10 Things You Need to Know About WordPress 2.6

WordPress 2.6 is around the corner (sometime next week, it looks like), and as usual, there’s a bunch of changes, improvements, enhancements that have went into this version. In my opinion, this is an odd major release. While there are certainly major new changes that warrant a new major release, much of the release consists of various improvements generally saved for “dot releases”. Security and enhancement type stuff. The thinking is that WP 2.6 can be released so a WordPress 2.7 can come in the early fall timeframe and integrate new features developed in conjunction with the Google Summer of Code project.

Still though, there is a significant amount of new functionality that I find quite nice.

Google Gears Support

Gears is the Google technology that allows for Firefox (apparently IE 6 too, but I can’t confirm) to “pre-cache” pages and speed up access. Gears has been integrated with WordPress 2.6 on the admin side and speeds things up tremendously. This is particularly important where broadband access is limited or inaccessible (third world, for instance). To enable Gears in your new WordPress 2.6 installation, click on the Turbo link in the upper right corner of your WordPress admin.

XML-RPC Editor Functionality

Quietly, a new bit of functionality snuck into WordPress trunk that threw a number of developers and kicked off an interesting discussion. In the development cycle, XML-RPC and Atom Pub API for remote editing was turned off by default as a “security precaution” since many recent WordPress security issues seem to stem from the XML-RPC protocol.

Daniel took the issue up on his blog in a bit of a vicious manner because he has a vested interest in desktop client support for blogs. He is the developer behind the very nice MarsEdit client for Mac which, incidentally, I’m using to write this post. He took his battle up, a bit more congenially among WordPress developers, and the result was a compromise. New WordPress 2.6 installs would be given the option at install to enable XML-RPC editing and upgraded blogs (pre-existing) ware grandfathered in to an “enabled” paradigm.

Picture 9.png

This is an important shift in the way bloggers think about writing. Most of us simply want to write. We don’t want to worry about the technical aspects of maintaining a blog. This is the philosophy that drove the b5media team, whom I worked for from very early days, to develop a network of bloggers that were able to simply write without worrying about the logistics of maintenance, upgrades, monetization, etc. Unfortunately, while most bloggers are not technical, malicious parties ‘out there’ are technical and look for any opportunity to attack blogs and other websites. XML-RPC and APP provide a vector which, though pretty secure, has seen its share of exploits in the past. Disabling functionality that is not explicitly used by every user makes sense for security reasons.

Bloggers can enable or disable the functionality via the Settings > Writing page in WordPress admin and most desktop editors still only support the XML-RPC protocol so unless you’re explicitly using the Atom Publishing Protocol, you’re probably safe to leave only XML-RPC checked.

Post Versioning

Developers familiar with Subversion, or SVN, understand the concept of versioning and diffs. Compare one file, or revision, against another file, or revision, and see a breakdown of differences between the two. With the help of GUI tools, developers can see a color-coded red vs. green (removed vs. added) presentation.

This concept has now been applied to posts so you can view differences between posts as well as “revert” to an earlier version of a post. I absolutely love this feature and you can see an example of a “revision compare” built directly into WordPress.
postrevs.png

SQL Security – $wpdb->prepare()

Back in WordPress 2.3, the

1
prepare()

first emerged, initially unused… but there. The method was very experimental at the time and was not ready for prime-time so, though it was included, it was not yet used. We started to see its emergence in WordPress 2.5 and in WordPress 2.6 it is being used just about everywhere.

The idea behind

1
prepare()

, if you’ll allow me to get geeky for a minute, is to sanitize SQL in such a way that SQL injection is prevented. So, plugin developers, in particular, should be happy with this method (part of the

1
$wpdb

class). Not only should they be happy, but from a best practice standpoint, you should be using it.

In my opinion, this should be a part of a “dot release” and not as a major feature of a major release.

Shift-Click Selection of Multiple Checkboxes in WP-Admin

As the backend of WordPress continues to evolve after the release of the drastically redesigned admin in WP 2.5, usability enhancements are also making their way in.

One of the better usability enhancements added in WordPress 2.6 is the ability to “shift click” to select multiple checkboxes at once. Say, for instance, you want to clean up an unwieldy category system (as I need to), Simply navigate to your category management page, click on the first category you want to delete, for instance (posts will go into the default category), and “Shift-click” on a checkbox farther down the list. Magically, all checkboxes in between will also be selected.

This, of course, works anywhere where checkboxes are employed in the WordPress admin.

More Avatar Options

With the Automattic acquisition of Gravatar last year, in-built support for Gravatars was introduced in WordPress 2.5. WordPress 2.6 gives the blogger more options by allowing for selection of the “default” avatar. Out of the box, the default Gravatar can be “Mystery Man”, a generic grey avatar with a white silhouette of someone. Default avatars can also be “blank” (self-explanatory), the Gravatar logo, Identicons, Wavatars or MonsterIDs. These have all been a part of WordPress.com for some time and now come to the rest of us. For more information, Matt wrote a post for the WP.com community that you should probably check out. The difference here being, of course, that WordPress.com offers “dashboard avatars” and WPFROU (WordPress for the Rest of Us) does not include this functionality.

Page Templates over XML-RPC

In addition to the XML-RPC/APP security measures listed above, a new key bit of functionality has now been exposed for API editors (and also, if you think about it, demonstrates the power behind XML-RPC and why you might want to turn it off if you don’t use it). The XML-RPC interface now allows for managing page templates from an API editor. To the best of my knowledge, no editor supports this yet and may not. However, increasingly there is the ability to remotely post content from places like YouTube, Utterz and others. None of these services would have any real use for this functionality either, however I want to point out that because they can post remotely anything that is exposed to the remote world can also be managed.

It’s also conceivable that an offline WordPress client could be built that replicates WordPress admin in a desktop client, and this is one more step in that direction.

Press This

Press this! is a new enhancement of a long-existing concept. Bookmarklets. In fact, WordPress used to have a bookmarklet included that would allow a user to quickly start a new post from the browser toolbar, but the functionality was limited.

The Press This! functionality rocks, actually, because it allows the user to be on any website, click the bookmarklet and get a miniaturized version of WordPress admin with options to snip text, photos from the page, quotes or video embeds.

Picture 10.png

Obviously, we can lead you to water but we can’t make you drink. BE VERY CAREFUL OF COPYRIGHT VIOLATIONS! Oh, and the Associated Press sponsored this. (kidding!)

Integrated Theme Preview

Theme previewing has been a bugaboo for many a theme designer. How do we check and develop without affecting the rest of the site. Some folks resorted to using Ryan’s venerable Theme Preview plugin. Others setup a beta version of a site that was sandboxed off from the rest of the world. Lots of different approaches, all of which remain valid.

However, for theme developers and bloggers looking to see how a theme will look on their site, with their content, there is now theme preview bling. When you are on your Design page, click on one of the theme screenshots and your site will be loaded in a lightbox-like overlay to allow you a live preview. Heavily inspired, I’d imagine, by the Mac OS X Leopard Quick Look functionality.

Remember when Technosailor looked like this?

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Plugin Management Overhaul

Finally, the plugin management interface has received a face-lift and some added functionality. Active plugins and inactive plugins are segregated and with that new fangled Shift-click functionality I talked about before, plugin management just got really freaking simple. Note that Active plugins can be deactivated in bulk and Deactivated plugins can be activated or even deleted in bulk. Clean up that stale plugin list in a snap. But… there’s always a but… make a backup before you go nuts.

Published by

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.

17 thoughts on “10 Things You Need to Know About WordPress 2.6”

  1. Ah! This clears up a few things. Jonathan and I recorded episode 44 a few days ago and attempted to go over 2.6 based upon the posts available, but they were all mostly bullet lists and didn’t go into much detail. As always, your “previews” of upcoming WordPress releases puts things into context and explains them further. Thanks!

  2. Aaron, thanks for the in-depth preview of 2.6. I’ve been using WordPress 2.5 since it was announced at WordCamp Dallas and it has been a fantastic improvement. You mentioned support for multiple checkbox selection, can you tell us if multiple images inserts will be supported as well. Today it’s possible to upload multiple images through the admin, but multiple-insert has been missing and I don’t count the gallery insert as a workable option for all situations.

    Thanks,

    Charles McKeever
    OpenSourceMarketer.com

  3. I just read that the issue with turning off XML-RPC by default has been resolved. It will be turned off by default for new installations – but not upgrades.

  4. Thanks for lifting the lid. Looks like a lot of effort has gone into WordPress 2.6 and it looks to be great from here on. Hoping it comes out soon.

  5. WordPress has a very interesting versioning system. From 2.4.x to 2.5 I can understand because 2.5 had a lot of updates and took a long time to come out. But to me, this should really only be a minor upgrade. I don’t think theres enough to warrant 2.6

  6. as a _very_ new convert to wordpress, i’m impressed with the turnaround for adding new features. this is such a robust platform and i look forward to learning more about it.

  7. Very very very cool! I love the prepare, love the xml-rpc disabled, LOVE the press-this… Can’t wait to upgrade, thanks for the heads-up!

  8. Tried beta1 and liked it so far. There’s still room for improvement though, i.e. navigational functions: Something to easily grab parent and childs of current page, for two tier navigation (top bar and sidebar, as av. in most CMS).

  9. Anyone knows if the “press-it” feature will return hotlinked images from the websites ‘pressed'(annoying and unfair method), or will it use a method of auto-upload (via cURL or something), just like tumblr does sweetly? – Otherwise I’ll stick to 2.5 until other major WP updates are up

  10. Wow what a lot of great useful information that has made me stop and question if I really want to use WordPress or not on my next blog that I am so anxious to start creating. I have been asking around for some time now, trying to decide which way to go and you have pointed out some things that I had not heard about.
    Thanks for giving me a few more things to think about before jumping in and I thank you for your time and sharing important things like this with amateurs like myself in my blogging attempts.
    Respectfully yours,
    Betsy Buchanan

  11. I don’t get how you can know all this if the product doesn’t even exist yet. I have always tried to find out about product ahead of time so I can help my clients but most of the time I end up waiting until one of those Dummy books comes out. I,of course, appreciate that you are informing people but what if it doesn’t release like you say?

  12. Dennis-

    I pay attention to the development mailing list, the changes that are going into the code, etc. If you want to know what’s in the release, you can follow the same steps I do. It’s open source! You’re empowered!

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