’t see them all supported yet.

    So, I think I may wait out this upgrade until everything settles down.

  20. Ist there a way to keep a new post from the the rss-Feed? The post should be published on the blog, but not in the feed.

    By the way, nice article. I am sceptic about the new colors, but the new functions should be nice.

  21. Aaron, thanks for the detailed write-up… great job…

    As to WordPress itself (and I am a user), where to begin…?

    1) The HTML issue referred to several times above is NOT caused by TinyMCE / FCKE or any other of the editors, it’s caused by a (in my eyes unncecessary) WordPress HTML compliance check in /wp-includes/formatting.php – it is wasteful as far as COPu resources go, and messes things up because they don’t fully comprehend all the effects of some of the “greedier” regex operators.

    Read about the solution here:
    http://wordpress.org/extend/ideas/topic.php?id=11&page=3
    (whas27, currently last reply)

    BTW, the FCKE editor plugin was already much better than WP “native”, and customizable/more full-featured at that.

    2) Despite the layout changes and a few positive developments that seem to have gone into this, WP 2.5 appears to still have the annoying habit of wasting huge amounts of vertical screen “real-estate” at the top. We already KNOW what our blog is called… things (like “Dashboard” tab name and then again title) are repeated in stand-alone lines, creating more waste and forcing the admin user to have to scroll around too much (and let’s face it, unless you are using WP as a membership site hack, that is the user that counts).

    3) The Widget AJAXed drag-drop screen was one of my more favorite things, this seems like a step back almost (as you yourself noted). All they had to do to make it more overseeable is get rid of the wasted space at the top, and use smaller fonts/sidebar default boxes. Really, I thought there were much bigger fish to fry…

    4) The changes in tag management are still less than the Simple Tags plugin already has… but of course it’ll likely break this poor guy’s work for a while for the umpteenth time… how many times will WP force their plugin contributors to have to rewrite their stuff? Just say: Plugin XYZ is so good, we made a deal with them to include it in the distribution. Why reinvent the wheel, especially if it’s an inferior wheel?

    5) On a related note, the auto-updating of plugins seems like a very bad idea from all sorts of angles. Auto-updates don’t work well for freakin’ Microsoft (just the other day one of the nightly Vista updates broke my MS Word… go figure…), this could break your WP blog site while you sleep. Let the admin decide what to do, being able to test the changes before they go in. The current 2.3.3 notification “system” on the plugins screen is fine.

    In Summary: I am going to think long and hard (and test on some separate testbeds) before doing this upgrade. Frankly, I am underwhelmed. I love WordPress for the flexibilty it gives us to riff upon their baseline, but they sure aren’t that great at sticking to a reliable tune…

  22. I’ve only been using WordPress for about 12 months, but it was just starting to feel its age, and lag behind a bit. Now I’m getting excited!

  23. I’ve been using/testing WP 2.5 for a while now and testing 2.5 plugin compatibility. Can you tell me, is the MyFtp plugin considered secure or not? I usually use WsFTP, but would be interested in your FTP over SSH dev updates.

  24. Is there a way to disable the auto-plugin-upgrade feature? I have a couple of plugins which I have self-customized for specific cases that I would hate to lose changes just because WordPress thinks I want the latest and greatest.

  25. Aaron,

    Thankyou for the post. There are a few WordPress 2.5 ones around, and yours is pretty comprehensive. I like your writing style as well.

    Question: I heard/read about the inbuilt Gravatar support in 2.5. Any experience yet with it? I would imagine it just fits right in.

  26. I used WordPress Auto Update to upgrade to this version and everything went well. The admin menu will take some time getting used to, but overall I like it. One of the big pluses for me is that now the WYSIWYG editor is supposed to not mess up code, such as youtube embeds.

  27. Just rolled to it tonight. While I haven’t ran through the entire back-end interface, the upgrade was quite painless and all of the features seem very straight-forward.

    Great write-up!

  28. I just got WordPress installed after much confusion, I’m nearly code illiterate, and now I have to do an even more complicated upgrade. Thanks for your article though, it’s made the task seem less daunting.

  29. Thanks a lot for saving me the effort of trawling through the new release.
    I have never understood why most plugin setttings didn’t appear in the plug in manager. I agree that is would make more sense if they all did.

    As for the Visual Editor, I am not sure if I am ready to trust that SOB yet.

    Best Wishes

    Rob

  30. Nice review. Looks like some pretty nifty new features I’ll have to explore. I installed the new version today, and it sure is nice looking.

  31. I guess I will like the new widget handling system as my theme has around 8 sidebars and it gets a little difficult dragging the widgets to a sidebar on the top of the page.

  32. After upgrading to 2.5, I got problem doing many things. I was prompted with messages “You do not have permission to do that.” For example, during auto-save, creating a custom field, approving a comment individually.

    Any ideas why does this happen?
    Thanks,
    Robert

  33. One thing I do not like in WP 2.5 is the “Publish” button is located on the right side bar. After you’ve finished writing your post and selected the categories (somewhere at the bottom), then, you have to scroll back up to click “Publish”…. which I think, is not that user friendly.

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