WordPress 2.2 – Some Significant Changes

WordPress 2.2 was released a few days ago, and in that time I’ve been looking at the new system version to see what may have been done that will affect all the designs I have running on WP. In the last couple of years, WordPress has become my favorite content management system (yes, I consider it a CMS not just a blog) and not only use it for several of my own sites but for clients as well. While there are alot of changes in 2.2, this will likely be called the Widget release – as that is the very big change that people are noticing. I’ll get to that in a bit.

If you are upgrading from a 2.1.x or lower version, keep in mind that the upgrade to 2.2 is a delete upgrade, not an overwrite. It means they’ve changed the files again, which is fine, but every time that happens it seems to make a few things break.

I found one plugin that I used was broken entirely – that’s the WP-AMAZON plugin that allows people to easily insert Amazon product references into their posts. The developer seems to be trying a different tact, and is creating a FireFox extension that will do the job instead of trying to keep the plugin updated for changes with each WP version.

I wonder if this is going to end up becoming a trend? Developers going to FireFox extensions over WP plugins. It’s a possibility, particularly when the WordPress crew has decided to release versions on a much more aggressive timeline than before. That could get new versions out rather quickly, but it could also make many plugins obsolete just as quickly.

If you want to know which plugins work with the new WordPress 2.2 – just head over to the growing list. There’s another list going for themes that work with 2.2, though in an ideal world that wouldn’t be such a problem.

One of the things I do not like, right away, about this new version is that they removed the post preview at the bottom and replaced it with a link to the preview. Bleh. I like to keep everything on one page, but I can see that it’s possible for it to save loading time. We’ll see which is more comfortable to use in the long run.

Filosofo wrote an article about three good changes to 2.2. While all three are useful changes, I think that the one people will end up creating lots of additions from is the new jQuery support. WordPress already supports two popular Javascript packages (Scriptaculous and Prototype) but the addition of jQuery will round that out more.

Now, back to Widgets. I’ve said before on my blog that I don’t like Widgets, and I still don’t. WordPress 2.2 integrates them into the core – and I’m not thrilled about this new addition to. I don’t like having a Widgets tab there getting in my way. In fact, it’s making me more and more anxious to have an easy interface that allows me to strip out parts of WordPress that I don’t want in there with less hassle than there is now. I can understand their usefulness for products like WordPress.com or other hosted services, but as a web developer I want all the function operations available to me, and widgets simply can’t do that. Therefore, I don’t use them, and I don’t make themes that include them for myself or clients. The only time I do is if they are for public consumption.

Even still, this is probably going to be what most people remember about this version. Just like people remember another one by the ‘version that included the poor choice of removing the backup plugin’. In any event, I’m bringing up Widgets because IE users will have to wait on them until 2.3 (fixed support ticket here). WP 2.2 was released with horrid widget support for IE, and they are borderline unusable for IE folks. Which, to me, seems quite silly. Most IE users are the less technical of the bunch out there, the people who don’t know about other browsers and problems with IE. Heck, I even know people who work for Microsoft who won’t use IE in their off-time. But the point is, if the enormous IE userbase is primarily consisting of people who simply use the computer as it came installed – these are going to be the people who are going to need widgets the most. Seems a bit backward not to check on IE compatibility. What does bother me is that if you look at the support ticket I mentioned, they knew about this before 2.2 was released.

Another big thing in this version is Blogger import support which has become functional again in the new version. There is also new PHPMail support and a some changes made to plugins so that they if one is broken it doesn’t take down your whole site.

Overall, it’s a good release with lots of features.