10 Things You Should Know About WordPress 2.2

Ah, the time has come again. So soon at that. Imminently, a new WordPress release comes to our doorsteps (It’s being given a final once over by testers – Update: It’s here). Since WordPress has gone into a 120-day release cycle (plus a few weeks in this case), the feature list is shorter but more power packed. Still, though, there are (at least) ten things you should know about WordPress 2.2 – and you may want to figure out if this release is right for you.

Native Widgets

Since Automattic released their Widgets plugin, the public has widely adopted them. Personally, I was a late adopter but yet I drank the kool-aid and can’t live without them. In fact, all our new themes at b5media are widgetized. They are low maintenance, though still a pain in the royal rear for theme designers who don’t understand how to take WordPress themes to that next level, but that’s certainly not the fault of WordPress. I digress. Widgets are now fully integrated into the core. It was this feature that has been worked on almost exclusively outside of bug fixes for the final weeks before release. Hope you enjoy them!

Added: Please make note of the fact that native widgeting is not yet compatible with IE as reported in this ticket that went unpatched before release. If you use widgets, you will be unable to remove widgets beyond a certain hierarchy of the “available widgets” queue. Be warned or use Firefox or an alternative.

Also Added: Folks using multiple ExecPHP widgets may run into difficulty with only the first widget contents being echoed on the blog. It is a bug, will require an upgrade to the widget, but there is good news. Ryan Boren comes up with the workaround.

Atom 1.0 Feeds

Another war that has been fought for quite some time is WordPress support for the Atom 1.0 feed. Up until now, there has only beenm native Atom 0.3 support and RSS 2.0 was the preferred feed. Now, advocates of Atom can be happy with the standard XML that is produced by Atom 1.0 making it more portable in other environments.

WP-Admin powered by jQuery

I admit to not knowing much about the various Ajax javascript libraries, but I’m assured that the introduction of reliance on jQuery in wp-admin makes for a faster and lighter administrative panel. The previously favored Prototype library, while heavily favored for its multipurpose abilities, will continue to be bundled with WordPress for the sake of plugins that rely on its existence, but will cease to power the bulk of the administrative functions of WordPress.

Update: Ilfiloso clarifies in comments and on his very cool post that delves deeper into things developers will like about WP 2.2, that jQuery is still not implemented across the board. We can expect more transitions in future releases.

Atom API Support

Bloggers using API editors (external desktop editors, for instance) may be interested to know that WordPress has introduced Atom API support. To this time, bloggers were forced to use the MovableType or the MetaWeblog API to write posts with an API editor. Benefits of Atom API is, among other things, security. Passwords are not transmitted in clear text as with other APIs. Mark Pilgrim has an older, yet still relevant, article about the technical benefits of the Atom API. Feel free to give it a read.

New Blogger Importer

And the world breathed a collective ‘w00t!’. Blogger is still by far one of the most popular platforms for blogging in the world. Beats me why, but I can’t argue with the numbers. Naturally, I (as many others) encourage people to migrate from Blogger to WordPress. The old WordPress importer for Blogger sucked horrible. It basically did a page scrape in multiple cycles that could bomb at any point. The more posts in Blogger, the higher the chances of an interrupted import. And it would take all day.

Then Google decided to do the whole “new Blogger” thing and tied blogs to Google accounts instead of the old-style Blogger accounts. This was fine for everyone except people trying to migrate their blogs away. The old Blogger import (bundled with even WordPress 2.1 despite the fact it didn’t work anymore) simply no longer functioned properly. Fortunately, a new Blogger importer (much smoother) was developed and has been in action on WordPress.com for some time, but those in the WordPress.org world were up a creek. The only solution was to import to a temporary WordPress.com blog, then export a WordPRess export file that could be imported into your own blog.

Now however, Blogger bloggers can move directly, and more seamlessly, straight to WordPress. Good times.

Plugin Sandbox

Ever had one of those times where you install a plugin that you didn’t know had code errors. You activate and go and view your site just to find it completely blank. You go back to your plugin page and it too is blank. The only remedy was to FTP into the site (or SSH if you choose, Mr. Ninja!) and delete the plugin.

Now that is no longer an issue. Plugins are sandboxed upon activation. By that, I mean, the code in the plugin is evaluated on activation for code with fatal errors – the kind that make your site blank – and if the code doesn’t pass the test, it is simply not activated. This prevents an errant plugin from taking down your whole site.

New Hooks for Plugin Authors

Plugin authors, rejoice! More hooks than ever are available to you in WordPress 2.2. You can now change the comment form using the

1
comment_form

hook. You can even hook on

1
option_home

and

1
option_siteurl

for some potentialy dangerous and/or creative plugins. ;-)

Return of the Preview Link

Many people noticed that in WordPress 2.1, the Preview link that was available on the Write screen disappeared. WordPress developers have heard the groanings of the masses and returned it, albeit in a different form. Now the link actually opens the site in a new window (no more slow loading iframe below the edit area). this should make many people very happy. :-)

Comment Feeds

There has always been a way to subscribe to the comments of a post. Just like everywhere in WordPress, adding /feed or, if you don’t use friendly permalinks, &feed=rss2 to the end of a single post will bring up the feed for the comments. It’s a great way to monitor conversation on a post you’ve commented on.

In WordPress 2.2, you can get comment feeds wherever you go – archives, categories, etc. So if you like James Joyner’s sports stuff but not so much his political or celebrity blogging, you can subscribe to just the commenting surrounding sports topics. This feed should be autodiscoverable by RSS feeds, but if not, theme authors will have to expose that to the world while designing their themes.

Mail Enhancements

Another thing you may or may not want to know know about WordPress 2.2 is an under the hood enhancement but solves historical quirkiness with emails generated by WordPress. As rudimentary as email is, it is still finnicky at a system level. If headers are not correct, ISPs may reject it. Spam filters like eating email for no good reason, and sometimes don’t eat the email it should. WordPress has integrated PHPMailer as the email class of choice to solve some of these issues. Again, under the hood, but hopefully addresses some problems encountered by some users on some platforms with some server configurations.

Under the Hood Optimization

Other under-the-hood enhancements that in some cases may not visible to the naked eye include better HTTP protocol support, enhanced PHP 5 support, and the TinyMCE upgraded version (it’s the Visual Text Editor, silly!). Here’s a complete set of changesets between version 2.1 and 2.2, for those curious among you.

As WordPress development is on a 120-day release schedule now, fewer BIG features will be implemented as less time is available. Releases will tend to be quicker. Development on WordPress 2.3 will begin immediately and if you have a desire for a feature not yet available in WordPress, you should make your voice heard through the feature wish list.