Seven Things You Should Know About WordPress 3.2

WordPress has announced that the initial release candidate of WordPress 3.2 is now available, meaning that the general release of WordPress 3.2 is right around the corner.

There are some really cool new features and improvements sure to make a lot of folks happy, but there are also some significant changes in WordPress requirements that you should be aware of, lest you click the magic upgrade button in your WordPress admin and be disappointed.

Here are the top seven points you need to know about WordPress 3.2:

The Death of MySQL4 & PHP4 and Why You Should Care

As most of us know, keeping WordPress up-to-date is extremely important. It’s easy to understand how WordPress installations remained out of date prior to the automated update features being added to core WordPress several versions back, but these days there’s almost no excuse.

It never ceases to amaze me how often I work on a new client’s existing WordPress website to see them running versions of WordPress as old as 2.7 and 2.8. Because of its incredible popularity, WordPress is constantly targeted by hackers looking to exploit security vulnerabilities in the system. These vulnerabilities are usually caught and patched, resulting in incremental updates that keep WordPress fresh, clean and safe.

By not keeping your WordPress installation current, you risk falling victim to malicious attacks that are entirely preventable—given that you actually guard against them by updating your code.

With that said, WordPress has up until this point been a very pleasant citizen, being more than happy to work with you and live on older, antiquated web servers. This has meant that WordPress has essentially been backwards compatible, happily supporting MySQL4 and PHP4. However, try to upgrade WordPress to 3.2 on a server that doesn’t have either MySQL5 or PHP5, and you’ll see something like this:

insufficient-resources

MySQL5 and PHP5 systems have been running stable now for several years and they collectively add quite a bit of functionality, but there are still servers out there that run old web services for any number of perfectly valid reasons.

If you are currently hosting with a larger hosting provider like Hostgator, Bluehost, Softlayer, Rackspace, LiquidWeb or the like, don’t sweat it—you are probably just fine. But if you happen to be with a smaller hosting company, have an account with several “legacy sites” that require older services, or are even running your own server, you may end up needing to upgrade both WordPress and the server it lives on.

If you don’t know whether or not your sites are running on a server that will support WordPress 3.2, there’s a handy little plugin written by Ryan Duff called WordPress Requirements Check. Just download it and add it to your WordPress installation, and it’ll let you know whether or not you are ready for the next version of WordPress.

So don’t be caught with your pants down—the official release for WordPress 3.2 is slated for on or around June 30th, so there’s still time to clean up your act and be able to join in the fun!

Bye Bye, IE6

Considering that even Microsoft is counting down the days till none of us ever have to deal with that wretched Internet Explorer 6 ever again, the official dropping of support for IE6 is hardly a surprise.

Still, seeing it in online print should give seasoned web development veterans warm fuzzies on some level. IE7 is also on the way out, though WordPress won’t officially drop support for it for a little bit yet.

Surprise! A New, Streamlined Admin Interface

Now that we’ve covered the important stuff that is going away that you need to be aware of, let’s talk about what’s new and good coming to a WordPress installation near you soon! We’ll start with the new and improved, streamlined WordPress administration interface.

dashboard

With the release of WordPress 3.0, we were introduced to a lighter, friendlier feel in the WordPress administration interface, and the refreshed version of the WordPress 3.2 interface seems to build further in that direction.

I really like how WordPress has continued to make a concerted attempt to get out of your way, removing unneeded clutter, compressing the width of the left hand sidebar significantly, and reducing the height of the admin header.

Further, the contextual screen options menu initially introduced in WordPress 3.0 really shines in 3.2. They essentially work the same way, but it’s a bit more intuitive now with the rest of WordPress being so out of the way now. If you have never had the chance to play with the contextual Screen Options, have a look at how the work in the two screenshots below:

posts-contextual

As you can see, utilizing the screen options when you work with posts, shown above, provides different options to working with screen options when working with links, as is shown in the screenshot below.

links-contextual

The Help button is also contextual in this same manner, so if you aren’t sure how to proceed somewhere in any given section of the WordPress administration interface, you are always treated to pertinent assistance as shown in the example below.

plugins-contextual-help

Distraction Free Writing

Continuing the theme of staying out of your way, WordPress also is improving on its authoring experience by enhancing the existing fullscreen writing mode. While you’ve always been able to edit a post in fullscreen mode if you like, the experience has been streamlined in a very Ajax-y kind of way.

Open up the fullscreen mode form the editor and you’ll initially see a fairly minimal screen that gives you only essential authoring options, like the ones you see below.

fullscreen

However, stop monkeying with your mouse for a minute or two, and all of that magically fades away in the background, leaving only a gray screen with a flashing cursor. This eliminates all the clutter from your screen—aside from WordPress’s gentle reminder in the bottom right hand corner to “Just write”.

dfree

Move your cursor again, and the fullscreen view reappears, giving you formatting options just as before, as well as the ability to save your work. Pretty cool stuff, and a welcome addition for the serious blogger.

WordPress is Faster. Much Faster.

Another really significant development with 3.2 is how much the development team has trimmed the fat and optimized the speed of WordPress. The core development team has completely re-factored the core code in WordPress, removing deprecated functions and making things overall run much more efficiently.

This results in faster page loads, faster upgrades, and faster plugin additions, and it all really shows when you are just playing around with the admin interface. Further, the switch from PHP4 to PHP5 offers significant speed increases as well.

Especially with Google making changes to factor website speed and performance into organic search engine rankings, this is a massive boost for WordPress, and does nothing but help make it a sturdy platform for growth moving forward.

Incremental Upgrading of Core WordPress

Another important feature that has been implemented with 3.2 revolves around WordPress upgrades. While in the past, upgrades were full replacements of core code, the system has been modified to now only replace files that have actually been modified and need to be changed out.

This makes the upgrade process faster, as there are fewer files to download and swap out. More importantly, it also makes the process safer and much more reliable, reducing the possibility of download errors significantly due to the decreased volume of code being downloaded.

A New Default Theme: Twenty Eleven

If all of that wasn’t enough, WordPress has also given us a new default theme to play with, if we so choose. Twenty Eleven looks like a fairly solid theme for something default and free, giving you a much larger array of options for customization that its’ predecessors have.

Starting with two default color schemes – a light one and a dark one – out of the box, Twenty Eleven gives you several solid options including the ability to easily change the overall layout into several different configurations as you can see in the screenshot below.

twentyeleven

You can also change the text color, and upload your own graphic headers right through the theme options. Random header images per page are also supported, as is the ability to upload and work with your own custom background.

All of these things are pretty easy to code into any custom theme anyway, but it’s nice to see WordPress making it easier for people to quickly build out a website and make it look different that the standard Twenty Ten install we’ve all come to know and identify so easily on countless WordPress installs across the Web.

The Bottom Line

The new WordPress features will all be pretty useful, but at the end of the day the most important thing to keep in mind with the upcoming release is that you need to be certain you are ready for it on a server level.

That said, the speed improvements alone are enough to get this developer pretty excited about the release of WordPress 3.2 (not that it was overly slow before), and I think that the revamped full screen experience should be a nice addition for frequent content editors doing a lot of work within the system.

What about you? Is your server ready for WordPress 3.2, and what are you most excited to see in the new release?

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  • http://twitter.com/vavroom Nic Steenhout

    My biggest disappointment with WP is how the dashboard is becoming less and less accessible. It’s enough to have me look at other solutions.

    • http://mickolinik.com Mick Olinik

      What do you mean by accessible, Nic?

      • http://twitter.com/vavroom Nic Steenhout

        Sorry for not responding sooner – somehow didn’t get notification of your reply.

        By ‘accessible’, I mean usable by people with disabilities in general. Specifically, meeting the W3C’s guidelines of ATAG (Authoring Tools Accessibility Guidelines) and WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines). Just one of the issues is navigating with keyboard only (whether you’re sighted or not). The list is too long to share here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ypmits Dave Lenz

    I’d love to see some real innovation in WordPress. Instead of giving the user a choice between the good old ‘three’ layouts it would be much nicer to go through a bunch of steps which will finally give a user a truly unique and innovative layout. My customers don’t want the site to look like a ‘WordPress’ site. I do know about all the beautiful themes you can download of-course, but I want WordPress to help me decide if I want to scroll vertically or horizontally through the latest updates etc. I want to see video presented easily in a nice HTML-video-player with a fallback to flash etc. I also want to be able to embed flash content more easily. The trick, in my opinion, is to guide people through clear and customizable setup-step. Give the user a novice/pro choice and let people choose between the insanely huge free-fonts-library. Also re-invent color-scheming in CSS…. ah well…. my main point here is that WordPress is doing a lot to update/enhance and speed-up the ‘old way of developping a WordPress-site’.
    Don’t get me wrong, I love WordPress and so do lots of other people ofcourse, but people love innovation too… and I think WordPress is ready for some real big-ass innovation.
    Back to work now :)

  • http://thereisnoappforthat.com Vincent

    I think they now need to add an admin UI for creating custom post types and custom taxonomies in WordPress core, as this would ensure website owners don’t have issues whenever they wish to upgrade a template and have to recreate all their custom fields etc..

  • Dustin Hoffman

    Definitely agree about building out a website. I’ve noticed over the past year WordPress has become much more friendly towards those who want a website and not a blog. 3 years ago you could easily tell that a site was built on WordPress. Today a WordPress site is indistinguishable from a normal website.

  • http://twitter.com/kasperbergholt Kasper Bergholt

    Hi Mick!

    Thank you for a good write-up on 3.2. Regarding the speed improvements, would you happen to have any numbers, data points, or other bits of data on the speed improvements, I’d love to see the results.

    Thanks,

    Kasper

  • http://nspeaks.com Navjot Singh

    A small correction in your article. Twenty Eleven allows you to change link color, not text color. There is a big difference between the two.

  • http://jonathansblog.co.uk jonathan

    looks good :) the speed increases will be very welcome for me

  • http://twitter.com/BJenkins1965 Brad Jenkins

    I find several small annoyances that I have yet to figure out a way around. 1, if I enter html break code manually in html mode it will stay sometimes but always will disappear if I update the post. 2, trying to position things both in posts and even more so in pages is very, very frustrating. I can never get things to be positioned where I want them to be. However, these are only small gripes to what I consider to be one of the top 5 internet influences, it not the top one.
    thanks

  • http://www.facebook.com/mikefinding Mike Finding

    This is looking very interesting!! Great news guys! The server plugin is very useful as well…

  • http://twitter.com/jezza Jeremy Dost

    Thanks for the write up – sounds like good advice about the server requirements.

  • http://gauravmishra.com/ Gaurav Mishra

    Interesting!!

  • http://www.techx64.com Tushar Agarwal

    The new wordpress 3.2 is very improved and feels much faster than earlier. I simply love the new fullscreen mode / zen mode.

  • http://gurusatap.wordpress.com/ guru satap

    very useful.
    I new users in wordpress.
    thanks for the explanation.
    I like this.
    nice posting.
    tank’s

  • http://www.markmushakian.com Mark

    I love 3.2, but noticed a strange error where a query_posts is no longer working for a category. I read through the change-log, and I might’ve missed something, but didn’t see anything about it. Know anything about a change in how 3.2 deals with this?

    • http://www.markmushakian.com Mark

      I resolved my issue by erasing the original function I was using, to enlist the use of wp_query instead.. to now show two categories in separate areas of a home page as I originally did before 3.2.

  • Anonymous

    Hi,

    I installed 3.2 and it appears to have broken the custom-menu tool in the Appearance->Menus area. I can drag across a page no problem. I can even drag them to reorder them. However, I CANNOT indent a sub-page. It appears to indent the sub-page but after a Save, the single-level is shown and I cannot change this.
    I have created the sub-page as a child of the other page, so this is not the problem.

    Can anyone help ?

    Thanks,
    Jim Burke

  • Anonymous

    Hi,

    I installed 3.2 and it appears to have broken the custom-menu tool in the Appearance->Menus area. I can drag across a page no problem. I can even drag them to reorder them. However, I CANNOT indent a sub-page. It appears to indent the sub-page but after a Save, the single-level is shown and I cannot change this.
    I have created the sub-page as a child of the other page, so this is not the problem.

    Can anyone help ?

    Thanks,
    Jim Burke

    • Anonymous

      ARGH !!!
      It was IE9 !!!
      Fine with IE8

  • http://www.chrisfarrellmembershipsitereview.com/ Steve Balliett

    I like version 3.2.1. It is quicker.
    The full screen option helps when I’m typing in the text.
    One thing I have noticed. Find one text editor you like before entering in the text and don’t change.
    If you switch editors, you’ll find errors within your text code sometimes.
    This happen to me until I discovered what happened and fixed it.
    The same applies with picking a theme. Pick one beforehand and stick with it.
    Don’t switch themes in between or you could end up with errors like I did.
    All in all, I like WordPress simply because of it’s SEO friendliness to Google.