10 Things You Need To Know About WordPress 2.8

WordPress 2.8 is the latest installment of the WordPress platform, scheduled to be released on Wednesday, June 10. Millions of sites are powered by WordPress including the BBC, CNN, the NFL, the New York Times blogs, and that’s just a few of the big names.

Ok, so there’s a new version.  So what?  There are a number of massive improvements which will make WordPress even easier to use than before, however most of the new features are under the hood. Mark Jaquith, a core WordPress developer, is calling it the “Snow Leopard of WordPress” – in other words, on the surface, it doesn’t have much new but there are radical updates under the hood to make it run faster and give developers more options.

Faster Load Times

The first, of smaller features, but very important features to me, is the ability to compress both external CSS files and embedded CSS, and the same with Javascript, both embedding and external files. Why is this important? It decreases both load time for the user and saves bandwidth because of compression. It’s a win-win situation for everyone. But, this is just one of the major enhancements I’m excited about.

Now Easier to use Widgets

Yay for a new widget panel!  No more “add this widget” and gets added and having to browse the different sidebars.  Now you can drag and drop, and auto-save, on any of the registered sidebars for your theme.  See below for the example of what it looks like.  It’s a lot more useful and much easier to use now.

WordPress 2.8: New Widgets Page

Plugins, Plugins, Plugins, Plugins

The second major update that is clear to see is the plugins page layout.

I run a test site that updates code every few hours from SVN so I can see what is going on with all the new code being developed and committed, so something I noticed quickly was that the Plugins page layout changed dramatically. You’ll notice that the way the plugins are grouped together now is different than it was before. With the upgraded Plugins layout, it was quite difficult to see the important plugins, so the lead developer working on it, Ryan Boren, was kind enough to add a “Per Page” option for Plugins. Now, you can easily find all your plugins on a single page by changing the Per Page option to a higher number than the plugins you have. For example, I have 55 plugins installed, so I set mine to 60 and I can easily see all my plugins.

Plugin Search

Another great addition to the WordPress codebase in 2.8 is enhanced plugin search.  For a long time, and still, plugin search is not that great.  2.8 will help fix a lot of those issues and give users a greater opportunity to find what they are looking for.

WordPress 2.8: Search for Plugins

New Admin Schemas

Diving into some of the admin features, the blue color scheme received some love and has some updated features. The grey color scheme’s icons were also updated. Overall, the admin style has stayed the same though, since Automattic conducted the user experience testing back in October 2008 to draw up a new administration theme. Have they done a good job? I honestly think that yes, they’ve done a great job with it and it’s fully functional now. I was hesitant at first when they made the big change, but I really like it now.

Along with upgrading the admin schema, you can now select how many columns you want to display.  It’s really easy to move the various dashboard widgets around to customize the dashboard to exactly how you want it.   You can easily select which widgets you want to show too.  Whether you care about plugins, recent news, or you just care about posting quickly, you can edit it to your liking.

New WordPress Dashboard

Search for Themes

Not only was the plugins browsing area upgraded, but you can also now view and search for themes!

WordPress 2.8: Search for Themes

Can’t Upload with Flash? Let’s Fix That!

For all those users that were having issues with Flash, Firefox, and uploading images, those problems should go away.  WordPress 2.8 comes with PHP SWFUpload 2.2.0.1.

Editors Note: I wish the Flash uploader would be applied to more than just images. For instance, the WordPress importer could use some love – particularly for large export files.

Automattic Highlights

A few of the highlights that Automattic is pointing out is the new ability to drag and drop, and save, in one action, widgets for your theme. IIS 7.0 URL rewriting is now supported as well, giving a little love to the Windows users. These are just a few of the highlights.

Editors Note: If you use the Thesis theme there are some incompatibilities. Anthony Ferguson has the fix in advance of an official update from DIYThemes.

Upgrading Using the SSH Method

If you’re into really quick plugin upgrades, you might already be using a script running on a cron job that upgrades your plugins every few hours.  But, there’s a slightly less geeky way of doing it.  The SSH2 method of upgrading is now more functional.  It had some problems in 2.7.x, so I helped work with the developer of that area and we made it more functional and operational.  I wrote a tutorial about how to upgrade WordPress and plugins using SSH that works seemlessly.  For my personal blog, I just click upgrade and the next screen I see is that it upgraded successfully.  I never have to enter my username or password.  It’s all stored on the server.

Other Updates

Digging into the nitty gritty, the backend received some updates as well. Dropping some database columns, for those of us that are uber geeky, which will help keep the database running smoother and cleaner. For the full list of geeky updates, check out the Development, Themes, and Plugins updates.

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.

36 thoughts on “10 Things You Need To Know About WordPress 2.8”

  1. And I was just getting used to the 2.7 version that WordPress just released a few months ago. Things are moving so fast these day, it seems like I’m always playing catch up, but with tips like yours it makes the whole process a bit easier to bear. Once again, I thank you.
    Lauren Reagan

    1. Me with you.
      I have been checking on wordpress recently (and some other tools as well) and faced the same issue very relevant.

      Sometimes, it looks sort of ‘convergence’. Over the years, people have built different systems for different purposes. Now best of those systems and features are being brought together (look at Joomla going for granular permissions and Drupal going for user friendliness). Great developments at WordPress too…

      Thanks for the good article.

  2. I’m with you Lauren, Just getting ready to update wp to 271 and update a theme today. The new additions sounds great and can’t wait until the plugins are working in in 2.8.

  3. This is a great overview of WordPress 2.8 we are using it on all our sites and I appreciate the insight into a few cool new things I didn’t know were there – re:PHP SWFUpload 2.2.0.1

    These kinds of posts make Technosailor one of the best resources for WordPress stuff on the web.

  4. Well done, Jonathan!

    As a usability consultant, I eagerly await the new version.

    Thank God WordPress developers employ user-centered design: that factor alone will propel WordPress far ahead of any other content managment system for years to come: proof-positive that usability provides for major competitive advantage.

    Suggested next article: “How to easily upgrade to WP2.8 without losing anything from your current blog.”

    Cheers, mate.
    Scott :)

  5. I’ve installed latest 2.8 nightbuild at some of my sites, but have problems with the new Widget “editor” – I just can’t get the widgets to “move” when I drag them. I’ve tested with FF, Opera and Chrome, on Windows, Mac and Linux/Xubuntu.

    Any clue if this is a common problem? Fixed when 2.8 is GA?

  6. I for one and happy! Faster load times was on my wish list–should make a huge difference if you work with multiple WordPress sites–sometimes I almost pull my hair out at frustration with slow load times. And plugins make it worse. Roll on 2.8 as far as I can see :)

  7. I can’t wait to see the new release. There are a lot of features that should save everyone a good deal of time, as well as overhead costs. I do have one question, though … is it possible to (easily) disable the search & install of themes and plugins? I host quite a number of sites for friends and family, and they seem to be incredibly good at installing themes or plugins that include malicious code :/

    1. Write a plugin that removes the install_plugins capability. Use has_cap() or remove_cap() appropriately. Jonathan and I also do this for a living so if you want professional help, do email one of us. ;)

  8. Thanks for the great overview, Steve. I just started using WP 2.7, and love it. Now with these new enhancements, looks like I will be loving it more.

  9. The biggest benefit I see is in the syntax highlighting. Other than that I think the features are nifty, yes. But nothing revolutionary.

    I’s a very incremental change from 2.7.1. Line numbers for the plugin and theme editors is my favourite feature.

    Also, I wonder if database tables will change

  10. Thanks for all the great comments! 2.8 is going to ROCK!

    I’ve been running it on my test site for quite some time now and I’ve been really happy with it. 2.8 should be hitting the streets this coming week, sometime around Wednesday.

    Keep your eyes pealed!

  11. Excellent information. I hardly ever understand why I am upgrading my wordpress websites. One of my computers were having trouble uploading files and this update fixed it.

  12. Thanks for the great article, I use WordPress all the time and i have found it to be a good platform. I hope the new changes will make it even better!

  13. Hi, just upgraded to the latest 2.8 version.

    When editing a page all the format editing options has disapeared, text typed in the window is blank but re-appears after swiching back between HML and VISUAL tabs.
    Any idea how to fix that ?

  14. The compression feature is definitely a great improvement upgrade, though I’m still hesitant to do the upgrade seeing the kind of problems mentioned by Jaco above.

    If this article didn’t caught my attention I wouldn’t have considered upgrading, but now it’s on my to-do list!

  15. Excellent! WordPress has come a long way in the past year or two. The functionality and load times are incredibly better, they have some great programmers over there. I am stuck on wordpress, I have tried other blog platforms but the open source aspect of wordpress has made it an amazing app.

  16. Is anyone else having an issue with scheduled posts on WP 2.8? My scheduled posts are now missing the schedule and I can’t post in advance. This didn’t happen with 2.7 or previous versions.

  17. For about two posts I was able to use the Flash uploader for the pictures in my posts (it never worked before, and I had to use the browser uploader). Then, it just quit working and I’m back to the browser uploader. What a pain. I was searching for a fix, and found you on Google.

  18. Great info. I’ve got the summer off teaching and I’m going to learn this blogging stuff or die trying. Or, have the kids run right past me in fall. Now that’s scary…

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