10 Things You Need To Know About WordPress 2.7

The saga of cheatsheets and reference sheets continues with this outline of the hot new WordPress 2.7 which will be released soon. Like WordPress 2.5, this is a radical release. Like WordPress 2.5, the bulk of the changes affect the WordPress admin. Unlike WordPress 2.5, however, this is not merely an update of the backend but a complete rebuilding.

Termed “Crazyhorse” at the beginning of the cycle, the WordPress admin is the result of complete thinking outside the box, research and user testing. The concept began as “Let’s throw everything away that we assume to be proper and correct and see what we can come up with when we have no preset conditions”.

The result is a semantically, aesthetically and structurally different WordPress than you’ve ever known before. This is not your grandma’s WordPress!Vertical Menus

Vertical Menus

The first thing you will notice when you login to WordPress 2.7 for the first time is the new menu layout. Without a doubt it’s going to throw you for a loop and you’re going to hate it. As usual, I’ve run development versions of WordPress for much of the development cycle and let me tell you that this change, early on, almost pushed me away from WordPress – a move that would be earth-shatteringly huge.

Props to Jane Wells, Liz Danzico and the Happy Cog and the entire Automattic team for really creating a sexy interface. The new vertical paradigm is a direct result of the Crazyhorse testing, though, and it has ultimately grown on me.

The navigation is comprised of top-level menu items taking users to the most commonly used pages within the subset. For instance, clicking on Posts will take you to the Write screen. Accessing other menu items in the expandable subset can be achieved by clicking the down arrow for the subset.

Primary navigation items are Posts, Media, Links, Pages, Comments, Appearance, Plugins, Users, Tools and Settings and are intuitively grouped together. The Vertical navigation bar can also be minimized to the left for those that like a pristine feel.

Dashboard

The second thing you will notice, after the initial shock of the vertical menu, is the dashboard. Semantically, the dashboard is extraordinary. By clicking on the gray “Screen Options” button in the upper right, you can gain access to the Dashboard configuration panel where you can check and uncheck the modules you want displayed in your own dashboard. Incidentally, this is also a per-user option now, so each of your members can configure this in a way that makes sense for them.

picture-5

In addition, plugin authors now have much more flexibility in developing modules (dashboard widgets) for the dashboard, eliminating complicated semantic problems that existed before for developers.

QuickEdit and wp-admin Comment Reply

picture-61WordPress continues to try to make it simple for bloggers to get in and get out with as little impact or effort as possible. Enter the QuickEdit. Besides the fact that every post has quick access links to common activities, there is a new QuickEdit link under each post title on your “Manage” screen. QuickEdit gives you access to most of the “non-content” portions of a post such as author, post title, tags, timestamp, etc.

In addition to QuickEdit, there is also quick comment replying. Yes, this means you can do it directly from within wp-admin. This is particularly useful for people who get lots of comments and prefer to live within their admin screen. The beautiful thing is, by responding in this way, you will feed right into threaded comment replies (which I’ll talk more about in a bit).

Configurable Layouts

Taking a page from the new iGoogle and many years of configuration options from My Yahoo! etc, the entire dashboard and the post write screen can be customized to preference. That means every module and widget can be dragged and dropped, re-arranged and in some cases even removed. This is important because bloggers operate in different ways, have different tendencies and different needs.

For my purposes at Technosailor.com, for instance, Excerpts and tags are very important. As a result, both of these modules are prominently positioned above the fold to the right of the content box. Some themes rely heavily on the use of Custom Fields, so bloggers using these types of themes probably will want to have the Custom Fields quickly accessible.

Note: Plugin authors providing any additional modules to the write screen really need to ensure their plugin is compatible with the new paradigm. In fact, this goes for all plugin and theme authors. Your world has likely been altered. Modules added to the write screen could never be repositioned before, so unless you’ve been developing in parallel to WordPress 2.7 development, your plugin will need to be updated. Also note that the functionality of the plugin itself is probably not affected, but the repositioning is. Nothing that will break a blog, but something that won’t fit in with the new admin concept.

Threaded Comments and Comment Paging

Threaded comments have been around for several years in the form of a variety of plugins. With the advent of commenting systems like DISQUS and Intense Debate, comment threading became more common place. It only made sense that threaded comments would become part of the core offering and denotes the first major innovation to the comment system in WordPress, well, ever.

The core development team didn’t stop there, though. Some folks get crazy amounts of comments per post (I’m looking squarely at Liz and Erin), so to ease the pain of mile long pages, WordPress has created Paged comments. That is, comments can be broken down into groupings of comments for easier digestion.

Note that to use these new features, theme developers will need to now support the new

1
wp_list_comments()

for comment threading and the

1
previous_comments_link()

and

1
next_comments_link()

template tags. Review the default theme for example usage.

Media Page

WordPress continues to push ahead on media management. In WordPress 2.5, they gave us a new Flash-based image uploader and galleries. While all this was useful, it was rather difficult to manage images without uploading photos and media into a post (even if that post were to be tossed after the upload was done).

picture-81

It was also difficult to manage that media after the fact. Which post was this one image uploaded to? Hmm.

Now Media has its own management page, where bloggers can do all their uploading, editing, etc.

Update: It was drawn to my attention that the media page is actually new in WordPress 2.6. False Alarm on this, though the new administrative interface makes it much more accessible and usable than before.

Complete Plugin Installation and Management

Possibly the biggest leap forward for this release is in plugin management. For years, bloggers have asked for a way to manage their plugins without having to use FTP and muck around on the server in an environment they didn’t know anything about.

Regardless of your technical expertise, I’m sure you are going to find the plugin installer a lifesaver. It is now possible to search and browse the WordPress plugin repository from within wordpress admin. Search by tag cloud, keyword search or simply browse popular plugins. Based on the new plugin upgrade technology brought about in earlier releases of WordPress, you can now install a plugin directly as well.

In addition, you can do an entire WordPress upgrade now using this same technique. When you get the nag that a new update is available, give it a whirl. Enter your FTP server, username and password (it’s not sent anywhere!) and do an automatic upgrade. But do make a backup before you try it, just in case something horrible were to happen, as Murphy dictates it sometimes can.

And as an additional bonus, if your server supports the PHP ssh2 PECL module, you can get SSH/SFTP installs as well which is actually even more secure.

The keen eye of the developers among us may have caught the blatant inclusion of PHP5 functionality, a marked – and overt – departure from the PHP4 only mantra that has ruled WordPress development since its inception.

Sticky Posts

Bloggers have been calling for “sticky post” functionality for some time. That is, the ability to designate a post as “sticky” and keep it at the top, regardless of how old it is.

WordPress has now added sticky post ability which includes the addition of the new conditional template tag

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is_sticky()

.

Nathan Rice has a fantastic write-up on sticky posts in WordPress 2.7.

Template Tags

As mentioned throughout the previous eight highlights, there are a variety of new template tags.

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wp_list_comments()

,

1
previous_comments_link()

and

1
next_comments_link()

all deal with the new commenting system. The

1
is_sticky()

conditional tag is used with the Loop,

1
$wp_query

and sticky posts. Use for styling, perhaps.

Not yet covered is the

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wp_page_menu()

tag which will output a list of pages, generally in unordered list format, that can be used for creating stylized page navigation elements.

Finally, yours truly contributed

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get_search_form()

which I hope is widely adopted by theme developers. Currently,

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searchform.php

is included in a theme and is generally a typical form for search. It’s also usually ripped directly from the default theme. It just works.

This behavior remains. If searchform.php exists in the theme, it will be used. However, theme authors can now use the

1
get_search_form()

template tag to do the same thing. And it is pluggable by filter for those who’d like to create plugins that hijack the WordPress default search.

Comments API

Most users will not get the benefit of this immediately, because none of the offline blog editors support this functionality… yet (though the WordPress iPhone app undoubtedly will completely support all of the XML-RPC API, including comments, immediately). However, the API has now been built to allow offline editors like Windows Live Writer or Marsedit to perform comment moderation and editing from an offline client.

With this new functionality, it is in essence opening up even more of WordPress to be managed offline. Desktop apps, web-apps or even mobile devices can now be turned into full featured offline blog management. Score.

Bonuses

I don’t usually offer bonus material. It’s 10 things, right? Right, but this time is different. There is so much under the hood to be excited about, so let me tease you with a little bit of it.

  • New tag management page
  • Close comments on old post
  • Semantic CSS classes throughout
  • Buggy 404 page fixes… Does not report Page not found when a legitimate author archive, for instance, is loaded but the author has no posts. This has been an annoyance to me for years and I finally decided to submit code to fix it.

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.

68 thoughts on “10 Things You Need To Know About WordPress 2.7

  1. Great post Aaron!

    First question – When will WP 2.7 be available for download? This is an impressive set of changes, almost a whole new full version. Second question – Will the new version change cause compatibility issues with any existing core modules or popular themes? Third question – do developers get an early crack at the new code so they can create/update themes?

    I think they should have included a built in option for video comments. Maybe next version.

    Thanks for the detailed info. @jesseluna on Twitter

  2. Aaron,
    Great post. Thanks for collecting all this information, and laying it out so well.

    The big question I have…

    Is it worth the upgrade?

    Power-users like myself will most likely be using it instantly, as I know you are, but is it worth upgrading a client site?

  3. As always Aaron, a bang up job on the review and functionality of WordPress. This is classic of why we recommend WordPress as our blogging platform of choice. I need to get you on the show to talk about these things and answer questions. Actually, WordPress needs to hire you as evangelist! Great job again.

  4. WOW, you are right it will take some getting use to, wonder if word press will ever remember that the solopreneur has enough hats without relearning their blog every other month LMAO!

    With my rant aside and yes I will “Tap” on it, I walk my talk. I love how you give it to us in easy to bite pieces so I do not choke when reading. I am with Jesse when can we get video comments.

    And is word press gonna give developers enough time in future to have all our plugin-themes etc…. updated as well so we do nto have to wait that cursory time for everyone to play nice together.

    Thanks for job well done!

  5. Jesse-

    I cannot give you an authoritative answer on when WP 2.7 will be available on the download site. It’s in beta3 at the moment, and there will probably be a Release Candidate or 2. You can, at any time, check out a copy with SVN and use it that way now. The SVN repository is

    1
    http://svn.automattic.com/wordpress/trunk

    .

    In regards to core modules, I don’t know what you mean. Backwards compatibility for WP core itself is always maintained, but plugins may or may not work. Check, test, and if you’re a developer, modify if needed.

    Themes, same thing. Thesis theme, for instance, is not yet WP 2.7 ready. It works, but the admin panels are borked. Chris knows about this. Other themes will probably work but won’t work with threaded or paged comments without updates from the theme authors. Likewise, themes that supply their own admin config page may or may not work.

  6. Zvi-

    Maybe. Do your clients need to install plugins and are not technically savvy? Then yes. Do they need sticky posts or one of the other things I’ve mentioned? Then yes.

    WP 2.6 will probably not be maintained, so I wouldn’t recommend sticking around, but in general I do encourage people to wait until the first security release of WP 2.7 to upgrade. That would be WP 2.7.1

  7. Thanks for this article. I’ve seen development discussions and articles about how to update the comments page to take advantage of the new features but this is the first article that I’ve seen that clearly provides complete coverage of all the planned changes. I really think this should be WordPress 3.0 though.

    Thanks!

  8. Jim-

    I’ve always said I’d work for Automattic. I just don’t think they need an evangelist (the community does a great job of evangelizing in general and Matt does a lot of traveling to WordCamps evangelizing as well). Thanks for the vote of confidence though. :)

  9. Heh, I could see this post coming from a mile away :) I was looking forward to it. Great overview of what to expect in the new version. Personally, the display of the threaded comments in WP 2.7 leaves a lot to be desired. So much so, I’m bypassing using them altogether until proper documentation on how to style and manipulate the various elements that make up wp_list_comments is created.

    Overall, I am thoroughly impressed with 2.7 and I’ve been telling everyone that even though I’ve been using WordPress since 2.2 days, 2.7 will be the best version yet. I believe 2.8 will be the icing on the cake.

  10. Thanks, Aaron.

    A non-technical question: Why does WP use such an odd numbering system? Shouldn’t radical overhauls of the product result in a changed whole number? So, 2.5 should have been 3.0 and perhaps 2.7 should be 4.0? Usually, decimals are for minor tweaks.

  11. James – WordPress tends to work in mysterious ways :) Full version ups aka 2.6-2.7 represent new functionality in terms of features. In this case, its a complete rebuild of the backend. Versions such as 2.7.1-2.7.2 are either security fixes or major fixes for bugs that have been discovered in the full featured version.

    Many people have the same argument as you do. Radical changes should make this version 3.0. In fact, many people believe 2.5 should have been 3.0 but Matt and crew don’t roll that way.

    1. James-

      I tend to agree with you and really, 2.7 should be 3.0 because it’s not just adding features but has a realistic rewrite of code. That said, I guess there’s always the possibility that before the package goes stable, it could be numbered as 3.0. Unlikely, but possible.

  12. Crazyhorse was the name for the testing branch of WordPress to test out different UI wireframes. 2.7 when it is released to the public will have a Jazz singers name just like the rest of the versions.

  13. Awesome post, thanks for the info. I’ve been reading random tidbits here and their, but by and large hadn’t seen anyone put together a clean what’s what for 2.7. I’m excited!

  14. Looks good. It seems as though there are a lot of features that are already covered by a lot of popular themes and plugins, so I can’t imagine it’ll be simple to move over to 2.7 if you have a lot of that kind of thing installed.

  15. Looks great. Love the write up. I’m newish to the whole thing, and have a bit of a love/hate relationship with WordPress. Looks like this will change my view dramatically.

    Cheers

  16. Great write up. I have been using WP since the early days and now have my upgrades fairly automated, but with the changes I have heard about – been trying to keep a closer eye on it this time.

    Post was helpful to me as I now have a better idea what plugins might not work, need to check for updates, theme code I will have to tweak, etc.

    Great work!

  17. Wow. Great Writeup. I’ll have to print this. Do you know if there is going to be a wordpress MU upgrade? I thought there was supposed to be last time but never saw anything else about it. Thanks

  18. Thanks for the review of new features. I have tried a couple of the nightly builds and did have some trouble with plugins but those problems have gotten better as the release gets closer. I am wondering how themes will be affected, I know that the theme that I primarily use, mandigo, has come up with an update to work better with WordPress 2.7 but I think that I will be a slow adopter with all of these changes coming. On release day I will upgrade one blog and play around with all of the newness of WordPress 2.7 and then start moving it out to other blogs.

    I think the release is only a week or 2 away though. Matt and the guys at WordPress really move quickly from beta to RC to release

    1. Tech Tips: Themes should be unaffected. That said, they won’t take advantage of the new WP 2.7 template tags until the authors decide to put out an update. But older themes will still work as expected.

  19. I’ve only just got mobile-phone-based wordpress admin working with a plugin. Anyone know if the new admin is phone-ready (such as no Javascript for essential operations) or is it all going to break again?

  20. Great post, and I am considering upgrading, mm, I am spoiled and used to my Automatic WordPress update plugin to upgrade. Will this plugin still alert me when the new version 2.7 is out and still work, Have to look into that.

    1. Mik: There has been a “Update notifier” nag text since WordPress 2.5. The difference now is that you can do your updates from within WordPress itself. Proceed with caution until you’re familiar. Backup, backup, backup. But adventure on.

  21. This is a GREAT post! I was fascinated by all of the advancements that are being made. And its going to make a big difference for me because I create blogs for others on a Freelance basis. In fact I was in the process of streamlining my “typical blog-setup-blueprint” as to which plugins and settings I use … this makes me realize I should probably wait till 2.7 is out before I finalize it. I was also planning on writing some more tutorials soon – another thing to wait on for now.

    I can see from this post that many of the plugins I currently use will no longer be necessary as their features will be “built-in.” This is great.

  22. And the same old crappy image “manager” and the same old crappy “editor”. Oh well. Maybe this time they can fix it so that the edit area, if expanded, doesn’t cover up the save button. DUH. Did Crazyhorse find that nail in it’s hoof.

    THIS IS WHY I HATE OPEN SOURCE SO MUCH SOMETIMES.

  23. Aaron,

    He bro, thanks for discussing the upcoming features, layouts and so on. It will take some getting use to but people know how to adjust. I’m looking forward to the release. :)

  24. This all sounds great but what about the image captions being visible? Can we disable them in 2.7? It would be REALLY cool if we could change the settings PER Image.

    You can: Just don’t enter a caption unless you want it to appear. Just use alt text instead to get SEO without a caption box.

  25. Yeah, when I see the nag I run the update plugin and it is done, no fuss no muss. Hopefully upgrading to 2.7 the first time will be as easy ha ha.

    1. Miguel: The smooth way for me, considering I have Subversion installed on my server and I know what I’m doing is:

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      svn --force export http://svn.automattic.com/wordpress/trunk/ /home/path/to/blog

      That said, you could also install SVN on your local computer (Mac has it built in, as do some varieties of Linux). For Windows, you can google for TortoiseSVN), check out a copy, and do an export to a folder. Then upload the contents of that folder as normal.

      The details of how to do this specifically are outside of the scope of this article, but googling around on how to use SVN should turn great articles up. It’s well documented and not all that difficult.

  26. Really looking forward to this. Its funny, when there is a great update like this, its kind of like Christmas for us bloggers.

    One thing I would like to see myself is the dropping of all the social network plugins tat are out there and for wordpress to have them all built in. Problogger just released a way to have twitter id’s as part of your comment field section, this should be part of wordpress in my option. There is too much code work involved for a lot of people to gain from this type of feature (including me)

  27. @Collin – I know where you are coming from, but once you suggest for something like to go into the core, you have to think of it in terms of “will the majority of those who use WordPress find this useful”. If not, the additional code and the feature turns into bloat. Get enough bloat and end users start abandoning ship.

  28. @jeffro2pt0 – That’s a VERY pertinent point. There are currently some 2.6aspects that I consider “bloat”, like the post revisions (which I disabled). In my opinion, the “bloat” should be packaged as separate modules (plugins) that can be added later.

    @Collin – I find it’s not a requirement to be technically strong, but it’s certainly wise and in the best interests of all bloggers to become more technically able. I assume (from personal observation) that the majority of bloggers do not have the technical knowledge to recover their servers from a disaster. In my case, the server OS was damaged during an upgrade (bye bye blog and all the content!) – But I was able to do a complete reinstall, configuration, etc. within a couple of hours. As a side note, I didn’t have backups at the time (which made me look stupid – and it was stupid of me), but thanks to Google, Yahoo and Live I got back 100% of my posts and pages.

    @Aaron Brazell – Would you be able to provide a quick example of how to use/support the new theme template tags? Is there a resource I can look at that would help me convert my existing theme (which works on 2.6) to 2.7? I’m not a coder, (I’m a network engineer) but am very strong at editing and manipulating existing code.

    1. BloggerSavvy- as I mentioned in the post, refer to the default theme which has been updated to use the new template tags. Also, there are arguments you can pass to wp_list_comments() to make it do other things.

      Also, Otto does a fantastic job of breaking this stuff down as well.

  29. Wow, a lot of programming that doesn’t bring any added value than just satisfying their user interface itch.

    It would have been best for everyone if they created an operation architecture that allows one-click install of wordpress sites, central management of sites, central backup/restore, central upgrade, etc. and stuff, central application of site definition, site themes, etc.

    So many upgrade versions, and it is difficult to keep up with their pace especially if you have multiple blogs. If it a nightmare whenever they announced a new release. After their major release, expect a number of minor updates pegged as security requirements which leave you no choice.

  30. I am testing the latest build for ease of screen-reader accessibility, and there are hits and misses. Drag and drop features, while great for sighted users, do nothing for those of us who are forced to use keyboard navigation and short cuts. But I do like the way things are becoming simplified.

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