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What's New in WordPress 3.1?

By Craig Buckler

Programming

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WordPress is the most successful Content Management System on the web. It may not be the most elegant or well-written, but there’s one overriding reason why it’s used by more than 13% of the top 1 million websites: it’s easy. WordPress is simple for end users and — importantly — it’s easy for developers. That’s led to an explosion of themes, plugins and articles like this.

WordPress 3.1 was released a few days ago so let’s take a look at the new features and improvements…

New Admin Bar

WordPress Admin BarThe most obvious addition is the new Admin bar. From the “Profile” screen, you can set the bar to appear within the admin screens or at the top of the website (assuming your theme runs the wp_footer() function).

Personally, I don’t find the Admin bar particularly useful but it’s only a matter of time before third-party plugins extend its functionality.

Post Formats

Standard WordPress “pages” (static content rather than posts) can use different templates to differentiate sections of a website. Until now, one of the only ways to style posts differently was to check the parent category.

WordPress Post FormatsWordPress 3.1 introduces Post Formats: meta information that can be used within a theme to customize the presentation of a post. For example, the latest Twenty Ten theme defines Standard, Aside and Gallery which can be chosen on the post editing panel.

Post Formats could be one of those understated features which provides a range of possibilities.

Internal Page Linking

It’s now easier to link to other WordPress-powered pages within your site:

WordPress internal links

I’m surprised this facility didn’t appear earlier. It’s a welcome addition although I hope the WordPress developers add options for relative linking or omitting the domain name.

Miscellaneous Improvements

180 people made more than 2,000 code commits to the WordPress 3.1. Other improvements include:

  • A streamlined interface. Many lesser-used options are hidden by default — WordPress 3.1 feels faster and slicker.
  • A refreshed blue color scheme for the administration panels (the gray scheme still looks better, though).
  • A new network admin screen removes super administration menus from regular panels in multi-site networks.
  • Improved data import and export.
  • More than 820 bug fixes.

Most people will be able to upgrade WordPress with a couple of clicks but, to be on the safe side, remember to back up your database and files.

Have you migrated to WordPress 3.1? Have you dropped it for an alternative CMS?

Craig is a freelance UK web consultant who built his first page for IE2.0 in 1995. Since that time he's been advocating standards, accessibility, and best-practice HTML5 techniques. He's created enterprise specifications, websites and online applications for companies and organisations including the UK Parliament, the European Parliament, the Department of Energy & Climate Change, Microsoft, and more. He's written more than 1,000 articles for SitePoint and you can find him @craigbuckler.

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