10 Reasons to Upgrade to WordPress 3.1

by on March 21st, 2011 2 comments

The fourteenth version of WordPress is finally out of beta and available for download; named after the jazz musician Django Reinhard, the WordPress 3.1 offers “more CMS than ever before” and comes with some truly cool features. It sports improved back and front end, has many options that the developers and the more advanced users would love, yet it has managed to simplify some of the admin features in order to make the interface friendlier for beginners.

What is new in WordPress 3.1?

Internal Linking

This is a feature many dedicated bloggers will fall in love with. The more content you write, the more often you make references to older posts or articles on your website, and prior to WordPress 3.1, you had little choice but to search manually and add these links or use third party plug-ins. With the latest releases this is no more and now all you have to do is highlight the word or phrase, click on the link toolbar icon, and then add the URL to your old post. If this was not easy enough, you can search your content from within the link bar and find older posts by using the appropriate search terms. Unfortunately, the feature is accessible only from within the Visual editor.

Cleaner Writing Interface

One reason many new and seasoned webmasters and developers shied away from WordPress was its complex admin appearance. The writing interface of WordPress 3.1 is far less clattered than the interfaces of the previous versions and far less intimidating to beginners; the users could still bring up the hidden by default panels by clicking on the Screen Options button.

The Admin Bar

Now available in WordPress 3.1, the admin bar is one of the features that not all are too fond of, but many webmasters might find useful as it connects the front end to the back end of the blog. The feature was first tested on the hosted WordPress.com blogs and quite a few users are familiar with it and love it, while others are frantically searching the Internet for the easiest way to disable the toolbar. However, it is here for those who want a quick access to most of the admin functions, and is available in the front end when a user is logged in, and in the front end and the admin area for the multi-side admins.

Post Formats

Nine posts formats are available in WordPress 3.1 allowing bloggers to easily add almost any type of content. Single image, image gallery, single link, single video, Twitter and Facebook-like updates, single audio clip, instant message copy, quote, and short text with no title could help the bloggers create Tumblr-like blogs effortlessly. In order for the post formats to be available to the users, the theme authors need to add a single line of code to the theme’s functions.php file.

Network Admin Dashboard

After creating a Network of blogs, the multi-side super admins have the option of accessing the Network Admin dashboard from within the admin areas of any site. The network admin dashboard offers a single-click hop to sites, users, themes, plugins, settings, and updates.

Sortable Columns

These are particularly useful if you are running a blog with hundreds or thousands of posts, as you could effortless sort out the columns by title, author, or date. The list-type admin screens also come with new pagination style for better and easier navigation, improved search, improved API, and filterable bulk actions.

Theme Related Improvements

The WordPress 3.1 users have the option of searching for themes from within the dashboard by using various filters. Even though the filters might not bring up all the themes that match the set criteria, this is still a very handy feature for every serious blogger. You can run a quick search by author, keyword, or tag, or you could choose some of the many other filter options such as number of columns, color, features, width, and subject.

Advanced Taxonomy Queries

Particularly useful for developers to help create more feature-rich themes. The “tax_query” parameter, which was added to the query functions, allows taxonomy to be matched to specific terms.

Refreshed Blue Admin Color Scheme

This one is pretty self explanatory, the style and the colors have been improved in the admin area of WordPress.

Search from Within the Admin Toolbar

This is the same search box, which you find on the front end. It allows the admin to search the already published posts and after running a query, the normal front-end search page appears. Unfortunately, the feature does not search drafts or posts, which are pending reviews.

Quite a Bit More

Many smaller, less noticeable, but important improvements include better security, better password recovery system, and additional administrator types. The functionality of the Importer and the Exporter has been enhanced, and now the Exporter allows the users to export their existing sites easily to a new installation. The multi-side admins of WordPress 3.1 should be happy with many of the new features such as the plugin install and update notification in the admin screen, contextual help in the Network screens, theme installer in the network admin, and tabbed site editing interface.

Apart from the advanced taxonomy queries, many smaller changes should be welcomed by nearly all developers. Quite a few new functions were introduced with WordPress 3.1, new parameters were added to existing functions, and a few functions were removed or retired.

WordPress 3.1 – The Final Verdict

The new release comes with many options and features, which the majority of the developers would love, and which some of the more advanced users would definitely make use of as well. A few minor improvements might make the life of the average blogger easier, and the more notable features are definitely the new post formats, which streamline the posting of different types of content, and the internal link builder, which makes it easier to refer to older posts. The various AJAX enhancements of the admin area, which have been debated heatedly during the development stages, were dropped (for now), but might appear in the next release. If you wish to take advantage of the extended functionality and the new features, upgrade from within your dashboard, or download the new version and run a clean install.

Finally I have heard nothing but positive experiences about folks upgrading to 3.1. They say they did not have any problems with this release breaking plugins and I have not seen any issues from multi-site users either. Will you be upgrading to WordPress 3.1? Please share your thoughts in the comments.